When we last heard from Jeanell Morris in 2007, she was in the process of closing Café de France inside Palladio Antique & Arts. The plan then was to relocate Café de France and a revived French Bakery into a space out east. Those plans fell through, and in February of this year, Morris became manager of Olivia’s Café at Sheffield Antiques Mall in Collierville.
Olivia’s, which is named after the daughter of Sheffield’s owner, benefits from a feeling of warmth and charm that only an antique store can bestow. Surrounded by an array of once-prized possessions and family heirlooms, the lunch spread at Olivia’s echos the variety, artistry, and personality of the antiques: a spicy red gazpacho with bright yellow mango relish, a creamy brie sandwich topped with crisp bacon and apples and drizzled with honey, a slice of cake delicately layered with thin stripes of chocolate.
Concentrating on a select group of items, Morris and her husband, Donnie, offer up only those dishes that represent their signature, sophisticated cuisine. “You can’t be everything to everyone if you’re small. Pick out a few things that you do better than anybody else. Forget about having 50 variations. Have a smaller menu.”
Among the choice items served are original and curry smoked chicken salad, marinated portabella, “the best corned beef you’ve ever had,” smoked pork loin, quiches, bisques, cheesecakes, pies and peach iced tea.
And how did the Morrises wind up at Olivia’s?
“Sheffield Antiques Mall had approached me to come do something out here about a year after we opened the Café de France [in Palladio],” says Jeanell. “But we still had the bakery at that time, and my husband said, ‘Are you crazy?’” They decided to keep the café and bakery and leave it at that.
When the rotten economy doomed the plans to open the combo restaurant/bakery in East Memphis, the Morrises were happy to take up the longstanding offer for a café in Sheffield Antiques. Jeanell had one stipulation. “I said, if you want a café, I’ll come run it for you. But it’s not mine, it’s yours.”
Olivia’s Cafe, 684 W. Poplar in Collierville (854-4104)