The Marais, with its narrow, jumbled streets interspersed with open squares, free museums and smart boutiques, is my favorite area to fritter afternoons and calories away.
A few favored addresses:
Breizh cafe: The girl from Penang highly recommends the caramel with yuzu crepe, but I have not gotten to the sweet crepes both times I’ve visited with visiting ladies, sated as we were by the savory options and bowls of cider. While the buckwheat galettes were not as crispy and expansive as the real mcCoys in Brittany, they were flavorful and much less greasy than those at the Montparnasse-area creperies. We found the traditional offerings better executed. While guest #1’s vegetable crepe sounded toothsome and healthy on paper, it turned out a tad too soggy to be perfect. In contrast, yi’s and my simpler choices had the right balance of cheese, meats and vegetables. Crowded both times we went with both locals and tourists, it is not a bad idea to make reservations if you do go.
Merci: A concept shop with a social message (after-overheads profits donated to a children’s charity) behind it, Merci is a purveyor of tres chic products (fashion, home, books etc) set in a peachful, loft-like building in the north reaches of the Marais. The shop specific collaborations with some well known brands, in particular Annick Goutal are also interesting and unique. Unfortunately the prices for bobo linen dresses and distressed looking plateware tend to be too rich for my blood. Instead, I head to the cafe to cool off my heels and any shopping impulses. There are several eating areas at Merci, but my preferred seat is in the basement. Decorated like a garden terrace, it is peaceful, bright and airy and looks out into a lush, wild courtyard garden.
The desserts are befitting of the naturalistic decor, rustic both in the offerings and styling, tasty in a homemade way. The sweet and sour rhubarb and strawberry crumble hit the spot one afternoon, washed down with well made espresso and citrus-mint flavored water. The crumble was particularly interesting, with a faint whiff of some exotic spices, curry perhaps?
Jacques Genin: Similarly located in the less-visited northern end of the Marais is Jacques Genin, reputed to be the king of caramels in Paris. While I have yet to try his caramels, the pastries are well executed and the St Honore, a modern twist to the original pastry, usually piled into a pyramid, other worldly. Jacques Genin is also a renowned chocolatier, though I found the flavors of the chocolates (graciously served with the bill) too subtle. His salon de the is also one of the most comfortable, with the tables so widely spaced out my tea-sipping companions remarked they didn’t think they were in Paris anymore. While I have not been in Paris as long as they have, the extra elbow room is definitely appreciated, and one does not have to risk overhearing their neighbors air dirty laundry over dessert! Recommended for languid afternoons.
Breizh Cafe: 109 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003 Paris
Merci: 111 Boulevard Beaumarchais, 75003 Paris
Jacques Genin: 133 Rue de Turenne 75003 Paris