Truth time: Who hasn't, in the middle of a particularly trying day, drifted off into daydreams of leaving everything behind, jetting off across the globe, and opening a quaint little cafe nestled into a picturesque corner of the streets of Paris? For some people, like Marie Pourrech, our daydreams are their reality. Trs chic!
At the age of 40, Marie decided it was finally time to make her lifelong wish come true, so she opened Maison Bastille - a light and airy French cafe with a distinct Scandinavian flair, a tastebud-teasing menu, and a red Radio Flyer full of fresh herbs. And when Marie called us in search of the perfect wallpaper to add just the right touch of pattern to her irresistibly sweet eatery, we hopped a plane to the City of Light to see the intersection of delicious food and beautiful design firsthand.
H&W: Tell us a little about yourself and what you did before you opened Maison Bastille.
MB: I am from the south of France. I have lived in Paris for the past 16 years with my five kids, but before that I lived in the U.S. (Oregon), Spain, and London. I uses to have a 'real job' before opening the cafe, and until two years ago I was a Human Resources Director for a U.S. consulting company.
H&W: Owning and operating a cafe is no easy task. What led you to pursue this dream?
MB: When I turned 40 I decided it was time to make my dream come true, so I opened Maison Bastille. I wanted to create a space where people would feel la maison (at home) and offer the same kind of food I cook for my family.
H&W:Food and design are so intricately connected, and it's obvious that you're passionate about both. How do you think ambiance affects people's enjoyment of their meal?
MB: In Maison Bastille, the ambiance is all about light. I wanted a simple space that would be cosy and at the same time relaxing so that people could enjoy a simple and fresh meal in a nice environment. Somehow the decor and the food are completely connected here - simple and fresh, green and healthy. I always have fresh flowers and, for instance, this week we have a hydrangeaand mint bouquet, while at the same time we are using a lot of fresh mint in our dishes.
H&W: You used our Rosa (Yellow) wallpaper in your cafe - and we may be biased here - but we think it's basically the cutest spot in Paris! What went into your design decisions in general and choosing Rosa wallpaper specifically?
MB: The wallpaper was really the starting point. I saw it on Pinterest and fell in love at first sight. I liked the fact that it was so full of light. The yellow and copper and the mint are just amazing. It was such a happy, simple, and powerful design. I loved everything about it. I ordered it online and when I received it, it was even more beautiful. We worked around the colors of the paper for our palette. Our coffee cups are mint, we use old green mason jars for our bouquets. A friend of mine made Liberty fabric pillow cases for the little armchair, and she choose a Japanese Liberty in the same hues as the wallpaper. I went for white and grey paints for the other walls as I wanted the wallpaper to be like a painting and remain the center point of the room. The light fixtures are grey on the outside and cooper on the inside, and they work great with the paper. Everyone loves that wallpaper and it completely helped us launch the business. So thank you so much for creating it!
H&W: The design of Maison Bastille strikes the perfect balance between bold pattern and elegant simplicity. Why do you think that's important when creating a space? Does your food reflect this bold-meets-simple ethos in any way?
MB: Yes, I really think one of the reasons the cafe got so popular so quickly is because the decor and the food were almost like twin sisters. We use only fresh and simple ingredients and we mix all kind of cuisines: Asian, French, American, Moroccan. We love fresh herbs with a kick, like coriander, mint, sage, Thai basil, and spices!
H&W: What's the most important thing to consider when creating a menu, whether it be for a cafe like yours or an intimate dinner party?
MB:We love to balance our food. I like when a salad is sweet, sour, soft, and chewy at the same time. We are trying to balance every dish. When I do a red cabbage slaw, I try to do a sweet dressing with maple syrup, for instance, to balance the tartness of the cabbage. I love texture, too, so I like to add avocado to rice to get something soft, or nuts with grated carrots so that you get a little crunch. I love it when ingredients are like little surprises in the mouth and you think "Ho, what was that? That was tasty!"
H&W: Every one of your dishes is absolutely mouthwatering. Do you have a favorite? And we just have to ask - could you share a recipe?
MB: I really like our Vietnamese fried rice since the recipe came from my oldest kid's grandma, who is from Saigon. This is usually done with leftover rice, and we have it on the menu every Friday.
For two people you will need:
- 2 cups of cooked Thai or basmati rice
- 2 minced shallots
- 1 egg
- Soy sauce to taste
- 2 Chinese sausages (you can find them in Asian supermarkets or you can substitute with smoked ham)
- 1 teaspoon of sunflower oil
- A nice bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
In a pan, fry the shallots in the oil. When they are transparent, add the chopped sausage and cook them for a minute or two. Add the rice and stir it around to warm it. Once it is warmed, add the soy sauce to flavor the rice. Turn down the heat. In a bowl, whisk the egg and then cook it in a small pan like an omelet. Cut it in small pieces and add it to the rice. Stir the rice for a minute and add the fresh chopped coriander. Serve hot or barely hot.
H&W: At H&W, we're all about getting cozy ('hygge' means 'cozy' in Danish!), but that doesn't always have to happen at home. What are some of your favorite cozy places in Paris?
MB: I love going to Caf© Biblioth©que at Merci for a detox (I love the hot lemon and ginger drink). For the best croissants, I go to Maison Plisson. For the house, I really love La Tresorerie (our stools and pegs are from there). Their selection is simple, practical, and beautiful at the same time. With the kids, we like to go to Mus©e de la Chasse in the Marais. It is in an old hotel and they have done a wonderful job with setting up the museum - very cosy and dramatic at the same time, and the kids love the stuffed animals. My favorite guest house is Le Petit Atelier. It is a gem and the couple behind it make wonderful pottery and light fixtures.