Lucinda is the critic the chefs love to hate
It’s funny how some new eateries manage to hit the ground running, while others make excuses for their failings for weeks. Located in what was the former Expresso Bar on St Mary’s Road in D4, facing the Dylan Hotel, the new Marcel’s Restaurant exudes just the perfect measure of confident chic, without being in any way overbearing.
“You presented me with second prize at Taste of Dublin this year — it’s the only prize we’ve ever received,” said the young man who greeted us on arrival. He turned out to be Omar Bux who, with Paul Rooney, operates the popular Green Hen on Exchequer Street. He was referring to the Green Hen Tasting Plate, which won second place in this year’s ‘Best in Taste’. Phew, at least I was in good odour here, as I’d hesitated, wondering what he was going to say…
We loved the ambiance at Marcel’s — the hints of Morocco in the decor, and much use of my favourite colour, Hermes orange, in the superb leather dining chairs and banquettes. Moroccan terracotta-coloured ‘tiled’ wallpaper, a brown-leather counter, wood floors, and chic Moroccan hanging lights, were offset by white napery, pretty blue-and-white Churchill plates, and Paul Costelloe white-and-silver china coffee cups. It has the feel of a neighbourhood spot in Saint-Germain-des-Pres.
The menu appealed, too. Starters (€6-€12) included rolled leg of guinea fowl with cocoa-bean puree, blackened scallions, girolles and foie-gras mousse; while seared scallops were served with cauliflower puree, mushroom vinaigrette and crispy bacon. Mains (€19-€28) proffered a 6oz beef fillet with slow-cooked rib, parsley mousseline, glazed micro vegetables and horseradish jus; monkfish was served with chorizo, octopus, Parisienne potatoes, anchovy fritters, and a caper-and-almond-spiced honey butter. Rump of lamb came with sweetbreads, and duck breast had breaded foie gras fondants, Tuscan kale and five-spice jus.
All of them sounded great, and I will return soon, but I had earlier seen a good Early Bird, which runs from 5-7pm, Sunday to Thursday, with two courses at €20 and three courses at €25.
My friend Paul’s starter was a mahogany-brown, moist, rich, melt-in-themouth, glazed pork cheek. It sat on a contrasting cool, fresh pillow of watermelon, with watermelon cubes, almonds and rocket sprinkled around. I had a cool, clear presentation of cured salmon, offset with cucumber ribbons, lines of avocado puree, with a lime and caper dressing. Perfect.
Mains included pan-fried cod with cocoa beans, brown shrimp, mixed herb and mussel veloute; while the vegetarian dish was celeriac cannelloni, vegetable Brunoise, wild-rice crispies and Waldorf salad. We could happily have had either of these dishes, but Paul had slow-cooked rib of beef, again dark, rich and succulent, sitting on a vibrant green parsley mousseline, tweaked with glazed micro vegetables and a horseradish jus. I had roast breast of chicken, which was cut in half lengthways and upended into sculptural peaks. It nestled on golden, aromatic Parmesan and truffle polenta and was scattered with smoked lardons, baby onions and baby leeks. Side orders were also available at €3.50.
To follow, we shared a fantastic, moist chocolate pave with blackcurrant sorbet and candied popcorn; and poached peaches with Champagne sorbet, peach soup and biscotti, both of which were laid out on rectangular plates that highlighted the elements of each dish. With a bottle of Mount Auriol Viognier 2011 (€28) bottled water (€8) and two coffees (€4.40) our bill with optional service came to €96.40.
Finishing our wine and water out front on the hedged-in terrace, we cogitated on the cooking and intensity of flavours here, which were so good. If they keep it up, they might steal first prize next year.