I might have mentioned that I visited Pakistan recently. And when I was there, I couldn’t not venture into Marcel’s. This might sound weird, but this was on my list of places to visit. (Weird because I was coming back to the place of my birth after two years. You’d think a trendy restaurant wouldn’t be a priority. You’d think; and you’d be wrong).
See, even as a socially awkward being who rarely leaves her room, Marcel’s had tickled my fancy. As a proud miser, that Rs. 20,000 chocolate cake had me shaking my head in all kinds of disapproval. And yet, the nonchalance of their decadence had me intrigued. With all the eateries offering a pair of earrings if you ordered two pizzas instead of one, this was new. These guys didn’t pull any punches; their stuff was good but, it would cost you.
But, an expensive gimmick does not a foodie’s favourite make. And when I went into Marcel’s, my goal was to examine the promise, with a magnifying glass. I wanted to see whether it lived up to the hype (because there was hype). Or, was this a case of something glittering from a far, only to be a dud?
And so, off I went, accompanied by a friend, into this labyrinth of luxurious promises. Begging to ask whether Marcel’s is worth the splurge.
The Price Point
As an homage to the eatery in question, I too shall pull no punches. Let’s get to the heart of the matter; the price point. Now, the exorbitantly expensive chocolate cake is a reality.
(Also, it’s apparently even more pricey than I thought. Around Rs. 25,000 for the whole cake!)
But, not everything is as much of a splurge. I factored that into my visit, and only opted for things that were less likely to break my bank account. In the end, we each had the same main (Penne Arrabiata), drinks, and desserts for around Rs. 3500.
For two people, this was a splurge as far as I’m concerned. But, all things considered, it was a modest splurge. Their menu isn’t very large, but I have to admit that they do offer variety. Ranging from sandwiches, pastas, burgers, sea-food and meat dishes. There is also the Patisserie (desserts) and the Boulangerie (bread). And, as with most places you can manoeuvre around the too pricey items.
So, from someone who hates spending money, this could be that place I go to with my best friend. Sometimes, when they’ve been very, very good to me.
I have to admit, everything I tried (pasta, macarons, mock-tails, and tarts) was delicious. And it wasn’t delicious like second day mashed-potatoes. It was proper yum, like freshly fried chicken.
One of Marcel’s main selling points has been that they use quality ingredients. And based on what I had, I can believe this. Everything we had, tasted like it was expertly prepared, using quality ingredients.
But, and I must say this, I don’t think that this is THE best food I’ve ever had. See, I visited Marcel’s with an exceptionally well-travelled friend, who is also a bit of a foodie. What this meant was that I was accompanied by someone who had had Europe’s finest desserts, in Europe. And, her take was that while everything tasted nice, it was not without flaws. She had particular issues with desserts that used roses as an ingredient, arguing that they had been heavy handed.
And, as a pasta aficionado, I can affirm that their take on an Arrabiata was really good. But, it was not the best I’ve ever had (um, no pepper flakes?) not by a mile.
So, a marginally expensive menu with great food, that isn’t necessarily the best you’ve had. Wait, doesn’t that sound like most Zam Zama cafes? What makes Marcel’s special then? Well, the atmosphere. I know what you’re thinking, shouldn’t food be the only thing that matters when it comes to restaurants? I mean, we are going there to eat right?
No. Well, yes, but also no. See, and this is why we have to distinguish between great take-out places, and dine-in places.
Consider Oh My Grill, which serves the best burger I’ve ever had, anywhere. It isn’t a comfortable space, but really do you care? No, because the whole point is to get that Gouda Burger, with fries, and binge in front of the television.
Marcel’s is on the opposite end of that spectrum; they want you to stay, forever! And the décor, customer service, the clientele, everything is designed to convince you. The swanky launch was not just a gimmick, it sent a message out to everybody. Here, the food isn’t the only thing they’re serving. You also pay, and get I might add, the ambiance.
So, is Marcel’s worth the pricey label? I would say…maybe. On the one hand, I know I can get better food elsewhere, probably for cheaper. But, I cannot get the atmosphere. If all you want is something delicious to eat, then maybe the price will be too bitter a pill. But, if you are looking to treat someone to a nice evening, then it maybe a worthy one-time splurge.