Say hello to Harry, Laura, and Julia. Best friends who finish each other’s sentences and feed off giving people a good time. With their popular Paris Pop Up, the chef, sommelier, and manager perfected the recipe for how to throw a dinner party for the masses.
Serve North American bonhomie. Cook with love and exceptional
ingredients. Pour vin vivant without pretense. Give shout outs to your vegetable growers, flour producers, and wine makers. Never say no.
Make people feel at home. After hosting dinners across the globe, the
talented trio could have dropped anchor anywhere for their first brick and mortar restaurant. Lucky for us, they chose Marseille, falling for an old mercerie in the heart of Noailles. With open arms and an open kitchen,
they are ready to welcome les marseillais with the same warmth that their new home has shined upon them. Though the paint is barely
dry, La Mercerie already feels like a fixture in the dining scene. Not bad for an “équipe éphèmère”
How did you end up in Marseille?
It was a total fluke. We needed a break from our Arles restaurant and wanted to go to a big city to discuss the future. We stayed at Mama Shelter and went to our friend Julia Samut’s place, l’Épicerie Idéal. She said “why don’t you guys open a place in Marseille.” She introduced us to Marianne Tib (nb: Fédération Marseille Centre) who told us about this space. We didn’t know what to expect, but when we poked our heads in, the three of us just looked at each other and “why not?” It just felt so right.
What are your first impressions of Marseille?
It’s kind of like London. The first time you go, it’s a bit overwhelming and you don’t understand it. The more you visit the more you love it. What we adore about Marseille is its authenticity. It’s not like another big city trying to be Paris. It’s really happy as its own place. Everyone is proud to fly the Marseille colors. On top of that, everyone is so nice. It reminds us of Canada –it is the city in France where we belong. People take time and go out of their way to help you.
How has the city welcomed you?
We feel really lucky the way we’ve been welcomed by the community. In Noailles, Maison Empereur, Chez Sauveur, Pére Blaize, Toinou, Chez Yassine. They are happy we are here – outsiders, who aren’t Parisians, coming in to enhance the community. Other times you’re faced with competition, but our peers have been really supportive and have come to eat here. It’s not like that everywhere – it is really heartwarming.
How did you guys meet?
Harry and Laura worked at Frenchie together – he was in the kitchen and Laura was front of house. Julia was directrice generale for Experimental Cocktail Club. Her office was next to Frenchie. Laura and Julia are both Canadian and when we met each other and instantly got along. Julie and Harry are cosmic twins, born on same day, same month, same year. They are essentially the same person.
How do you work together as a team?
We’re really complimentary. We each have our own things we do we well and that we’re really passionate about, which contributes to our teamwork because we’re not competing for the same tasks. We could never do what the other does, but we can help each other out. Having three people makes for really good discussions and sound decisions. Julie worked with the founders of ECC, who always showed each other a lot of respect, listened, and didn’t jump in too quickly to shoot another idea down. We’ve emulated that.
Can you tell us about the space?
We had amazing architects, Victor and Andreas. They didn’t come in imposing their vision. Instead, they really listened and created a space that symbolizes our values and us. The open space represents how the front and back of house bounce off each other and our transparent way of doing business – clients can se the faces of all who work with us. The hospitable counter embodies our generosity. The organic design rose from the long space, with wood tables custom made to match the funneling room. The strung lights above evoke the threads sold in the former mercerie. The design is not too polished, nor too permanent, a nod to our nomadic nature with our pop-ups. Harry closely designed the kitchen with the architects, putting a lot of investment in the kitchen equipment. The glass cave shows off the bottles that Laura loves. We love that local artisans and plumbers did our build out.
Why a brick and mortar restaurant after all the pop-ups?
We wanted more balance in our lives. We’ve been trekking around for three years, which is exhausting. The nice thing about travel is you start to realize the essentials that matter. You start to crave a home. Harry was eager to have a kitchen where he could fully express his cooking style and a place to ferment and stock all his ingredients. Laura wanted to build up a wine cellar, age wine, and be able to secure allocations from her favorite producers.
We have always functioned with an ephemeral notion. La Mercerie will continue that. We will share it with other chefs just how Parisian chefs opened their spaces up for our first pop-ups. We will still be effervescent and dynamic, traveling to do events. Rather than have those events be our lifeline, La Mercerie will be our base that allows us to do other events. It is a logical suite to our story.
Tell us about the food?
Harry’s food is super ingredient focused. We bake our bread in-house from artisan flour made from Philippe Guichard. We source vegetables from PPL, Martine Tardieu, Jean-Baptiste Anfosso (“his produce is diamonds in the champs”) and a local gal, Caroline, who grows lovely wild herbs. We buy spices from Saladin, herbs from Pére Blaize, coquillages from Toinou, goodies from l’Épicerie Idéal, café from Luciani. Our big cave downstairs gives us space to age meat, ferment chickpea miso and various vinegars downstairs.
Our menu will change weekly to highlight the seasons and what ingredients we source. With the set menu at night, Harry is having fun with being able to cook big pieces of meat on the bone. Harry likes the open kitchen because you get to see what’s going on in the room. Plus sunlight is a treat you don’t usually get in the kitchen. The open kitchen keeps the team on our toes. It keeps pushing us to be better.
Tell us about the wine program
For Laura, wine is all about who makes the wine, which is why she lists the winemaker first on the wine list. The winemaker doesn’t have 365 chances, but just one vintage a year to make something great. In addition to what’s listed on the wine list, she’s also happy to crack something open when someone expresses interest. It’s very personal, decomplexé.
What would be the best compliment for La Mercerie?
That we make people happy. It’s important for people to feel in a certain way like they are at home. Who doesn’t love to walk into a restaurant and feel like they know you? It just feels good. Our Canadian service style to makes people feel welcome. We try not to say no to the customer, unless it is an insane request. We try to make it work. One of our biggest compliments so far is that customers have come back. A woman came for lunch then returned for dinner another night. A man had a business lunch then brought his family.
You guys are big on social media. Why?
Social networks are the current “word of mouth”. Laura loves putting forward the people who work with them. It’s also a great way for people to get involved in our story who want to be a part of it.
What can we expect in the upcoming months?
Guest chefs and bartenders, events with producers who come to talk about their products. And hopefully soon, a terrace that seats 25-30.
By Alexis Steinman & Eric Foucher /. Photo Mickael A. Bandassak