From the street, Le Mermoz looks like just another neighborhood café. But once you see what’s on the menu and on the plate, you’ll feel differently. Chef Manon Fleury – straight from the kitchens of Astrance and Semilla – offers diners a bright, contemporary, vegetable-loving menu that truly hits the spot. At lunch, three starters, three main courses, cheese and two desserts are offered. At night, beginning at 6:30 pm, the 1930s-era café – with a large bar, bare wooden tables, and patchwork tile floors – offers a series of small plates.
I totally loved her watercress soup, dotted with chickpeas, and served with a touch of yogurt and the popular North African spice raz-el-hanout, then topped with a generous bouquet of fresh, pungent watercress and cilantro. The grilled line-caught mackerel was equally appealing and well-thought-out, served with crunchy fresh fava beans, leeks, and a flourish of fresh herbs.
Alabaster-white codfish from Loctudy in Brittany arrived on a bed of perfectly wilted fresh spinach, a frothy langoustine sauce, and a delicate dusting of toasted sesame seeds, a unifying dish with just the right touch of acid and crunch. The only disappointment here was a promising dish of fresh cultivated champignons de Paris and feathery pleurote mushrooms, paired with a golden, runny egg yolk and a pesto of the ramp-like ail des ours (wild garlic). Brilliant in concept, but sadly the mushrooms were just too vinegary even for my acid-loving palette, as if someone had in fact made a mistake in the kitchen.
The only dessert that was still available by the end of our meal was an excellent creation of a confit of kumquats paired with crunchy hazelnuts and a café-scented pudding bathed in a sweet syrup.
The wine list holds some very well-priced treasures, including sulphite-free wines from young winemaker Laura David, whose dry chenin blanc from her Montlouis-sur-Loire vineyards, will make you sit up and take notice, and enjoy.
Le Mermoz is a good value all around with starters at about 10€, mains at around 23€, and wines at 7€ a glass. The restaurant is just steps from the Rond-Point des Champs-Elysées, a neighborhood bereft of good casual spots for eating.
LE MERMOZ | 16 rue Jean Mermoz | Paris 8 | +33 1 45 63 65 26 | Métro: Franklin D. Roosevelt | Open Monday-Friday. Closed Saturday & Sunday | 40-45€ à la carte | reservations essential | atmosphere: casual.
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