Waiter, can I order the tableware?

Above: At La Mercerie in the rear of the Roman and Williams Guild design store in New York, all the tableware, even the tables, is for sale. Left: Oysters at the restaurant.
Above: At La Mercerie in the rear of the Roman and Williams Guild design store in New York, all the tableware, even the tables, is for sale. PHOTOS: NYTIMES
Above: At La Mercerie in the rear of the Roman and Williams Guild design store in New York, all the tableware, even the tables, is for sale. Left: Oysters at the restaurant.
Above: Oysters at the restaurant.PHOTOS: NYTIMES

Diners at restaurants such as La Mercerie in New York can buy their plates, napkins and furniture

NEW YORK • A hunger for food is not the only thing that La Mercerie, a cafe, bakery and restaurant in furniture and design store Roman and Williams Guild, can satisfy.

After enjoying "simple but refined" French food like vegetables cooked in saffron broth beneath a puff pastry dome or buckwheat crepes with seafood whipped up by celebrated Parisian chef Marie-Aude Rose, diners can order something to go: the plates, napkins, tableware, candlesticks and even tables.

These items are all listed on a card available from the waiter.

Fill it in and the goodies can be delivered that day - along with, say, treats from Rose's adjoining bakery.

Putting a restaurant in a design store is not a new concept.

Restoration Hardware has opened restaurants which it calls "integrated hospitality experiences" in three of its RH Galleries, in which all the furniture is for sale.

This month, Brooklyn-based design brand Blackbarn opened a cafe in its new Chelsea Market home store, where a try-before-you-buy strategy is also in place.

Blackbarn co-founder Mark Zeff said immersive shopping like this is the future of brick-and-mortar retail, which he believes is being clobbered by online shopping in part because "people are sick of walking down the street and seeing these homogeneous big brands, one next to the other".

As luxury groups respond to evidence that millennials prefer food and experiences as much as or more than acquiring stuff, even Tiffany & Co has opened a Blue Box Cafe on the newly renovated home and accessories floor of its Fifth Avenue store.

Customers can buy the cafe's teacups and plates, from the new Tiffany Blue porcelain line.

But La Mercerie, in the SoHo precinct of New York and which opens today, has taken the idea the furthest - all the way to the flowers on the table, which are also sold from a stand near the entrance.

La Mercerie represents another new crossover in restaurants - the designers are also the owners.

Mr Stephen Alesch and Ms Robin Standefer, the husband-and-wife team behind the interior design firm Roman and Williams, have orchestrated the looks at restaurants Upland, Lafayette and, most recently, Le Coucou (where Rose's husband Daniel is the chef), as well as hotels like Ace New York.

In opening Roman and Williams Guild - a store filled with their own furniture, lighting and other designs as well as vintage finds - the couple said it seemed like a natural transition to own the restaurant too.

"We just wanted to do something that was that comprehensive that we had real ownership and authorship of," Ms Standefer said.

When designing other people's restaurants, she added that "we could control only so much".

Now they run the entire show, weighing in on Rose's menu and, of course, how - and on what - the food is served.

In keeping with its "simple but refined" style, Rose's creations will be plated on a high-low, intentionally mismatched combination of ceramics sourced from Japan, Sweden, Australia and Denmark, eaten with vintage French silverware and dabbed away by linens that are made in Sweden.

A light soup might arrive in a substantial Japanese clay donabe; a homey chevre cheesecake on a delicate plate (also Japanese).

For Mr Alesch, the idea of experiencing the goods in situ is a counterbalance to today's online marketplace.

"I spent the last decade exercising the glory of Internet shopping," he said. "I'm a little fatigued by getting the wrong things, doing returns."

He also wanted to reintroduce what he calls the "Old World" idea of having purchases put on a house account and delivered with flair from their warehouse in Industry City, in Brooklyn. The goods can also be ordered online.

Ms Standefer said she understood that their soup-bowl-to-nut-dish approach might be overreaching in today's shopping climate.

But "we just don't believe - and we might get schooled - that retail is dead", she added defiantly.

"It just doesn't have any soul."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2017, with the headline 'Waiter, can I order the tableware?'. Print Edition | Subscribe