Morning Delight

Here’s where to start a day off right

Eighteen months after opening Saigon’s first gourmet French burger bistro, the team behind Marcel Gourmet is back—this time for brunch and happy hour. Café Marcel (96 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, D1) is serving a new menu of homemade and fresh breakfast favorites, as well as petite assiettes (small plates). Taking inspiration from the sun-filled, breezy cafés of southern France, Café Marcel is set to attract a crowd of foodies and photographers from sunrise to sunset.

The café occupies a refurbished triangle-shaped building steps away from the planned Le Loi subway station. Guests are welcomed past a ground-floor kitchen, up a whitewashed staircase and into the first floor dining room. Light pastels and terrazzo tables, beach-towel striped red cushions and plenty of plants make a top contender for Saigon’s most Instagram-worthy gathering place. Twenty-one seats are bathed in soft, natural light by double-height windows looking over one of the city’s busiest intersections. Above the main dining room is a small bar area with eight additional seats, and a rooftop terrace has seating for about 30 more.

For breakfast, Café Marcel has created a menu of classics with small twists and meticulous execution, while also somehow remaining affordable. If Instagram is any indication, the star of the show is the Avocado Tartines (VND150,000). Start with fresh, crispy, sourdough bread; add smashed avocadoes, Marcel’s signature Eggs 65° and tahini yogurt; garnish with sprouts and dukkah; snap a pic and dig in. On the lighter side of the menu are the French Toast & Raspberries (VND120,000) with a Kusmi teainfused mascarpone cream, and the vegan-friendly Coconut Smoothie Bowl (VND120,000), which neatly balances savory granola, coconut and bananas with tart raspberries and lime leaves. For those who aren’t content to choose from a menu, Marcel offers a build-your-own breakfast: start with your preferred style of eggs and bread, add sides from sautéed mushrooms to smoked salmon, and choose one of four sauces.

As with Marcel Gourmet Burger, the team has stopped at nothing to source the highest-quality local ingredients. If they can’t find something to standard, their first choice is to make it themselves, as is the case with their bacon and sausage. In some cases they’ve chosen to partner with other local companies, like La Boulangerie Francaise, a French NGO bakery that supplies all the bread and pastries. Where these two come together is the Croque-Marcel (VND180,000), a gourmet and decadent ham-and-cheese sandwich on sourdough.

And what brunch is complete without cocktails? Marcel’s got you covered with their unique take on two brunch staples: The Indian Mary (VND120,000) and the Strawberry & Rose Mimosa (VND180,000). They also have a few signature drinks of their own: the Tyme Tonic (VND140,000), a subtle gin and tonic with a hint of thyme, elderflower and orange, or the Tennessee Sour (VND180,000), Marcel’s version of a Whisky Sour.

The Marcel brand was first conceived in 2017 by a small team of French food connoisseurs who had opened a Bar a Manger in Paris, and saw an opportunity to bring their talents to Vietnam. With Marcel Gourmet Burger, their focus on homemade, fresh ingredients and top-notch design created an instant success—they regularly sell out the humble Calmette dining room and hard at work expanding. Café Marcel builds on the homemade, fresh philosophy with a new menu and design concept, and is sure to receive similar recognition.

One of the most significant carryovers from Marcel Gourmet is chef Brian Chu: a young, Vietnamese chef who has apprenticed under the top local French Chefs, and behind whom the Marcel team has thrown their full support. After hours, the café transforms into a “bar a manger” with petites assiettes and signature cocktails. The cocktailhour menu, currently in soft opening, will be designed entirely by the chef. Expect gourmet French plates with the occasional Vietnamese twist.

 Café Marcel is bringing fresh and homemade to brunch and small plates, with fine food, a gorgeous environment and affordable prices. Building on their strengths, “La Marcel Family” has created another hit that’s sure to fill up quickly—so get a seat while you can.

Images by Huden Dang

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