Ah the Marcel’s hype. Could there be a more telltale sign of how truly obsessed Karachi dwellers are with dessert? That we would literally spend a small fortune for the perfect slice of chocolate cake. Well, some of us would, I couldn’t. I’m sorry, but I am a decided miser. In any case, I’m more partial to a good macaron anyway.
When Marcel’s opened its doors, people were floored by the patisserie that offered some delectable sweets. But I deal in remembering, and couldn’t forget that we had an original harbinger of cavities. Lal’s predates Marcel’s Karachi foray by a fair time period. And for the longest time, really stood out as the place for ornately displayed sweet treats.
So when I visited Pakistan recently, I was utterly at a loss. Who, I wondered would take the cake when it came to the best macaron in town? There was only one way to find out; a death match.
It’s not fun to eat alone, and I wanted to ensure that the verdict avoided bias. So, I ushered in the help of two people who knew more about sweets than most of us could ever dream to. Yes, that’s right, I brought in the pre-teens. My nieces know a good macaron when they see one.
And unlike yours truly, they are not flattered by pretty packaging.
At this point, I think it is also fair to elaborate on our process of judgement. And yes, I know we’re talking about cookies, but we took this very seriously. The goal was to first get as many macarons from both Lal’s and Marcel’s for roughly the same amount of money. Then, we divided each cookie between the three of us, and judged the taste, texture and ambiance.
Yes, that’s right, we even looked at the non-edible details. The packaging, the colours, the price point, everything was a factor.
The best thing about this box was the price point. At Rs. 1300, getting eight cookies made this a much more affordable treat than its competitor. And can we take a minute to appreciate the packaging?
See, Lal’s has made a bit of a reputation for itself because of its ornate decorative boxes of treats. And here again, they are on point. In a blue box with a see-through lid, with each pastry laid atop frilly butter paper. These little guys would make a perfect gift for someone you don’t entirely hate.
But, and there is a but; the taste is a bitter pill to swallow. Now, I hadn’t had a Lal’s macaron for some years. So I had well and truly forgotten what they tasted like. I have two little girls who will affirm that my forgetfulness was a blessing. Because when I say that these did not taste nice, I am not exaggerating.
Crumbly like sand, and clearly fashioned from artificial flavours, these guys were sickly sweet and a bit weird. One of my nieces actually spat the pistachio macaron out.
Let’s begin with the bad. That price point is nobody’s friend. At Rs. 180 plus tax for a single macaron, these guys cost a pretty penny. What this meant was that we had to settle for the box of five macarons so that the price was somewhat comparable.
Honestly, this should have been expected. Marcel’s aforementioned, and rather notorious chocolate cake, has literally become an urban legend. These guys are not shy about asking for an arm and a leg.
But, and I cannot believe that a proud miser is writing this, the macarons are worth it. Yes you get a meagre amount for a significant price, but they taste delicious. They are clearly leaps and bounds ahead in terms of quality. You can tell that they rely on true flavours and quality ingredients. This adds to the taste and texture both.
And The Winner Is…
I would say that this depends on what matters to you, but I can’t. There is a clearly superior macaron. The Marcel’s macaron is a pricy treat, but I would argue that they are also yummy enough to warrant the modest splurge.
No, I cannot come to terms with eating there regularly. In fact, I would say that once in a couple of months would be too much. But if you want to treat someone (including yourself) on a special day, then this is the better macaron.