Are ladies who lunch an endangered species? When I lunched (with two male friends) at the café and tearoom right in the heart of the concept store Merci the other day, the place was full of mostly ladies, but they looked more like trendy professional women than ladies of leisure taking a break from shopping, even though they were in the right place for it.
The Merci café, set next to a garden, has industrial light fixtures and big paned windows suitable to the loft-like setting of this concept store in a 19th-century fabric showroom. It serves mostly light lunches, with a heavy emphasis on salads. My friends chose the €15 large salad over the smaller three-choice platter for €10. On the plate was a generous meal of sparkling fresh ingredients in jewel-like colors, with green beans, cooked chili
peppers, carrots and other root vegetables of many colors sliced paper-thin, pomegranate seeds, flaked almonds, lentils in vinaigrette, boiled potatoes, parboiled fennel and broccoli. All fresh, seasonal and tasty.
I opted for the risotto with pumpkin after asking the waitress if it was made on the spot. She said it was, and I believe it was true, since
it had none of the gumminess that would indicate it had been prepared in advance. It was pure delight, with small chunks of pumpkin, cooked just right – with a slight bite to them, like the rice – and plenty of parmesan cheese. All those nice round, comforting flavors were set off by the zing of fresh lemon thyme. Brilliant! I loved every bite.
For dessert, I had the delicately flavored green-tea pound cake with almonds, which was too dry, while my companions had the orange cake (also dry but partially moistened by a sprinkling of orange juice) and the tasty apple-raspberry crumble.
The service was friendly but not too swift, probably in part because of the time required to make the risotto.
It would be a shame if the lunching ladies had to rush right back to work and didn’t have time to examine all those fabulous (and fabulously overpriced) designer kitchen gadgets surrounding the café (not to mention the clothes, housewares, furnishings and gifts upstairs). The consolation for the high prices at Merci is that all of the store’s profits go to associations that help women and children in Madagascar, one of the world’s poorest countries.
Merci also has a restaurant serving lunch only (no reservations) and, down the street, a pizzeria called Grazie.Favorite