When a restaurant puts fries – to be fair, we’re talking homemade fries with a truffle mayonaise – under its main course section, you have to wonder if they’ve got their priorities right (because #carbsarelife), or just playing the Millenial card.
In the case of Merci Marcel, it’s a bit of both.
Merci Marcel is the latest and currently most Instagrammed eatery at Tiong Bahru. It models itself as a multi-concept store meets Parisian-style all-day eatery with a focus on social dining.
Remove the marketing jargon and it’s essentially a beautiful eatery with breakfast and brunch menus in the day, and tapas-style options at night. What makes it different is its gourmet corner selling small-batch Gallia Beer from Paris, Kusmi Tea and La Cour d’Orgères artisanal jams, and a lifestyle range stocking eyewear from Izipizi, trendy watches from Cluse and even its own merchandise. We spotted T-shirts with the words “La vie en Marcel” written on them.
Merci Marcel is by the same people behind O Batignolles and O Comptoir, so the food is of a certain standard. Dishes are generally well-executed and presented perfectly for Instagram. Order the French Toast Brioche ($17) if the latter is an important objective.
Quantity though is arguable. Depending on the size of your appetite, you might leave slightly peckish.
For lunch, Merci Marcel offers various sets. Egg dishes (from $19), four different salads (from $16), cheese boards (from $16), main courses like a ceviche of red snapper ($22), and the most hearty dish, a 200g Angus beef with creamy mushrooms and fries ($26). Aside from being a bit salty, everyone on the table gave the Angus beef a thumbs up.
The Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio ($21) was a surprising hit. The beef, perfectly done, was generous and was accompanied with the perfect amount of greens and parmesan. The Marinated Crab Tartine ($18) looked promising, but in reality, ended up more like avocado toast with a side of crabmeat.
Perhaps, expectations were too high for lunch. After all, if you’re after a light, tasty bite, Merci Marcel serves its purpose. The dinner menu holds more interesting dishes like the Pan-Seared Hokkaido Scallops ($38) with cauliflower crème and couscous (below), a Grilled Chicken with Crispy Bayonne Ham (#24) and sides like the Ravioles de Royan ($18), a style of French dumplings filled with Swiss tête de Moine cheese.
Also, we should point out that we were remiss not to order a Croissant ($3), which looked very promising (and flakey). Judging by Instagram posts, it was a must order.
But what about the fries? Were they deserving of main course status? No. They’re meant to be shared and not a meal in itself. Also, the restaurant might want to look into using bigger potatoes, not stump-like pieces.
Our verdict: Merci Marcel won’t be empty anytime soon. The food is decent and it’s perfect for a casual brunch outing. It’s certainly pretty and the ambience, especially the indoor/outdoor air-conditioned patio, is great. But like a beautiful woman, looks combined with a little more substance is always more attractive.