From the owners who brought you O Batignolles (now defunct), Merci Marcel on Club Street is an updated, chic-kified version of the rustic French joint. This is the second outlet; the first Merci Marcel at Tiong Bahru. While the Tiong Bahru is casual and breezy like a garden, the Club Street is a voguish haunt, playing ambient music, where beautiful, model-like CBD-ers hang out. There is little to dislike about its modern and relaxed atmosphere which sets you right in the mood for a casual, ok flight of French cuisine.
For starters, we had three kinds of cheese – the Bleu d’Auvergne, Brillat Savarin and Tete de Moine. The Bleu d’Auvergne is a blue cheese that is less pungent than Stilton or even Gorgonzola, and it’s smoother too. Its saltiness goes really well with the quince that comes with the cheese platter. Brillat Savarin is a soft, triple cream cow’s milk cheese and Merci Marcel’s has a faint layer of black truffle in the middle. Given the lovely creaminess of the cheese, I wish the earthy aroma of the truffle were more pronounced to round the flavor. Our last selection is a Swiss cheese that drollishly translates to Monk’s Head in English. This semi-hard cheese is served in shaved florets and has a rich milky flavor. The cheeses at Merci Marcel change daily and are flown in 3 times a week from France to ensure their freshness and variety. A three cheese platter goes for $24++.
Our mains were the Whole Catalonia Octopus Leg ($46++) and the Duck Parmentier ($26++). The octopus leg is tender; there’s little resistance when one bites into it. I can imagine there is a bit of loving tenderizing/massaging that goes into the cooking process to ease out the harder kinks in an octopus leg. The potato rouille that comes with the leg is aromatic and its umami from the combination of garlic, red pepper and crème fraiche spreads immediately on your tongue. All of that eaten with the crispy fried kale on the side, you have an amazing amalgamation of textures in your mouth. However, I do think the leg itself can do with more seasoning. On its own, it is tad bland.
The Duck Parmentier is a pulled duck confit on top of mashed potatoes but at Merci Marcel they’ve transformed the mashed potatoes into a Pomme Macaire. This is a way of twice cooking the potatoes first by roasting them in their skins then removing the flesh and storing them overnight in the fridge before baking and then frying them. On the whole, this tastes like gym food for babies – full of protein, very mushy. The duck confit is simple, straightforwardly ducky and a little bland. The Pomme Macaire, though pan-fried, doesn’t have a nice crust.
Now, imagine the crispy skin of the duck confit carefully removed and served on top of the meat, instead of the pointless, clearly-just-to-have-colour-contrast greens with a luxurious, slightly smoky and crusty Pomme Macaire. Too.damn.shiok is what it is. I will pay an extra five dollars for this. But too bad, this is just a fantasy. I didn’t finish the actual dish.
The Tarte Tatin ($12++) is somewhat of a letdown too. But the good thing first. I get what they are doing with the generous serving of simmered sweet apple flesh. The cooked apple is moist without being soft. Look at it, it’s a cute mountain of delicious apple. Unfortunately, it is too much. For every mouthful of sweet, sweet (ohsosweet) apple, there is a pinch of pastry. And because the apple sits, like Jabba the Hutt, overwhelmingly on what should be a dainty, buttery puff pastry (you can’t see it can you), that fragile deliciousness is crushed and made soggy. There just isn’t balance. I also didn’t finish this dish.
All that said, if you aren’t too fussy about how your goddamn food tastes and you aren’t writing a food review, this place is all in all not too bad for a Frenchified brunch or dinner. Will I return? Yeah sure. I like the feel of the place and I’m optimistic they’ll continue to improve their cuisine. If not, at least they have non-cheffy things like their cheese and cold cut platters (hard to go wrong here) if ever I feel like a day out at a French bistro.
7-9 Club St, Singapore 069403
Tue-Sat 9am-12am, Sun 9am-10.30pm
You may be interested in…
–Lerouy, Stanley Street: Modern French Cuisine is the New Black and White
–Atout, Dempsey: New French Restaurant Serving Les Bistrot Du Sommelier 2.0
–Summer Hill, Sunset Way: Rustic French Bistro by Former Chefs of Cocotte and Bird Bird
–Audace Bar and Restaurant, Wanderlust Hotel: French Food by Michelin-starred Chef from the French Alps
Written by Paul Ng. Deathrow meal: steamed uonuma koshihikari rice, sunny side up eggs drizzled with slow-rendered pork lard, kicap cair dark soya sauce with a side of gribenes. And a bowl of uni. Aspiring taitai. Also co-owner of Provisions Food – local maker of baked goods, snacks, condiments and sauces inspired by the flavours of Asia.