Le Moulin a Café
Le Moulin à Café: My Treat!
One of the most delightful aspects of being a flâneuse, one who loves nothing better than taking in the passing scene, is that there’s no end to the surprises, neither in New York or in Paris. So it was the other day, while running errands, that I was brought up short at the sight of Le Moulin à Café. That such a place should appear on York Avenue on the Upper East Side in Yorkville at the very moment when I was hungry seemed like a stroke of serendipity.
Reading the sign over the door, what immediately came to mind was Le Moulin Rouge, the world-famous cabaret in Paris known for naughtiness, light-heartedness and joie de vivre. It was at Le Moulin Rouge, 'the red windmill,' that the French can-can was born and that Toulouse Lautrec, who would immortalize the dancer La Goulou, watched her perform. If you'd like to see the glorious posters by Lautrec that had been on display at MoMA, click here. All of which left me wondering what Le Moulin à Café was all about. I crossed over.
Le Moulin, charming and idiosyncratic, has a neighborhood vibe. It's a café up front, a restaurant at the rear, and an épicerie to one side. An épicerie? Oui! A grocery selling favorite French products, including La Colombe coffee from Corsica and Amora’s Moutarde Du Dijon. All of which makes it quite unlike any other small French café-restaurant in the city, at least any I've had the pleasure to visit.
At Le Moulin they speak French! I’m greeted with a Bonjour! to which I respond in kind. The waiter, who could not be nicer (he helps me switch tables three times without so much as a grimace) speaks fluent French, unlike your trusty correspondent.
I finally settle in at a table where I could get a shot of the charming nook. See for yourself. What better place to make yourself at home and take notes on the lively lunch time scene?
What I forgot to do was take a picture of what turned out to be a scrumptious quiche, accompanied by a well-dressed salad. At Le Moulin the eggs are organic, the produce locally grown. All around me, the dishes coming from the kitchen are beautifully prepared and the 'Rosé all day" adds its own note of joie de vivre. Mais oui!
To date, my best croque madame was at The Mark, at Jean-Gorges Vongerichten's restaurant in the hotel of the same name, but that at Le Moulin looks worth a try next time I'm in the neighborhood. What's a croque madame? It's a croque monsieur, the classic French ham and cheese sandwich covered in béchamel, which becomes a croque madame when a fried egg is placed on top of it.
I'm told that during the week much of the conversation that takes place in this little cafe is in French as it's frequented by the moms who drop their children off at the nearby Lycée Français, the French School on East 75th Street. Le Moulin is like a home away from home, a chance to speak one's own language and be free of the pressures of being an expat.
When flying with TWA years ago, we would often arrive in Paris at an hour too late for dinner. One of my favorite memories was heading for the small bar at the Hotel Celtic where the bartender would fortify us with a late night croque monsieur and a glass of wine before we trundled off for a good night’s sleep. The beloved Hotel Celtic has been transformed into the luxury Hotel Balzac, on rue Balzac in the eighth, steps off the Champs and a few blocks from the Etoile. A well-thumbed Eyewitness Guide to Paris lists the Balzac as one of the best hotels in the city.
Can you guess the year that uniform was worn? It wasn't a shiny fabric as it appears, but a refined gabardine.
To sum up the offerings at Le Moulin, everyone raves about the éclairs topped with dark chocolate and filled with chocolate mousse. So, too, the pain au chocolat and croissants. Another crowd-pleaser was the omelette with wild mushrooms. I'm looking forward to a return visit. Did I say the prices are reasonable?
A group seated nearby at Le Moulin were coming from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, recently ranked the Number One museum in the world. Woo! To say that they were happy to have found a less trampled oasis is an understatement. This neighborhood gem, situated at 1439 York Avenue, is open from 7:30 AM to 5:30 PM Monday to Friday and from 8:00 AM to 5 PM on Saturday and Sunday. They are open evenings for events and private parties. Should you want a croissant for breakfast, get there early because they sell out quickly at this taste of Paris in New York.
Thanks for stopping by. J'espère vous voir la semaine prochaine. Yes, I hope to see you next week, when I'll have the coffee brewing.