Florence | La Ménagère

Things are looking up in San Lorenzo. Not long ago, the run-down central Florentine neighbourhood amounted to a tremendous tourist-targeted street market by day and was best avoided at night. That began to change when the original covered market, a beautiful iron and glass building erected in 1874 to a design by the very same Giuseppe Mengoni who did Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, reopened after a spectacular makeover a couple of years ago, upcycled as a high-end food hall. A spate of other new ventures, many of them gastronomically inclined, has followed in its wake: La Ménagère is a notable case in point. It’s a big place and an ambitious one, a great many things all rolled into one concept: a restaurant for sure, a coffee shop and bistrot-style eatery in what is also, at the appropriate time of day (or not), a cocktail bar, and a venue for live music events. Then there’s an area dedicated to flowers and plants (for sale) and another where you can browse for design kitchen- and tableware. The latter, while perfectly in keeping with the current concept, is also an allusion to the previous occupant of the meandering old premises: the former La Ménagère, historic purveyor of fine household goods.

The multiple spaces (for a total of 1500 square metres on two floors), under vaulted ceilings of various heights, are a happy, eclectic mix of ancient building materials shabbily exposed, industrial-style fittings, plus retro, recycled and contemporary furnishings and finishings. Luca & Marco Baldini of Florentine architecture and interiors studio q-bic are accountable for this stylish renovation, in which one zone blends into another but each has its own character and distinctive lighting – all from Karman. It’s earned them a place on the shortlist for this year’s intermational Restaurant & Bar Design Awards. The restaurant with open kitchen boasts a seasonal menu of traditional flavours revisited and refined. In the bar/bistrot they serve lighter bites prepared according to similar criteria, coffee blends from meticulously selected micro-producers, and professional cocktails with gourmet tapas. None of this comes cheap, but then La Ménagère is new, unorthodox and very trendy. And offers live music (jazz and performers from the singer-songwriter tradition) every Friday and Saturday night.