In Review: Chez Marcel Restaurant

A Good Choice for Weekend Brunch: But There's More...

Waffles with strawberries at Chez Marcel in Paris.
Waffles with strawberries at Chez Marcel in Montmartre: one of the best brunches in Paris. Cadran hotel Paris blog/2009

Chez Marcel has recently become one of my favorite places for weekend brunch in Paris. While not ideal for slimmer budgets, the cute New-York style eatery nestled in a quiet Montmartre street offers a delicious and clearly freshly prepared a la carte brunch, with favorites like Eggs Benedict, French toast, or pancakes as well as British specialties (scones, porridge). Unlike many brunch places, everything is made-to-order here (no fears of leftovers from Friday's dinner service being smothered/disguised in sauce).

The desserts are also reputed-- cheesecake and English pudding with toffee sauce are among the exploits.

Pros:

  • Freshly prepared, delicious weekend brunch
  • Cozy yet contemporary setting and decor: neither kitschy nor ostentatious
  • Friendly waitstaff: no surly hipsters
  • Nice location in a quiet backstreet of Montmartre
  • Several vegetarian options (but not vegan)

Cons

  • Limited seating outside
  • No fixed-price menus: even brunch is a la carte
  • You won't likely keep your table for hours on end: slightly rushed

Location and Main Details:

  • 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. Week items include salads, simple bistro fare.
  • Price range: Around 20-30 Euros per person for brunch; a la carte lunch or dinner around 15-20 Euros
  • Payment methods: Cash, credit and debit cards (Visa, Mastercard)
  • Reservations: recommended, especially on weekends for brunch

Nearby sights and attractions:

My Full Review: The Setting

I invited two friends to meet me for Sunday brunch at Chez Marcel. Since most Parisians consider brunch a late afternoon affair, our 11:30 arrival meant we still had the place to ourselves.

The large menu board, bottles and grocery items lining the solid gray walls, and counter where you can sit to have a cup of coffee or 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 peace is well worth the detour.

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Having reserved ahead, I try in vain to get a table outside on the shaded terrace, since it's sunny out. The friendly waiters, however, try their best to find me a table, and I'm impressed by their efforts and affability. We end up seated at the main (communal) table inside-- thankfully not too cramped.

The Brunch

Brunch at Chez Marcel is a la carte , but you can easily create a traditional savory-sweet menu among the items. For lighter appetites,simpler options include Bircher muesli, scones with jam and creme fraiche, or eggs and toast. More popular brunch items, from what I can gather by spying on adjoining tables,are salmon with scrambled eggs and chives, Eggs Benedict, and, on the sweet side, pancakes with blueberries and real maple syrup, French toast with caramel sauce, and waffles.

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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 sans 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'm 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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The Service

As mentioned, I was impressed by the friendly, laid-back service here. Even when things got busy the staff remained very affable. However, I was less thrilled when we were asked (about an hour and a half in) and finished with our brunch to move to the counter to allow another party to take our table. I've always loved 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.