As the cold weather begins to envelop Melbourne this week, I’ve been thinking about Lille. For me, visiting Max’s hometown means a great many things. It means cold weather, sometimes snow. It means comfort food and hot drinks and long, indulgent meals en famille. It also means eating the gaufres de Chez Meert.
It’s no secret that I have a bit of a sweet tooth. From delicate macarons to thick slices of brioche studded with sugar crystals and spread with nutella, visiting Lille is a little bit like a trip to your grandparents house, where all the things that are off limits in normal life are allowed.
When max first told me about the waffles on offer at Chez Meert, I was unenthusiastic. As a child in Australia, waffles came frozen in boxes, and on rare occasions we were allowed to pop one in the toaster and eat it drenched in maple syrup with a scoop of Peter’s vanilla ice cream. Delicious, yes, but not in comparison to all the other finely crafted sweet treats France has to offer. I had also tasted a waffle in Belgium a few months earlier, and whilst I enjoyed the nutella-smeared, whipped cream-adorned concoction, I wouldn’t have returned in a hurry. Max simply shook his head at my reticence and said ‘Tu verra’.
And see, I did.
These ‘waffles’ could not be further from those of my childhood, or the one I’d eaten in Brussels. These were long, delicate, pliable tongue-shaped wafers, sandwiched together by an intoxicating vanilla bean paste. They were as moist as other waffles are dry, and require no accompaniments whatsoever, except perhaps a strong espresso to cut through the sweetness.
In the interest of research, I tasted not only their classic flavour, but their speculoos one too. And though we all know how much I love speculoos, I think the classic just wins out in the flavour race.
Getting to eat a gaufres from Chez Meert has long been a treat exclusively reserved for trips to Lille, and the only way to enjoy them back home in Paris’ 9th arrondissement was to buy up big on our last day in Lille and practise extreme self-control on the car ride home. But, with the 2012 opening of a Meert café in Paris, this is no longer the case.
So be sure to check them out next time you are in Paris, or Lille. You’ll never think of waffles the same way again.