This narrow bistro doing Gallic classics like mussels and duck confit rillettes is often bustling with a mix of locals and foreigners, many of whom are Francophones. Book ahead to avoid the resolutely less vibrant second floor and don’t shy away from the high tables near the bar: Marcel has a surprisingly competent barman and we highly recommend knocking back a Baudelaire (spiced rum, ginger, honey syrup and lemon, B270) while perusing the compact list of 18-or-so wines from France and Italy (B1,150-B2,400).
The food menu is equally brief and peppered with creative twists (wasabi pea puree, anyone?) First up, a selection of “tapas,” which could just as well be listed under appetizers given the generous portions. The well-seasoned beef tartar (B195) comes with a bowl full of thin strands of deep-fried potato, an interesting and tasty variation on the classic frite. The calamari (B190) is stir-fried with chorizo and pastis rather than deep-fried, making for a light and tasty combination.
Appetizers and mains are equally well executed, although Marcel seems to always fall short of brilliance. The goat cheese salad (B320) is a convincing and pleasing effort, but it needs more walnuts and better greens. The lamb short loin (B740) is wonderfully tasty and tender—too bad for the stone-cold carrot puree on our last visit. One dish we can’t recommend enough is the pot of plump mussels (B540) served with good ol’ French fries cooked to perfection and basking in a light-yet-flavorful mariniere cream sauce.
Marcel’s atmosphere is its other forte. The French partner/manager is an attentive presence, the waiters equally helpful. The electro house soundtrack sounds a lot like what was playing in Paris at the height of the early 2000s “French touch” glory days—not a bad thing. And the central bar acts as a lively hearth for the rest of the house. French food doesn’t have to be stuffy and stuck in the past, nor do Gallic restaurateurs have to be grumpy old men. With Marcel, you’ve got a Frenchie you’d actually want to hang out with every Friday.
This review took place in November 2015 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.