If you were one of the many people on Twitter last week that helped the first episode of “First Dates Ireland” to the top trending spot, then you probably came across the suave Maitre D’ Mateo Saina, who caused quite the stir. The Croatian native has worked in many of Dublin’s top venues, including Dylan McGrath’s Rustic Stone but if you are after some of his dating advice now you will need to pop along to Marcel’s on Merrion Row where he has recently taken over from another charismatic front of house Giorgio Casari.
Marcels could certainly be described as a bit of a romantic hotbed, the layout lends itself to lots of secluded snugs with low lightning and plenty of old world charm. We popped along on a surprisingly busy Sunday night, apparently Sunday is the new Friday or so our waiter thought. Unfortunately on the night we dined Mateo was nowhere to be found, now he has added match-maker to his CV we are sure he’s in demand.
Part of the Mercantile Group, with Pichet, The Green Hen and the just launched upmarket Farrier & Drapier to name but a few, Marcels has undergone quite the transformation, the muted, tanned walls offer up the perfect backdrop for the infamous plush orange chairs which are almost Marcels signature. The restaurant has been designed to seduce, it feels opulent, warm and a little decadent. Just the way we like it.
Although we could have been a bit more frugal and availed of the good value Early bird priced from €25 we liked the sound of the Halibut so decided to stretch the budget to the a la carte. We began with an always controversial starter of Foie Gras & Chicken Liver Parfait (€14), we know it’s a sore point for many but by God did it taste good. A proud pot of rich, buttery guilt arrived shielded by apple jelly and a generous sprinkling of fine walnuts. Never apologise for good food, too often the texture can be stodgy if not carefully refrigerated or worse if prepared days earlier. Thankfully for us unashamed foie gras fans, Marcels managed to deliver an exceptional dish.
Our second starter was a seemingly simple offering of Beetroot and Bitter Leaves (€9) with a hearty dollop of apple puree and a creamy helping of goats cheese. We can hear you yawning but this is an all round pleaser and one you can be almost guaranteed you will find on a plethora of menus at present. What it may have lacked in imagination in made for in flavour.
As a poor little duck had already been sacrificed for our foie gras we said we might as well go the whole hog. Out arrived two; almost pink, moist slices of Duck Breast (€26) nestled on top of diced pear and butternut squash with a splattering of puy lentils and cavolo nero that could nearly have past for a healthy dinner, but the delicious fatty skin that glistened blissfully gave us away.
At €34 and the priciest main on the menu the Halibut would need to be cooked to perfection, and in all fairness it certainly came damn close. A meaty fillet, well seasoned with lashings of smoky, cubed Morteaux sausage dotted throughout gave the dish some added texture and worked a dream with the almonds and crisped kale. The whipped celeriac cream that lay beneath can sometimes be guilty of being slightly too rich but with the lightness of the fish it triumphed.
We decided to skip dessert but did succumb to some delightful Petit Fours (€4) and a glass of honeyed Sauternes, one for those who swear to never let a dessert wines touch their lips, this Chateau du Levant 2010 will convert, we promise you.
As we sipped away on our two glasses of Ziobaffa, Sangiovese 2013, eavesdropping on our neighbours, planning their wedding guest list with their soon to be in laws we realised that Marcels was definitely one of those places you would bring someone you wanted to impress ; a date, the in-laws or even a client you wanted to woo. Not many venues with the exception of Luna have that unique appeal. It seems their is a lot more to Marcels than just “First Dates”.
This is an Impressive Taste we would highly recommend.
Our bill exceeding service came to €110
13 Merrion Row
T: 01 6602 367