Weekend grub: Marcel’s delivers good coffee and croissants, but fails to impress otherwise

Maybe it’s teething issues but we’re hoping they can pull their socks up soon because we’re secretly rooting for ’em

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Marcel’s is the latest cafe on the block to make headlines.

Yep, it’s the new talk of town (and Karachi Food Diary!); if you haven’t tried it, you’ve probably definitely heard of it.

Umair Khalili, the man behind the eatery tells Images, “I think this city lacked a place which offers a great ambiance to have coffee and some nice breads and desserts and that’s where I think we fit in Karachi’s food landscape, it’s a kind of vacuum we’re trying to fill.”

The bistro serves up some mean gelatos!
The bistro serves up some mean gelatos!

From the Rs 25000 Verhona chocolate cake (that’s Rs 3000 + tax a slice!) to more affordable options like appetizers, sandwiches and pastas, Marcel’s has something for everyone. But most people have been grumbling about how the place is way too pricey.

They've got some extravagant cakes up on display!
They’ve got some extravagant cakes up on display!

The owner justifies the price point; given the use of quality ingredients – most of which, if not all, are sourced from abroad – but also disagrees that the cafe falls towards the expensive side.

“I don’t think my food is too expensive, I think my food is priced competitively. I mean if you pay Rs 650-700 for a sandwich, it isn’t considered expensive anymore, is it?” he asks.

“However, what’s happening is that unlike other restaurants, we have unique offerings on the menu. Our menu is suitable for someone who wants to spend Rs 900 on a meal but also accommodates someone who wants to spend Rs 5000. It’s really about what you want; some numbers on the menu may give the impression that we’re expensive but we’re not, we just happen to offer expensive things too,” he explained.

Amid all this hooplah, we decided to check Marcel’s out for ourselves and viola!

Where to go

Marcel’s is located on Khayaban-e-Roomi, Block 5, Clifton. It’s hard to miss since it’s opened up where once upon a time a really happening Pizza Hut outlet used to be. For a lot of us, that space ignites some major nostalgia.

However, it looks completely different now. The joint is spacious, airy and definitely looks upscale; the decor has been done by Naheed Mashooqullah and she’s somehow managed to make it look fancy while still retaining a casual bistro vibe. You can even see the staff freshly baking their bread through glass cabinets on the left when you first walk in, right after their drool-worthy dessert and bread display.

But did it taste as good as it looked? We’ll just get to that…

When to go

Marcel’s opens its doors at 4pm everyday until 1am. A little birdie told us that they might start serving breakfast soon so we’re guessing these timings are going to change and thank goodness because we could really use their coffee in the morning!

For Ramazan, the bistro will be open from 5pm everyday for takeaways and 6:15pm onwards for Iftar. They will also be serving sehri till 3:15am.

Things we tried

Bread basket: At a place like Marcel’s that prides itself on its bread, we were really expecting to be wowed by the bread basket.

The basket includes focaccia, maize baguette, kraftkorn, multigrain and/or maize. To be honest, we were a little let down when we got an assortment so basic. Barely anything surprised us and while it tasted fresh, it wasn’t great. And this is supposed to be their USP!

Prawn coconut parcels: We had high expectations from this appetizer too since people were all praise for it on social media and as delicious as it sounds, the prawn coconut parcels missed the mark.

Stuffed with coconut flakes inside a crisp fried coating, the prawn was overpowered by the dry drupe and was dripping with oil. The punchy sauce added a much-needed zing but we were still fishing for the prawn in our mouth while sifting through way too many coconut shavings.

Smoked wings: Supposedly one of their most sought after appetizers, we didn’t think the wings were something to write home about. The Asian sauce with the smoked wings didn’t really complement the BBQ sauce on it.

While the chicken was decent, that’s all it was. It wasn’t a memorable dish, perhaps due to the clash of the sauces.

Quinoa salad: We were hoping the salad would be loaded with quinoa but sadly, it was merely a dressing on top.

The candied walnuts, feta and cherry tomatoes were good on their own but didn’t work together as a whole, perhaps it was the dressing but it tasted kind of funky.

Red snapper with pesto: This was one of the first few dishes we tried at their soft launch and it was actually really good!

The snapper was well-cooked with a crispy skin and the risotto was seasoned well, soaked in generous pesto which was the best-o (sorry not sorry about that one!).

Angus burger: When we think of an Angus burger, we picture some juicy grub. The one at Marcel’s tasted surprisingly ordinary; the patty lacked seasoning, was almost bland and tasted over-processed even. It was like eating boiled meat which was stuffed with vegetables. Neither did the bun taste great and overall, it was pretty average. We were really missing the juicy factor of the burger.

We enjoyed the side of fries though… if that counts.

Seafood linguine: The seafood linguine was our least favourite dish at Marcel’s. The dish had no visual appeal and the taste did not make up for it.

It was tasteless to the point that we couldn’t differentiate between the pasta, the fish or even other seafood items. The only flavour we could get was the bell pepper and that’s not a win at all.

We also think seafood pastas generally taste better in a red sauce instead of white so there’s that too.

Croissant pudding: We were really looking forward to this one but with a heavy heart, we have to report that this too was a miss.

The croissant pudding was just too dense. It felt like eating a blob of maida, which was highly upsetting as we were hoping the dessert would make up for the lacklustre mains.

Again, we had it on three occasions and each time, it tasted a little different.

Chocolate and almond croissant: The croissants from Marcel’s are really, really yummy and have actually become a staple breakfast item in the past days! There is some inconsistency with the chocolate ones; sometimes they drizzle chocolate on top, sometimes they don’t. The amount of chocolate inside also keeps changing but again, this is something they’re aware of and working on.

On the other hand, we’ve tried the almond croissant on multiple occasions and it was flaky, crispy and baked to perfection each time. Now these we give a seal of approval to!

New York cheesecake: The consistency was dense and it lacked oomph. The flavour of the cheesecake would also change within the same bite, showing inconsistency within the same slice.

That being said, the cake is apparently supposed to taste that way.

Umair explains; “The cheesecake consists of camembert cheese and we do not use any cream cheese spreads. Some people find the consistency to be off and that’s only because this is a completely different cheese, very rich, thick. It’s not the cheesecake you get at any other bakery because we didn’t want to serve things that are already being served.”

Macarons: This French patisserie classic is delicate and tricky to master but Marcel’s seems to have got it down.

These were gooey, light but also firm and subtly nutty; best paired with a bitter cup of black coffee!

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