As soon as I heard about Marcel’s joining the endless pool of new restaurants in Karachi, I was instantly captivated. This city will always continue to surprise me at how rapidly it is developing and the entrepreneurial flair people have here.
Having moved from Dubai two years ago, I was craving a go-to place like PAUL for scrumptious sandwiches, assorted breads and delectable desserts.
Located on main Boat Basin, the restaurant is a stark contrast to the other dhaba style food joints next door that are shabby and not well maintained.
The owners hopes are to restore the city to its well known status of being the ‘Paris of Asia’, which reminded me again of the cobbled streets I had explored on my heritage walk.
Opening their doors on Monday this week, I could hardly wait to go to this new concept here of a boulangerie, patisserie and bistro all in one. It was my brother in laws birthday and my sister instantly suggested we go to this swanky new place.
The current timings for the restaurant are from 4pm to 1am. In Ramadan, they will be introducing different Iftar deals.
After Eid, the eatery will be open from 7am onwards – a great place for early birds to have a good breakfast or grab a coffee and croissant on the way to work!
As soon as I stepped out of the car, I was reminded of PAUL. The black exterior with large, inviting windows and doors had a similar feel.
All the breads and croissants are freshly baked and currently there are more than 20 different options, which is expected to expand as the full menu is released.
There were countless crusty breads and different types of croissants on a dedicated shelf on the right.
I felt like waving a wand and transferring it to my kitchen (or better yet, bedroom!).
Peeling my eyes off the bread shelf with difficulty, my stomach did another somersault. The display of desserts in the glass cabinets were definitely a treat for the eyes.
I was surprised to see the place already packed with people. Karachites really are foodies and are just waiting for the next new place to try it out!
After crossing the bakery area, the view of the cafe was visible. The interior designer was none other than Naheed Mashooqullah, who has become a household name in Karachi.
What really stood out was the ambiance of the space. It wasn’t as noisy as I had imagined because there was absolutely no music playing!
It was personally a relief for me because most restaurants in Karachi abused the privilege of having speakers installed. The more customers that are present, they have the habit of cranking up the volume.
It would be reminiscent of Saudi weddings for me as I would try to shout over my food to talk to whoever I was with!
It was finally a pleasant experience to be in a space where I could hear my own my voice and have a nice conversation with my family and friends.
Our waiter told us that the owners father is the man behind the chain of meat shops, Meat One. His two sons, Ali Khalili and Umair Khalili, were running this restaurant and hopeful to bring the Parisian cafe experience here.
Now, on to the good stuff: FOOD!
The manager informed us that the menu was currently limited and the full one would be released in two weeks. You can find their menu on their Facebook page here.
The current menu had a limited range of four appetizers, two soups and two kinds of salads. The main course had a few options of sandwiches, burgers, pastas, pizzas and steak dishes.
The list of desserts was quite extensive and I was also pleasantly surprised to see the large range of coffees, smoothies and juices. But what we had our eyes on were the sandwiches!
Here is what we ordered:
Complimentary Bread Basket. Rating: 5 out of 5.
We had to ask the manager if they could give us a complimentary bread basket and remind them several times till they brought it to our table. The service was kind of slow, but it was understandable for a restaurant that had just opened less than a week ago.
The smooth, French butter accompanied with balsamic vinegar was a divine combination which also reminded me of PAUL. The start to our meal had already exceeded my expectations!
Caprese on Mais – Price: Rs 625. Rating: 5 out of 5
The sandwich loaded with mozzarella cheese, chicken, pesto, tomatoes, rocket and olive sandwich was served in a French baguette bread with a side of fries and a dipping sauce.
It was the perfect sandwich with just the right amount of cheese and pesto that I loved as usually restaurants put a small amount of sauce, which makes it dry.
Unfortunately, the description on the menu didn’t mention that there was chicken in the sandwich.
My friend is vegetarian and had to return it, but they were quick to remove the chicken and profusely apologised on multiple occasions for not including this in their menu and would be updating it soon.
Margherita Pizza – Price: Rs 620. Rating: 5 out of 5
Simply outstanding! It was by far the best cheese pizza in town.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a picture of it as the entire pizza had finished within seconds!
I was reminiscent of my trip to Italy while taking the first bite of cheesy goodness.
It was very authentic in the flavors, cheesy and had the right consistency with the sauce.
I especially loved the addition of the fresh basil leaves on top, which gave it an even more original Italian taste.
Roast Beef Sandwich – Price: Rs 785. Rating: 4 out of 5
The sliced beef was perfectly roasted and so tender.
It was cold as roast beef typically is and also had my favorite condiments: cheese, pickles, lettuce, onions and tomatoes!
As all their sandwiches on the menu, this one was also served with fries and a dipping sauce (double yay).
However, the toasted brioche bread was average and tasted like a normal sandwich bread that I would make grilled cheese out of at home.
This would have scored 5 out of 5 for me if it had been served in the French baguette bread or Ciabatta bread.
Roast Chicken on Focaccia – Price: Rs 690. Rating: 5 out of 5
The best part about this sandwich was…you guessed it, the bread!
I usually appreciate sandwiches that have great bread as that is the main element of delight in my gastro-nometer.
The focaccia was crusty on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside.
Baked with olives and sun dried tomatoes, these flavors complimented the sandwich really well.
The chicken was slathered with honey mustard and had fresh lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and cheese which gave it a completely gastronomic experience for the sandwich lover that I am.
Peach Slush – Price: Rs 325. Rating: 5 out of 5
This was the perfect drink that I needed to cool me off in the dreadful heat and humidity these days.
I think the consistency was perfect and it was thankfully not diluted at all.
It had peach syrup and was blended with ice and sugar syrup. Mmm good!
Eleonore – Price: Rs 686. Rating: 3 out of 5
The manager was very nice to offer us complimentary dessert after I told her that it was my brother in laws birthday.
The oreo cheesecake was extremely creamy in my opinion and a bit too rich for my liking.
The texture needs to be more refined and smooth, it felt a bit too thick due to an excessive amount of cream cheese. The oreo crust was also too sweet for my liking.
However, the serving size was quite generous as six of us actually shared this slice. Only two bites were sufficient was it was very rich to begin with.
Overall Experience – Rating: 5 out of 5.
I think this is my new favorite place in town and I can’t wait for the complete menu to be released!
The service was average, but I am optimistic that will be better with time as I see a lot of potential.
The management were very professional and came up to our table twice to ask us if everything was alright and how we felt about our experience.
I would highly recommend for everyone to try it for a new, Parisian cafe feeling that definitely doesn’t feel as though you are sitting in Karachi.
I can’t wait to go back soon and try out the coffee and croissants and I am optimistic that they will have better options in the new menu.
Jusqu’à la prochaine fois!