Merci is a whimsical wonderland of a concept store that is large, bright, airy and chock full of eclectic and interesting stock. Merci seems to sell almost everything: clothes, furniture, perfume, household items, books, stationery, haberdashery…
The store is the brainchild of Marie-France and Bernard Cohen: they set it up in 2009 when they sold their very successful company, Bonpoint (purveyor of exquisite children’s clothes). The premise behind Merci is that profits will go, via a charitable foundation, to help underprivileged children especially in Madagascar. It is not a charity shop in the usual sense (the women’s section for example stocks the latest collections from many French design luminaries e.g. Isabel Marant and Vanessa Bruno) but rather a different vision of a retail space where you can buy some incredible things knowing that your purchases will help others.
On my recent trip to Paris I had lunch in La Cantine du Potager the restaurant in Merci’s basement. It’s exactly the sort of restaurant I love to eat in, as it’s at the same time stylish and totally unpretentious. The walls are pale and the space is filled with dark as night chairs surrounding long black tables overhung with large industrial lights. Splashes of colour come from the crates of fruit sitting on a ledge and fairy lights in primary colours strung over one of the tables. There are big windows overlooking a courtyard garden so the restaurant is light filled and there is no feeling of being hemmed in.
The restaurant was busy when I ate there on a previous occasion so this time I decide to arrive just after two to avoid the worst of the crush. The service is laid back friendly and the food is good. Choices on the short blackboard menu include risotto, quiche or salads. I opted for the Asiette Merci which was a plate of delicious fried discs made from a mix of minced chicken and aubergine served with a tiny pot of fromage blanc and two piled-high healthy salads. I finished off with a slice of the Molleaux au Chocolat that gave a whole new meaning to the expression ‘melt in the mouth’.
Merci is well worth visiting if you are in Paris, it’s in the Marais district so there is a lot to explore in the surrounding area when you have taken in all Merci has to offer.
Note: Merci is at 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais in the third arrondissment in Paris. Opening hours are 10am to 7pm Monday- Saturday.