Hidden in a quiet corner of one of the meandering, residential side streets of Montmartre, Restaurant Marcel isn’t easily happened upon by tourists exploring Sacré Coeur and other popular sights nearby. Yet it’s one of my favorite places for lunch or weekend brunch in the area. Breakfast and brunch staples from pancakes to eggs Benedict, French toast to porridge and scones populate the a la carte menu. Meanwhile, anyone with a sweet tooth will be drawn to Marcel’s homemade desserts, including cheesecake with raspberry coulis and even key lime pie, an exotic find in Paris.
The Pros at a Glance:
- Freshly prepared, delicious weekend brunch (and a full lunch and dinner menu)
- A contemporary, stylish setting that’s still relaxed and unpretentious
- Friendly waitstaff
- Pleasant location in a quiet backstreet of Montmartre
- Several vegetarian and vegan options
…And Some Cons:
- Limited seating outside
- No fixed-price menus: even brunch is a la carte (and is a bit pricey)
- You won’t likely keep your table for hours on end: you may feel a bit rushed
The Setting & Vibe
I invited two friends to meet me for Sunday brunch at Marcel. Since most Parisians consider brunch a late afternoon affair, our 11:30 arrival meant we still essentially had the place to ourselves. The large menu board, bottles and grocery items lining the taupe-grey walls, and counter where you can sit to sip a cup of coffee or tuck into a slice of cheesecake seem far more New York than Paris.
The location is ideal in my book, tucked away from traffic on the corner of a no-through street lined with trees and flowering plants. It’s certainly not central, but the peaceful vibe is well worth the slightly long walk from the nearest metro station.
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Having reserved ahead, I tried in vain to get a table outside on the shaded terrace, since conditions were bright and sunny. While the friendly staff members tried to honor the request, we ended up seated at the main (communal) table inside– thankfully not too cramped.
Brunch at Marcel is a la carte , but you can easily create a traditional savory-sweet menu among the items. For lighter appetites, simpler options include homemade granola, Acai bowls, or eggs and toast. More popular savory brunch items, from what I can gather by spying on adjoining tables, are salmon with scrambled eggs and chives, eggs Benedict, avocado toast with poached egg, feta and pomegranate seeds; on the sweet side, pancakes with blueberries and real maple syrup, French toast with salted caramel sauce and bananas and waffles are all major choices.
Everything is made-to-order here– something I really appreciate as someone who’s at best skeptical of buffets and their leftovers suspiciously masked with various sauces. The coffee and fresh-squeezed orange juice are both excellent– so much so that I momentarily miss the unlimited refills policy common at brunch places in the US.
The Savory Course: My friends both go for the eggs Benedict, while I choose a counterpart without pork: poached egg on an English muffin with smoked salmon and a buttery sauce. It’s a nearly flawless composition: the egg, we all agree, is perfectly poached, but hasn’t been left too long to make the muffin soggy. The buttery salmon is delicious.
The Sweet Course: We share two stacks of blueberry pancakes with syrup to sate our sweet tooth. While very good, I less impressed with this course: it’s stingy on the blueberries (5 or 6 for a stack of three pancakes) and I’ve always found fruit pancakes tastier when the berries are incorporated into the batter. They’re also a bit dry, and not served with butter. While better than many other Parisian attempts at this American classic, they’re nothing exceptional.
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I do hope to make it back to the restaurant to try the iconic French toast smothered in salted butter caramel sauce and topped with sliced, fresh banana– untested at my last visit.
As touched on earlier, I was generally impressed by the friendly, laid-back service at Marcel. Even when things got hectic (as it does on weekend mornings) the staff remained attentive and warm.
On the downside, I was less thrilled when we were asked (about an hour and a half in and finished eating) to move to the counter to allow another party to take our table. I’ve always appreciated how you can occupy a table for three or four hours at most restaurants in Paris without feeling rushed or guilty for lingering. On the up side, the waiter did offer us a free drink in exchange, which was a nice gesture.
Despite this quirk, I recommend Marcel for a casual lunch, breakfast or mid-day brunch in the neighborhood. The quality of the food and the service are, at least judging from my one experience dining here, a cut above many of the more touristy places dotted around Montmartre.
Restaurant Marcel: Location and Contact Info
- Address: 1 Villa Léandre, 18th arrondissement
- Metro: Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12)
- Telephone: +33 (0)1 46 06 04 04
- Serving: Lunch and dinner, weekend brunch, desserts, coffee and drinks. Lunch items include salads and simple continental bistro fare.
- Price range: See the current menu and prices here
- Payment methods: Cash, credit and debit cards (Visa, Mastercard)
- Reservations: recommended, especially on weekends for brunch
- Visit the official website (in French only)