No need to wander the streets of old Lille for hours in search of the famous patisserie Aux Merveilleux de Fred. The long queue outside its doors will give away its location. And if you are brave enough to face the crowd of fanatics, you might just find out what love at first bite is!
Aux Merveilleux de Fred is first of all a French success story. Frederic Vaucamps acquired his strong savoir-faire as a pastry apprentice at the Lenôtre school, improving it with experiences, strokes of luck, flops, attempts, and achievements. Creativity, pleasure, and fantasy are words that inspired the Précieux and the Extravagants movement under the Directory in France. They in turn inspired this true artisan to revisit a traditional pastry from the North of France and the Flanders, the Merveilleux. Neglected, even forgotten for a time, Frédéric Vaucamps brought back to light this extraordinary confectionary. In 1985, he unveiled his restyled recipe. In 1997 he opened his first shop in Lille dedicated to the Merveilleux, with a perfected recipe. Aux Merveilleux de Fred was born. With eight shops in France, some in Belgium, Switzerland, the UK, and even one in New York. Customers everywhere fall under the divine spell of the merveilleux de Fred. I surely did.
A winning combination – meringue, whipping cream, and chocolate – the merveilleux is fabulous. Not at all heavy or over-sweet as you might first expect it. The meringue heart, fine and crisp at the same time, is hidden under an airy and smooth jacket of whipping cream. Then it is finally coated in chocolate shavings or meringue bits. The final cake is incredibly light, delicate, and addictive. It will be hard to choose from the six flavors, all bearing magical names:
- The Incroyable (the incredible) – speculoos biscuit.
- The Magnifique (the magnificent) – praline, almond chips, caramelized hazelnuts.
- The Sans-culotte (the no-pants) – caramel whipped cream, crystallized meringue.
- The Excentrique (the eccentric) – all about cherry and so sexy.
- The Merveilleux – the original recipe all about chocolate.
- The Impensable (the unthinkable) – coffee.
I just loved watching the crew preparing the marvellous sweets in the atelier right behind the shop. You can order a four-person cake but I chose an individual one so I didn’t have to share my little piece of heaven. Careful, if you buy a box of several merveilleux, don’t start before your guests arrive or you might be tempted to finish the whole box!
Take one single bite of this extraordinary dome-shaped pastry, and you will whimper with delight.
Aux Merveilleux de Fred – 67, rue de la Monnaie, 59800 Lille – France