Tell us a bit about your upbringing and your love of food
I was born and raised in Brittany in the North-West of France, near Dinan. A typical Breton family: cider, galettes, whole roast pigs and Fest Noz parties… My roots are deep into the regional traditions! Food has always been a part of our culture, with my grandmothers cooking for the whole crowd. Growing up in the countryside, I was surrounded by animals. Milking cows, collecting eggs from our hens or learning how to kill a pig and make the most of it means you don’t lose touch with sustainability. It’s common sense to you: you feed the rabbits the peelings, and then you eat that same rabbit. It’s a full circle! It's definitely more complicated to raise rabbits in a city flat.
What inspired you to move to London?
My aunt lived in Brixton, so I've been coming for twenty-five years. London seemed like a whole different world to me, a little country mouse: the hustle and bustle of the big city, the foreign language, the particular energy of the neighbourhood... I used to come here on holiday.
Ten years ago when I was 20 years-old, I thought I’d failed my university exams so I headed straight to London instead, with a friend of mine and a backpack. The British charm and elegance, the music, the parties, the contrasts between the English countryside and the craziness of London… I loved it all!
I landed a job as a waiter at the now-closed French restaurant ‘Chez Gérard’ on Charlotte Street in Soho, shared a flat with a guy from the kitchen and spent the best summer.
How did you manage to stay?
When the news broke that I had to go back to Vannes in Brittany to finish my uni cycle, all I could think of was how I was going to come back. I secured an internship at a French epicerie in South Kensington to make sure I would come back to my London life.
Was it hard at first? How did you make a community for yourself?
No, I found it very easy - even if at first, like all communities, we tended to stay surrounded by French people. But then working in hospitality means your colleagues very quickly become a second family, and your circles expand quickly.
You started with the cheese side of things…
Yes, whilst interning I met my now-business partner Franck Le Blaisu, who had been selling French artisan cheese in markets across London for years - Borough Market, Portobello, Hampstead… I had been working on market stalls back in France throughout my teenage years, so it was an instant fit. I'm a very hands-on person, office work is definitely not my thing.
So I then spent a few years with his company Une Normande a Londres, first in wholesale, then overseeing the Market business. I was 22, not afraid of fifteen-hour long days and ready to eat the world!
Tell us about your stint in Kent…
After a few years, I was ready to collaborate on other projects with Franck. He introduced me to these two chefs who wanted to open a smoked meat restaurant in Kent, so that’s what we did from 2016 to 2018. We set up shop in Seven oaks, opened Brisket & Barrel. Opening a restaurant, smoking and cutting meat… I learnt a million things during this adventure!
How did Marilou happen?
One project led to another over the years, and one day one of our contacts told us about this French epicerie Le Pascalou. It had been around for twenty years or so in Chelsea, and had gone into administration. The heart of our business was more artisan cheese and cured meats, but we went ahead anyway: a French deli, what’s not to love about it! We reopened under a new name in 2020.
Introduce us to Marilou
Marilou is a French Deli in the heart of Chelsea, West London. We are home to a greengrocer, a cheese and cured meat counter, a wine shop and everyday classic French products.
We take pride in offering a wide selection of great quality, affordable products. Cheeses at French prices all the way to London, well-made wines by small producers… But don’t forget we are in Chelsea, so we do also sell French caviar and truffles - a bit of everything for everyone!
What do you like about Chelsea?
I love the people here, I meet amazing characters! Talking to people is what I love most in my job. That's what I also liked about the markets, creating strong bonds with the local community through daily contacts.
Where do you live?
I've always lived South of the river, I love the atmosphere on this side of the Thames. I spent quite some time in Brixton, Vauxhall… and now I live in Bermondsey. I love the vibe and all the amazing food business nestled under the arches: the great wine selection at Dynamic Vines, the delicious cheeses from Mons, the most insane croissants from Little Bread Pedlar… I also cycle everywhere, so I like how central Bermondsey is - I’m basically less than thirty minutes away from anywhere.
What do you think about French cuisine in London?
It's important to distinguish London from the rest of the country. If you can afford it, here in London it’s easy to forget you’re not in Paris if you want to eat great French food. There are amazing places around, like Casse-Croûte or Maison François.
What do you love the most about running your own business?
I love being my own boss - even if flexibility means responsibility. You have to be on deck all the time, deal with issues on a daily basis... The first three years of Marilou have been hard on us with Brexit and Covid successively hitting, making us redefine our newborn business. We used to drive our own truck to source our products in France weekly, and have had to adapt a lot. But here we are!
What are your plans for the future?
We want to focus on finding our pace, after these troubled beginnings. I’d love to expand our restaurant and bar offer, so people can enjoy great food and a glass of rosé on our terrace!
What do you love most about life in London?
The people, the cultural dynamism, this unique energy you can't find anywhere else - except in New York perhaps. As soon as the sun is out, London is the most magical place.
Marilou French Deli
Open Monday-Wednesday 8am to 7.30pm, Thursday-Saturday 8am to 9pm, Sunday 9am to 7pm
359 Fulham Road
London SW10 9TW