Last night Richard and I finally visited Marben. We were long overdue. What finally brought us in was a free Tuesday evening and the Telus Taste of Tuesdays promotion: You buy a main and you get an appetizer and a dessert for free! To be fair, Marben had a separate menu for Taste of Tuesdays where the mains were in the $20-$28 range, and on their regular menu their mains were between $15-$20. It’s still a great deal, though. Especially because the charcuterie board is one of the free appetizer options.
Marben is all about eating local – So much so that many of their dishes are named after the farms that the ingredients come from. Other dishes are named after chefs who created them or inspired them, like the Henderson’s salami on the charcuterie board: It’s named after Fergus Henderson, the famous British chef and author of “Nose to Tail Eating.” He visited the restaurant once and the staff noticed that he was constantly accompanied by a tumbler of Fernet Brenca. As an homage to Henderson and his bitters, they made a salami with Fernet Brenca and named it after him. After telling us the story our server went and got a bottle from the bar and let us taste it. It kind of tasted like a Wint-o-Green Lifesaver. Very minty and herbal. Richard said it tasted like Jagermeister but a bit more refined. When we ate the salami we could definitely taste the Fernet Brenca in it.
The other meats on the board were merguez sausage and lardo. We’d had lardo at The Black Hoof before and thought that it was kind of bland, but the lardo here was actually much better! It had a sweet, smoky flavour to it. The texture was very silky and buttery.
Everything at Marben seems to be accompanied by a story. When I was trying to decide whether to get the pear & parsnip soup or the beet salad, the server told us that the pear & parsnip soup was going to be served at the Green Living Show next weekend. That sealed the deal for me! If it’s good enough to stand with dishes from great chefs like Jamie Kennedy, I want to try it. The texture was very smooth and creamy but not heavy. The parsnips really stood out and the pear added a slight sweetness.
This was Richard’s dish, which he ordered off of the Taste of Tuesday menu. It was Spenser’s Lamb Duo, with merguez sausage and crispy belly confit on a chickpea stew. The stew had couscous and yellow currants in it, and the currants added a nice sweet contrast to the spicy sausage and the heavy belly confit.
This was my dish. I forget what the name was and the menu on Marben’s site is outdated (they change it with the seasons depending on what ingredients are available locally). But it was a mac and cheese with braised rabbit and a rabbit croquette and sweet pea shoots. I love creative mac and cheese but I’m always hesitant to order it in a restaurant because it’s often disappointingly bland and oily. Not this one! The pasta was freshly made in house and was more like small gnocci than macaroni. It was so tender and fluffy and perfect! The cheese sauce was made with a sharp cheddar and a cauliflower puree. The puree added a creaminess to the sauce without making in heavy and overly rich, but it still tasted like a cream sauce. I forgot that it had cauliflower puree in it until I asked the server what kind of cheese they used for the sauce because it was so creamy. She said, “Just cheddar. Oh, and the cauliflower puree of course.” Of course!
The braised rabbit was nice and tender, but the rabbit croquette was the star of the show. It was perfectly seasoned, crispy on the outside and full of what looked almost liked rabbit confit on the inside. Very, very good. I could have skipped the braised rabbit and just had another croquette instead.
Last was our dessert, courtesy of Telus! It was an ice cream sandwich. I think that I remember the server saying that the ice cream was made in-house, and the cookies that it was between certainly were. It was served with creme anglaise and warm chocolate sauce for dipping. They gave us a fork but it was impossible to use it, so we dug in with our hands. It was hard to finish even half of this. We asked our server if anyone eats that all by themselves and she said, “They do! And they always do it with a smile on their face.”
Our dinner at Marben was fantastic. The food was amazing (I swear, I dreamed about that mac and cheese last night), the servers are friendly and well-informed, the atmosphere is comfy and the music is good. I can’t believe that we waited to long to finally go! I definitely want to go back to try their brunch or to attend one of their monthly pig roasts. The pig roasts have been moved from the last Monday of every month to the last Sunday – A much easier day to find oneself sharing a whole pig with strangers, don’t you think?
Also, I just HAVE to mention this: Whenever I hear about Marben and the fact that they name some of their dishes after the farmers that the food is sourced from, I can’t help but think of this skit from Portlandia: