A very yammy pastry boutique nests near the Boulevard Saint Germain, at 300 meters from the St Michel Boulevard and its subway station.
The number of products looks scarce in comparison with other French pastry shops, but you cannot take your eyes off the exciting colourful marvels, those mysterious domes full of promises.
You may find all this very basic, but taste them and you will fall in love with their heavenly taste, designed by pastry master from Lille, Frederic Vaucamps.
« Simple is delicious » could be the baseline of Aux Merveilleux, the pastry chain created by the Lille pastry master, Frédéric Vaucamps.
Better focusing on perfect products rather than offering a huge variety of so so stuff.
In this case, the challenge is perfectly met by a chef that is creative and innovative in his own way.
His concept is much different than other pastry chefs marketing concepts in this country.
The choice looks very basic at first sight , unlike the usual Paris pastry shop. No mountains of croissants, no dozens of varieties of breads and pastries everywhere. Usually a bakery pastry shop looks like a gourmet Eden, full of a bonanza of delicious things .
Intead, Chef Vaucamps prefers to emphasise a series of mysterious domes, that look filled up with air, cream and lots of little crumbly things…
all this look just yammy.
It is another approach of luxury and quality, minimalism. Less is beautiful.
Through the window, you can see pastry workers preparing the meringue domes, gently rolling covering them with whipped cream.
You would say « what is the point in doing such a fuss about a meringue covered with whipped cream and and chocolate ? It’s not even a cake. »
Wait, taste them. And you will melt away. It is light, soft, not sugary. Just to die for.
Good news, there are plenty of them to taste. The marketing concept is to name them after Merveilleux, eccentric personas dating back to a post French Revolution period called the Directoire. After the fall of the extremist Robespierre in 1793, a sudden wave of excentricity and frivolity hit Paris, released from the blood baths of the Terror period. Everybody wants to dress sexy to dance and have fun, exorcising times of horror.
The Directoire era ( a small committee of young generals rule France, including certain General Napoleon Bonaparte ) will officially end with the First Empire in 1804 , when Napoleon Bonaparte takes the power and becomes Emperor Napoleon I).
Anyway, it is a time of pleasure, with crazy sexy costumes and hairdos. Ladies are called Incredible (les Incroyables) and gentlemen are nickmaned the Marvelous (les Merveilleux)
With elegance, modernity and refinement, Chef Vaucamps marvelously reinvents a traditional pastry ( seldom sold nowadays) that used to be called Tete de Negre ( Negro’s Head); it was a meringue ( often too sugary and sticky) covered with cream and dark chocolate.
It is a Flemish pastry ( Northern France, around Lille).
The Merveilleux meringues are not only politically correct but also truly marvelous for their lightness and modern taste. Just enough sugar, no fat. The whipped cream is perfect, not too solid or too liquid. The meringue is a miracle of crispiness and inner softness. Just the perfect baking at the perfect temperature. There is a lot of research in something that could seem very basic and simple to bake.
It is so tasty you will not feel hungry after eating one. A small one is 1.60 euros but I recommend the medium one at 3.10. I suggest you bring them back the hotel to taste them, as it is not a street foodstuff… not convenient like a chocolate croissant. If you want to have one at once, try the mini one.
You can also try the other product sold , the cramiques, traditional brioches from Northern France (egg and yeast breads). You have 3 choices: with raisins, chocolate chips or sugar. I suggest you try the sugar ones since these are the original variety.
Nowadays, you can find such shops in many cities in France ( Paris, Lille, Nantes, etc) and Europe, and even in New York City. The staff is friendly and the packaging very convenient.
The shop I went to was the one near RER B-Metro station Saint Michel ( exit Cluny La Sorbonne, walk along Blvd St Germain towards Bastille- Austerlitz and turn right at Rue Monge. You can also alight at Maubert Mutualité metro station or Cardinal Lemoine metro station.
If you like traditional French pastry bakeries by a famous chef, just walk 2 doors next and you’ll find a Chef Eric Kayser shop full of beautiful pies, cakes, breads. Worth the visit too. There are other ones in the world…and even in Singapore.
Bon appétit !