L’Experience Paris

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Step off Mercer Island and into a stylish French bakery – and wine shop, café, and store. The bright blue and white walls give the space a clean, modern feel, accented by warm woods and greenery. Just inside, a large table holds a visual menu of the day’s pastries: buttery kougin amann, flaky croissants, and shiny lacquered tarts – copper cubes on the table signify items that are sold out, so get there early for a full selection.

The menu evolves with the day, adding sandwiches, salads, soups, and quiches at lunchtime. A glass case holds patisserie-style treats like l’alliance, with cheesecake mousse and passion fruit and mango coulis. About a dozen well-spaced tables of various sizes, each with a small succulent on it, give the restaurant a lively feel, and the colorful, comfortable seats make it a pleasant place to meet with friends or get work done.

Owner Julien Hervet aims to bring the feel of his home country into the bakery. When the owner of Cépaé Wine Bar in Bellevue (now a part of another L’Experience location) took over Convivial Café in July of 2019 he told My Mercer Island he hoped to “deliver the most authentic French experience you can find.” This shows particularly in the wine selection: a set of shelves functions as a miniature wine store, displaying directly imported bottles from small producers. Further along the same wall dividing the seating from the kitchen, a selection of pantry goods – all from France or French producers – includes teas, tapenades, and flaky salt, each in beautiful, artistic packaging.

Born and raised in France, Hervet previously worked in the technology industry, including nine years at Microsoft. He began importing French wine for friends and family members as a hobby, which evolved into sourcing wines from around the world to a select portfolio of Seattle restaurants and into operating Cépaé. His children attended the local French American School of Puget Sound, which brought his attention to the idea of opening a cafe in downtown Mercer Island.

The menu and patisserie selection at L’Experience comes from executive chef Orphée Fouano, who previously worked at the Hôtel Plaza Athénée Paris (a 3 Michelin-star restaurant) and was executive chef at Mademoiselle Colette, a pastry shop with three locations throughout Silicon Valley.

The Mercer Island location is one of L’Experience Paris’s three current locations, but the group has plans to expand, including a Capitol Hill store coming to Seattle. For now, though, the Mercer Island locale has a leg up on the others – it serves as the production kitchen, so all the pastries and baked goods are made on-site.

Visit L’Experience Paris at 3020 78th Avenue SE, Mercer Island, WA, in the Islandia Shopping Center near Island Books, Homegrown, and Terra Bella. Learn more at www.lexperienceparis.com.