COCONUTS HOT SPOT — The Tiong Bahru enclave may have been popular with cafe-hoppers for several years now, but there’s always room for newcomers to the neighborhood. (As long as it’s not at the expense of our favorite hawkers or old school eateries).
Enter Merci Marcel, a chic new French cafe next door to Tiong Bahru Bakery serving up brunch bites and sharing plates in a vibrant space recently vacated by The Orange Thimble. If you’ve ever stepped foot in the place when the latter was still around, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how the new owners have done a complete 180 on its look and feel.
Whether you hang out by the bar, perch on one of the high chairs, or get comfy at the garden patio, the brightly-lit 1,450 sq ft cafe is gorgeous all around. Think lush potted plants for a touch of greenery, patterned cushions fluffed up on rattan sofa seats, and canvas artworks by Singapore-based French artist Gabriel Dufourcq depicting politicians Lee Kuan Yew and Charles de Gaulle hanging on the walls.
The leafy motif also makes it to the feature wall mural — accompanying translations of “Merci Marcel” in Singapore’s four official languages — next to the cosy bar counter and a display of boutique wines, cheeses, and lifestyle goods from France.
When it comes to the food, vegetables and fresh produce are sourced from Tiong Bahru Market every morning, while breakfast dishes feature organic eggs and pastries are baked daily with French butter.
Expect your typical light bites and egg-centric dishes — done with a French flair — from the lunch and brunch menus, with options such as quinoa salad ($17), smoked salmon burger ($21), chia seed infused yogurt ($8), French toast ($17), pain au chocolat ($3.50) and, of course, eggs in various forms, from scrambled ($19) to poached ($22).
Cheese and charcuterie boards ($16-$36) are also available, should you feel in the mood for a grazing session accompanied by sips of wine (and good conversation).
At dinner, Merci Marcel encourages diners to order a couple of plates for sharing. Start off with silky duck rillettes served with camembert cheese and marinated pear on slices of bread ($18), or go for the creamy crab rillettes with avocado on sourdough ($18).
If you’re hankering for a meal of bright and zesty seafood, try the black pepper tuna with yuzu and soy vinaigrette ($25) or the red snapper ceviche ($22). Alternatively, the pan-seared Hokkaido scallops with cauliflower crème and couscous ($38) will do nicely.
For those on a high protein diet, order the Australian Angus beef for 400g of tender, grilled hunks of meat served with seasonal mushrooms and burnt leeks ($39).
But if carbs are your best friend — and why the heck wouldn’t they be — the Ravioles de Royans ($18) is a serious must-try. We’re telling you, this is one dish you won’t regret overdosing on. Especially if you’re having a rough time and all you wanna do is curl up by a window while you watch the raindrops splatter like you’re in a cheesy ’90s music video. These creamy parcels of pasta filled with Tête de Moine cheese are just about all the comfort food you need to get you through the day.
On the drinks side, Merci Marcel has French ciders and beers, as well as teas and locally roasted coffees for you to pair with the food. Plus, the cocktail list is a collaboration with La Maison du Whisky, and the wines are brought in from independent French wineries — you can find recommendations based on categories like ‘date night’, ‘dinner with friends’, and ‘100% organic’.
When you’re all stuffed from your meal, take a short stroll to the retail showcase to browse through the wine bottles, cheeses from Europe, gourmet jams and chocolates, and even lifestyle products like watches, tote bags, eyewear, and enamel mugs.
Merci Marcel is at #01-68, 56 Eng Hoon St, 6224-0113. Tues-Sat 8am-11:30pm, Sun 8am-10pm.