The slick black and gold frontage of both the handsome new bar and this Dublin restaurants off-street courtyard set the tone for the chic open-plan space inside, where a leafy bistro with bentwood chairs connects the roomy, wood-panelled bar to one side and the more formal two-floor restaurant on the other. The restaurant itself marries the old-world elegance of crisp linen table settings and fine glassware with Marcel’s signature burnt orange leather chairs, providing a fun pop of colour against the burnished gold Arabesque wallpaper and mosaic floor tiles.
From the get-go in its former Mary’s Road premises, Marcel’s gave the impression of being an old-timer – a reassuringly reliable French restaurant serving classic fare with just enough of a contemporary twist to keep the suits and well-heeled locals returning again and again. They’ve recreated this impression at the new location, with the rugby-friendly bar feeling like it’s been there for decades. And with maitre d’ Giorgio Casari back at the helm of this one-time hub of Celtic Tiger highlife, the restaurant itself feels less like a newcomer and more like an old-hand doing what they’ve always done well.
The menu’s fare has plenty to appeal to lovers of classics such as dry-aged fillet steak with crispy shallot rings, duxelle mushrooms, excellent chips and a fine green peppercorn sauce, but is not short of interesting twists of flavour or texture that focus on maximising the dish’s potential rather than being showy or cheffy. A gorgeously creamy late summer risotto of butternut squash risotto, for example, bridges the seasons with sweet broad beans and salty goats cheese and the inspired addition of roasted pumpkin seeds for nutty bite. Meanwhile a simple pea and parmesan soup is transformed into supreme comfort food with the addition of a fluffy cream-cheese mousse topping and a judicious hint of truffle.
Well-sourced ingredients are treated with the respect and skill they deserve, such as expertly handled monkfish which proves a juicy and tender backdrop for the gutsy accompaniments of chorizo, octopus and caper hash and saffron sauce. And gourmets can expect classic treats such as panko-fried veal sweetbreads, their moreishly savoury appeal offset with charred peaches and with a punchy watercress purée.
Desserts are similarly solid in both conception and execution, such as poached apricots with pink peppercorn syrup, a brilliant creme fraiche sorbet and rosemary honeycomb.
The overall effect is one of a reliably professional setting for a business meal, romantic rendezvous or social celebration, where the convivial atmosphere is as much of a draw as the very decent food on the plate.