An early day ritual is a grounding, meditative practice; one that provides a welcome respite from the AM scramble. And on a bustling weekday morning in Pershing Square, at Madame Monsieur, a cozy cafe on 6th and Hill St. that welcome respite comes in the form of strong coffee, a warm pastry, and a cheery bonjour from behind the white marble counter.
When Alison Barber, Kerian Jarry, and Sophie Clerico moved to Los Angeles from Paris, they were looking to launch a concept around food that married their dynamic areas of expertise in fine dining, design, and cabaret, (Clerico’s father owned the Lido and the Moulin Rouge), with an authentic retelling of their heritage. The resulting brainchild was a boulangerie-style pit stop, fashioned in the aesthetic of an intimate Parisian apartment, for the busy and discerning breakfast and lunch crowd.
“The person that comes to us has 45 minutes to have lunch,” says Jarry. “They understand it is about quality, not quantity. That is what people are looking for when they come to us. What they are going to find is a simple menu, but true.” Simple, but true. That’s the mantra of the deceptively spare menu offerings, which range from classic French pastries like croissants, pain au chocolat, and kouign amann in the morning, to the lunch menu’s line of petite, half-size pullman bread sandwiches, to the ham and butter sandwich. It’s comprised solely of three key ingredients: French-imported ham, beurre de baratte butter, and a toasted retro baguette from Clark’s Street Bakery. But it’s the croque monsieur, which the team makes sure to execute the proper way, topped with a layer of caramelized cheese and creme fraiche, that most embodies simplicity and quality, so much so that it’s actually the restaurant’s namesake.
“Alison is the ‘madame’ of Madame Monsieur,” says Jarry. “Sophie is the second madame. And the monsieur is not me, but the Croque Monsieur.” On occasion, Madame Monsieur will stray from their less is more mentality, and they’ll do so with unabashed pomp and decadence. Inspired by the Michelin-star restaurant Barber once worked at, the team recently debuted an off-the-menu $25 black truffle sandwich earlier this year to considerable buzz. This summer, they’re introducing a high-end twist to their classic ham and butter combo: a hearty sourdough sandwich featuring Spain’s famed Jamon iberico, the best ham in the world.
So far, the crew has maintained a low-key presence in the neighborhood, operating primarily on word-of-mouth from core regulars. This, according to Jarry, is done out of respect for the customer, for the community, and for the integrity of the work itself. With minimal paid marketing efforts and an even smaller storefront (blink and you’ll miss it!), Madame Monsieur may seem a little elusive, but the secret’s out now. Just look for the glow of the string lights, and for the neon sign that wishes you, with all sincerity, bon appetit.
Written by Sophie He
Photographed by Logan Havens
Videography by Logan Havens