Meert’s Famous Gaufres in Lille & Paris
I love vintage food packaging (especially sweet, of course), kitchenware, tins, signs, molds… One of my many collections is, surprise surprise, old kugelhopf molds. I find myself still thinking about one in particular that I saw in Paris last year. While many people may walk in to the new Meert shop and head straight for the gaufres (more on those below), I found myself ogling the inedible displays just as much as those signature waffles – and tempting chocolates and pâtes de fruit. There’s Denis Wozny below, holding a gorgeous copper kugelhopf mold from the 17th century, with fabulous antique Meert labels behind glass on the wall. (Of course I asked, but no, it’s not for sale.)
This beautiful, sweet boutique in Paris’ Marais neighborhood is simply a jewel of a shop, and worth spending time in to appreciate the finer historical details of la Maison Mère Meert. Be sure to say bonjour to Denis – and merci for filling his car with gaufres every morning in Lille before driving to work in Paris.
Meert’s history goes back to 1761, when chocolatier and ice cream maker Delcourt opened up shop in Lille, in the north of France. It’s still at the same address, an institution today, with a luxurious elegance that truly takes you back in time. Satisfying the sweet tooth of the elite, Meert became a favorite address of King Léopold I, who mostly enjoyed gaufres, the house specialty as of 1849. Charles de Gaulle was also a fan, as he grew up in Lille. Meert is certainly most famous for the gaufres, thin oblong waffles, handmade in a hinged iron press, with a rich Madagascan vanilla filling. I always hesitate calling them “waffles,” as that may have you picturing thick, square, airy Americanized “Belgian waffles.” Or, my favorite Liège waffles, thick but irregular shaped, yeast-based treats, whose large sugar crystals melt and caramelize in the dough while cooking, mmm. But I digress…
Meert’s gaufres are still made today with the very same recipe, a highly guarded secret, as you can imagine. Nevertheless, it was time for a bit of creative innovation in 2004, and ever since, you can also treat yourself to a Gaufre EphéMeert (cute name), with a seasonal flavor, be it pistachio and sour cherry, blackcurrant and violet, or white chocolate and tea.
250 years after Meert’s story began in Lille, a new shop opened in Paris (photos above), with pastels, trompe l’oeil illustrations and the shelves overflowing with confections. The original shop in Lille (photos below) is certainly more ornate, and anything you may believe is trompe l’oeil there – is real. This historical monument is filled with grandiose decorations on the walls and ceiling, gilded ornamentation, mirrors and marble, perfectly tied ribbons on the boxes and impeccably dressed waitstaff, using the finest of silver to select colorful hard candies from the tall glass jars on the counters. And check out the antique National cash register (below left), the same brand and style as the one at Schober here in Zürich.
While Meert’s Paris opening may mean for some that a trip up north is no longer necessary, I’d beg to differ. Standing in the original shop on rue Esquermoise in Lille, you’ll most likely be looking up with your mouth open in awe. All the better – ready to fill with speculoos caramels, airy fruit-flavored marshmallows and a bite of gaufre, just as the Flemish nobility did centuries ago..
27 rue Esquermoise
16 rue Elzévir
Don’t miss these fun illustrations – Meert interpreted by a handful of prominent artists