With its cheery red umbrellas, cafe tables and chairs, the new MOULIN at South Coast Plaza’s Garden Terrace aims to give you a taste of Paris. Imagine plates of croissants, pain au chocolat, and other beloved treats baked daily by a cadre of French patissiers. Picture those all-time Parisian favorites – fresh sweet or savory crepes – made to order. Now savor them with cafe au lait or Champagne, sit back and watch the people walk by. Authenticity is at the core of MOULIN, according to owner Laurent Vrignaud, from the furniture to the food and drinks.
We spoke recently with Vrignaud about his coming to California and why he brought MOULIN to South Coast Plaza.
We’ve filled the terrace with big red umbrellas and the famous chairs and tables by Maison Gatti and Tolix. It will be the next closest thing you can get to Paris in Orange County without boarding an airplane.
LAURENT VRIGNAUD ON HIS NEW MOULIN LOCATION AT SOUTH COAST PLAZA
Here are highlights from our conversation with Vrignaud:
You’ve created MOULIN inspired by wonderful memories of your Parisian childhood. What is your go-to café when you visit the City of Light and what do you order?
I enjoy visiting Le Musset, a classic Parisian café located a block from the Louvre on a great corner with a big outdoor terrace. I always order le Salade Nicoise and glass of rosé – the same thing I enjoy at MOULIN.
At 18, you left to pursue the California dream. Why?
My father got a job in the Bay Area and I joined him because it was my dream to become a surfer. Thirty-eight years later, I’m still surfing and living the California dream!
What was your role in the action sports industry and why did you decide to make a change?
In order to keep surfing as a teenager, I started wholesaling surfing equipment to surf shops up and down the coast of California. In the winters, I started wholesaling snowboard equipment. Eventually, I grew that into the biggest independent action sports sales agency in the country, but in all those years, I could rarely find an authentic French café that reminded me of those from my childhood in Paris. Eight years ago, I was ready for a new challenge so I decided to create MOULIN.
Why did you settle in OC?
Orange County is the mecca of the action sports industry so it made sense for my former business to be headquartered here. We were raising our family and our daughter was attending OCSA (Orange County School of the Arts) so it made sense to open MOULIN here.
What appealed to you about opening at South Coast Plaza?
I would like to see more international growth from our brand. From the brand selection and retail presentation, South Coast Plaza delivers a world-class experience. So when Anton Segerstrom invites you to join them and the other renowned French brands, it is an offer you don’t refuse and it validates what we are doing at MOULIN.
What attracted you to the outdoor site on Garden Terrace?
Just like classic Parisian cafés, MOULIN is all about the outdoor patio experience so the Garden Terrace location is a no-brainer for us. We’ve filled the terrace with big red umbrellas and the famous chairs and tables by Maison Gatti and Tolix. It will be the next closest thing you can get to Paris in Orange County without boarding an airplane.
You’re going to have breakfast, lunch and then make a late afternoon stop at MOULIN at South Coast Plaza. What will you order for each?
Breakfast is always a double espresso with pain au chocolat, my favorite lunch is le Salade Niçoise and glass of rosé, and for a late afternoon visit, nothing beats chatting with a couple of friends on the patio with a Paris-Brest pastry and a glass of Laurent-Perrier Champagne.
We hear you have a special MOULIN creation exclusively for South Coast Plaza. We love exclusives! Tell us about it.
To celebrate our newest location, we are introducing a new pastry that can only be found at MOULIN at South Coast Plaza. It is the Earl Grey & Fig tart – trés magnifique!
Do you have a signature item?
Our signature item would have to be our jambon fromage (ham and cheese) sandwich. We make our ham in-house Parisian style and serve it on a fresh-baked baguette with Emmenthal cheese. Our saucisson cornichon sandwich is a close second.
What are MOULIN’s top three sellers?
Our top seller is the jambon fromage sandwich followed by our almond croissant. The chocolate éclair is our top-selling pastry.
What Champagnes will you have at MOULIN at South Coast Plaza and what do you recommend as a pairing?
We have a partnership with Laurent-Perrier, one of the most acclaimed Champagne brands in the world. Guests at MOULIN at South Coast Plaza can enjoy it in the split size, half bottle or full bottle. A perfect pairing is Champagne and our freshly-made strawberry or lemon crêpe.
For the holidays, will you have any special seasonal desserts?
Oui! In early December we start taking pre-orders of our famous Bûche de Noël, (yule log). This year’s bûches will be available in two sizes and three flavors. Last year, we sold out with people driving from LA and San Diego to get them. We can’t wait to introduce our SCP visitors to our Bûche de Noël.