In Kennebunk, Rococo Dessert Bar Swirls Inventive Flavors With Bold Interior Design

The ice-cream shop is inspired by owner Lauren Guptill’s world travels and love of extravagant 18th-century rococo design.

Rococo Dessert Bar in Kennebunk, Maine
Photo by Carley Rudd
By Michaela Cavallaro
From our February 2024 issue

With its violet wallpaper in an ornate bird print, creamy tin ceiling stamped with sinuous patterns, and elaborately veined pink-marble bartop fronting a wall of shimmery lavender tile, Lauren Guptill’s new Rococo Dessert Bar, in Kennebunk, reads like the design equivalent of one of her decadent ice-cream flavors. The jewel box of a space — conceived with Portland architect Woodhull and Kennebunkport designers Krista Stokes and Christy Reid — comprises eight gilded stools at the bar and three booths with Art Deco–inspired, arched seats in ochre velvet. Next door is a seasonal scoop shop Guptill relocated from Kennebunkport’s Dock Square last spring.

Launched in 2012, Guptill’s Rococo ice-cream lineup — influenced by her world travels and love of extravagant 18th-century rococo design — encompasses complex, layered concoctions like goat-cheese blackberry chambord, pumpkin five-spice, and garam masala. At the dessert bar, opened in a former pizza joint in September, she brings her penchant for unusual flavor pairings to cocktails, mocktails, boozy milkshakes, ice-cream floats, and an array of confections that will delight — and sometimes challenge — the palate.

dark-chocolate ice-cream cake at Rococo Dessert Bar
Photo by Chloe Smith

Take the “sea bacon” brownie sundae, composed of fudgy triangles and a mound of honey-vanilla ice cream topped with miso-caramel sauce, homemade whipped cream, and an Amarena cherry. So far, it sounds like an elevated riff on the Friendly’s standby. But standing in for chocolate sprinkles are smoked Gulf of Maine eel crumbles that Guptill dehydrates and crisps up like bacon. It’s an acquired taste — the topping is considerably fishier than your average lardon — and Guptill is okay with that. “I’ve never been afraid of taking a risk in this business,” she says. “In some ways, I think it’s my responsibility — to the business, to the customers, to the creative gods.”

Still, her menu will appeal to less adventurous eaters too, with offerings such as blueberry-lemon shortcake, dark-chocolate ice-cream cake, and bananas Foster with a horchata-inflected rum cake. There are nearly a dozen imported wines and a handful of canned local brews as well. Among the ice-cream floats, the morir soñando (Spanish for “to die dreaming”) is a standout, Guptill’s take on the Dominican orange-juice-and-milk beverage, served with a dollop of honey-vanilla ice cream. It feels emblematic of the room itself: a creamy, swirly fantasy you’d never dream up yourself, but you’re awfully glad someone did.

8 Western Ave., Kennebunk. 207-360-0804.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

Get all of our latest stories delivered straight to your mailbox every month. Subscribe to Down East magazine.