Marcel’s review: A cosy pubaurant in Dublin city centre

Marcel’s on Merrion Row is half-pub, half-restaurant - but how’s the food?

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  • 13 Merrion Row
  • (01) 6602367
  • Irish

Marcel’s on Dublin’s Merrion Row is a strange creature. Ladies and gentlemen, we present the pubaurant: half-pub, half-restaurant.

It’s a place where everything tries to look like it’s been here for decades. But some of it used to be the Unicorn deli where all things sundried tomatoey could be bought on the office lunch break.

There’s a crackling wood fire in the hearth in the pub side of the place and my friend is ensconced at a table with a glass of pinot grigio instead of a dirty pint.

It’s cosy and dimly lit. All that’s missing is an old man with baler twine holding up his trousers and a wall-eyed collie at his feet.

On the other side it’s all brighter bistro with tiled floors, fancy wallpaper and tables dressed in white linens with blue and white china side plates.

It’s like your granny’s parlour if your granny was Parisian and posh. There are those great comfy orange chairs that lived in the first incarnation of Marcel’s when it opened on leafy Mary’s Road in D4 three years ago.

We head to a table at the back near the courtyard where a rectangle of sunlight has attracted us.

“That table has just ordered desserts and coffee so they should be gone soon,” the waitress says to reassure us that we’ll soon have the place to ourselves.

We’re taking a late lunch but nothing about the place feels like they’ve had a particularly busy time of it before we arrived.

By rights I shouldn’t like Marcel’s. It’s part of the Mercantile Group, Frank Gleeson’s pubaurant and bistro empire, which includes Söder and Ko, The Green Hen, Pichet and bars such as Café en Seine, Opium and Whelans.

Here’s the Irish bar corporatised and saved from extinction by the installation of a kitchen and a chef.

Booze revenue is a substantial part of the formula but the freezer-to-fryer-to-fork school of pub cooking is replaced by something fancier.

But despite myself there’s plenty to like. There’s a cured salmon that comes with thick wheel wedges of pickled cucumber, turned green and sweet.

This colourful plate is topped with crispy brown seeded melba toasts so thin they’ve turned to crackers, a good dill oil and scatterings of fresh micro herbs.

There’s a farmyard terrine that combines cluck and oink with chunks of brown chicken leg meat, liverish pink ham and squidges of black pudding all rolled together in a soft ribbon of cured ham.

An apple and raisin blob on the side of the terrine is a touch too baby-food soft but the whole thing comes on a beautiful marbled plate, spoiled only by what the friend calls a “bread bomb” of two doorstep toasted triangles of bread.

Mains are a pork chop (now there’s a new old thing to see in a restaurant). It is thicker and juicier than most pork chops. It comes on a bed of slightly underdone beans in a mustardy soup.

My trout is sprinkled with fingernail sized shrimp, finely diced and pickled cucumber, and underwhelming broccoli. I’d have preferred more of the braised fennel which lies in slim slivers under the trout.

“And the chips. What about the chips?” the friend asks. They’re shoestring and twice fried, I’m guessing, and served with a hefty salting from the kitchen.

“They’re delicious, just delicious,” she insists in a “put that in your review now” voice.

To finish we share a poached rhubarb that could have done with more knife work in the kitchen. The pieces of rhubarb are too long and thready, so impossible to saw through with the side of a spoon. They have to be folded and posted in.

There’s a nice fluffy and tangy buttermilk foam piped on top, a sludgy pink rhubarb sorbet and the now ubiquitous sprinkling of granola-ed oats, which is rapidly becoming the pulled pork of dessert flourishes.

We never really did gastropubs in Ireland and now it seems we have this – the pubaurant – instead. So no hearty plates of Irish stew (can someone please start doing that in a pub soon?) but something more cheffy and restaurant-like.

And if it must be so then it’s good to find places, such as Marcel’s, that are making a fair fist of it. The only strangeness is why more people aren’t there to enjoy it.

Lunch for two with three glasses of wine, sparkling water and a coffee came to €61.10.