Having been to the Mary Celeste once before for a drink or two during cocktail week back in January, I knew the food was supposed to be good, but sadly did not get the chance to try any. Le Mary Celeste are known for their excellent cocktails and small plates with a menu that changes daily— bar food at its best. From my previous experience I knew it would be packed, indeed when I went the first time it was so packed I could hardly move. Wednesday morning I tried to book a table for two for Saturday evening around 7pm. Alas, they were already fully booked so I decided to try my luck turning up.
At the bar.
On a casual pre-dinner stroll we walked past Le Mary Celeste, and on the off chance that there might be a cancellation, I tried my luck again at reserving a place. This time we were successful and returned an hour later to find that in less than an hour it had become suitably busy.
The atmosphere is very lively, young and a bit hectic, but the kind of enjoyable hectic that you get in a place that everyone knows is good. We were seated at the bar, the plus side of this is being able to people watch and observe the staff preparing the cocktails. However, because it was so busy, it did take almost 30 minutes before we were asked what we wanted to drink (we chose a bottle of Rioja, €26). This did not cause me a massive problem as I was catching up with a friend, though maybe a bit irritating if you have already had to wait a long time for a table.
We decided to just enjoy the wine for a little while before ordering any food, it perhaps was not the best Rioja I have ever had, but it did get better the longer it was open so we were possibly a bit too hasty to have our first glass. Last time we were a bit more decadent with our wine choice and took a recommendation from our waiter and it was fantastic, however for this visit we were more about the food.
The Courge Butternut Roti
To start with I ordered “Courge Butternut Roti” (€7) with a Tandoori marinade and fennel with herb yoghurt on the side, whilst my friend ordered the Tacos (€9). The tacos really packed a punch and my friend greatly enjoyed them, I had a sneaky bite and I must say I preferred them to my own choice. I thought with Tandoori and fennel it would be hard to be bland, but being perfectly honest it was too simple for me. It certainly was not bad yet it was not as exciting as I had hoped for. The flavours went together well though I feel that some extra kick of some kind was needed— I am not talking heat necessarily, but with the subtle flavour of butternut squash I think maybe it needs more love than the Tandoori gave it here.
A bit later, after another glass or so, we decided to order another plate. Now I will admit I was not too excited by the dessert options, I have a general ethos of if I can make it, I won’t order it. As the two options were “Gateaux aux Pommes” (€6) and “Gateau au Caramel Beurre Sale” (€6), I decided to order another savoury plate, “Crudo de Mulet” (€8) with pickled red onions, little “chips” (crisps if you are English) and watercress. My friend, despite my protests that I could make him a Gateaux aux Pommes anytime, ordered just that.
Crudo de Mulet
I will start with mine, which I found delightful and not just because I was a little disappointed with the first. I really enjoyed the combination of tastes and textures, the crunchy chips with the raw mullet fish, the sweet(ish) red onions and the salty fish. This was certainly a winner and I would recommend over the other two for sure.
Gateaux aux Pommes
Finally, the dessert. So I can be very critical of desserts, and I found it hard to believe that they could top some of the incredible apple cakes I have had in the Dorset countryside back in England. I take back all my reservations, it was really very good and should not be classified as a simple apple cake. It had the perfect cake texture and this was taken further by the almond topped crème fraiche on the side. A simple addition but it definitely took it from ordinary to special and will be a trick I will keep in mind for future apple cake forays.
Overall I greatly enjoyed the experience. I appreciate being able to sit and enjoy both the food and the wine slowly. Sometimes I feel living in the city that things can feel too stressful and fast so being able to enjoy everything at a leisurely pace was a relief. Also despite how busy it was, they did not put any pressure on us to leave and we probably occupied our spot for over two and a half hours. My only regret is not being able to try the oysters as they are known for them, due to my slight allergy I was unable to. But it looked like the people around me were enjoying them very much!
They suggest you book online, but also encourage just turning up as we did. Still, do bear in mind that you will probably have to wait a while. It did seem fairly quiet from 6-6:0pm, though after this it became insanely busy. Then again, this is part of the charm!
Le Mary Celeste, 1 Rue Commines, 75003 Paris
Tel: 09 80 72 98 83
Open daily from 18:00-02:00.