Paris abounds with design galleries, chic clothing boutiques and tile-floored bistros serving market-fresh cuisine, but rarely do you find more than one together under the same roof. Merci is a delightful exception.
Founded in 2009 by Bernard and Marie-France Cohen, Merci is a concept store that rolls the best of fashion, design, household goods, lighting, and lunch into one stunning space in the Haut Marais neighborhood. Spanning three light-filled floors of a former wallpaper factory, the gallery-cum-boutique is run a bit like a magazine: roughly 15 “exhibitions” held throughout the year highlight diverse themes that have included herring, urban sports, wax-dyed batiks, and urban gardening.
With so much to touch, smell and marvel at, a visit to Merci can work up an appetite. Conveniently, the store is flanked by two restaurants and a café, each catering to a different kind of craving, but all offering market-fresh fare. On the garden level, La Cantine serves healthy cuisine in an upscale cafeteria setting. Shared tables look out onto a leafy courtyard where snapdragons amble up trellises and leafy trees drown out the buzz of the boulevard Beaumarchais above. The metal paniers and wooden crates of oranges, lemons and apples waiting to be juiced or zested the sit atop the wide windowsill brighten even the greyest of Parisian afternoons.
La Cantine’s homemade dishes change with the seasons and take inspiration from the small producers who supply organic fruits and vegetables. The menu promises a daily soup, salad, risotto, vegetable tart, and a variety of homemade cakes. Depending on the season, you might start with a dip into a cool avocado-spinach-ginger soup or steaming vegetarian bobun, before getting to work on a quinoa-kale-radish medley with zesty horseradish. The best way to get a feel for the half dozen or so salads on offer is to sidle up to the tile-lined display counter and check them out: swiss chard, zucchini, lentils, and green beans all get the royal treatment here, served with tangy mustard-laced dressings balanced by sweet bursts of pomegranate or apple.
Of the three Merci dining options, La Cantine is the only one with a full kitchen. The Merci Assiette, which includes the plat du jour and your choice of two salads, is a great way to sample the kitchen’s creative take on vegetables and enjoy a hot meal. The day I went, the special was a trio of juicy lemon-rosemary-infused veal patties with a thimble of light, savory citrus coulis. Pair lunch with a pulpy juice cocktail, a vin nature, or a gluten-free craft beer and be sure to leave room for dessert. If in season, try the apple-raspberry crumble, which has just the right amount of sweet and tang, or indulge in a square of buttery tart studded with plump, blushing strawberries.
If you’d like to linger a little longer, head back upstairs to the Used Book Café and settle into a leather armchair with a cup of tea or coffee, digesting while meandering through the 10,000 books that stretch from floor to ceiling. Now you’ve had the full Merci experience.
La Cantine de Merci – 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003; Métro: Saint-Sébastien – Froissart; Mon-Sat 10am-7pm; Tel: +33 (0)1 42 77 79 28
Written by Kate Robinson for the HiP Paris Blog. All images by Palmyre Roigt. Looking for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, London, Provence, or Tuscany? Check out Haven in Paris.