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Marben: One of the Best brunches in Toronto?

justpete Apr 4, 2011 01:52 PM

So, my SO has been asking me for a few months to go to Marben for brunch. We had went about a year and a half ago for dinner, and I wasn't overly impressed, so I was reluctant to pay another visit. In any case, for whatever reason, I gave in last weekend and decided to pay a visit. My expectations were modest - I have read Marben mentioned a few times here and there, but it doesn't seem to have the same following as some of the other places mentioned on this board. In any case, I was more than pleasantly surprised.

The brunch at Marben was simply outstanding. It was so good that we went the next day. And then, again, just yesterday. The food is incredible, the flavours are all spot-on, the staff is friendly and knowledgeable, and frankly, I'm quite disappointed that I didn't know about this place sooner! It has instantly become one of my go-to places for brunch. Even the coffee/lattes are excellent - and they also play some great tunes, although it can be a bit loud at times.

In our three visits, we had the eggs Benedict, (which features an outstanding hollandaise sauce and home-made English muffins), the hamburger (which features braised beef rib encased in hamburger meat), and the bread pudding 'French toast' (for which the texture of the bread was absolutely incredible, and included a delicious sausage). I also had the ice cream sandwich for dessert on one occasion, served with crème englais. We each ate the same thing our first two visits, and I the eggs Benedict and the French toast for my SO on the third (hence the reason for the limited selections). Everything was cooked to perfection, and tasted amazing.

The bread that they serve is also incredible. When we arrived early enough, it was still warm, and it is baked on-site daily. It is one of the best breads I've had in Toronto, bar-none. Simply awesome.

Lastly, I wanted to relay a story about their dedication to quality. On our first visit, we had something called the "Fries Kenny", which our server described in great detail, and for which I wouldn't be able to describe properly. They were delicious. However, on our last visit, I ordered them again. This time, they arrived rushed out of the kitchen, as they hadn't been delivered with our main dishes. Much to my chagrin, they were chalky and undercooked. I tried a few times, but couldn't like them. I did what I rarely do, I sent them back to the kitchen, and told the server that I was no longer in the mood for another order. I will usually just not eat something rather than specifically sending it back if I don't like it, but I felt that I needed to send this back - because everything had been so amazing up until that point. Well, we happened to be seated immediately in front of the kitchen, and I noticed the head and sous chef trying the fries. I really appreciated that they were doing this as a method of quality control. The way that the fries are served allows them to be shared, so it wasn't really surprising that they would try them (in a sanitary sort of way). They waited about 10 minutes, which I thought was because they had finished their orders - but it wasn't. The head chef completely stopped the kitchen and talked to his team about quality control - just because of the fries. They talked for about ten minutes - and I only realized what they had done afterwards, because one of the line cooks took about 5 chits that had printed since they started their discussion. To me, if they are willing to shut down their entire kitchen to get something right as simple as these fries, then that says a lot to me about how far they go to control the quality of their product - and with that one small exception, it really, really shows.

I'd recommend this place easily to anyone - although I hope I'll still be able to get a seat as it's popularity will no doubt increase as people become more aware about how great this place is. I can't wait to go back! Has anyone else shared the same experience?

Lastly - are there any other well-hidden gems that I might not know about?

-----
Marben
488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

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  1. c
    captainmoop RE: justpete Apr 4, 2011 02:20 PM

    mmm sounds good
    Have u ever tried the drake cafe? I've never been there for a brunch but it feels like a good choice.

    PS
    I was just wondering what SO stands for it's been bothering me for a while.

    Thanks

    3 Replies
    1. re: captainmoop
      justpete RE: captainmoop Apr 4, 2011 02:22 PM

      'The Drake' used to be one of my go-to brunch spots - but I found the quality was starting to wane (for brunch, anyway) - have you been lately? Have they picked it up again?

      In any case - SO stands for "Significant Other".

      1. re: justpete
        Herb RE: justpete Apr 5, 2011 06:44 AM

        SO = Significant Other lol

      2. re: captainmoop
        kwass RE: captainmoop Apr 4, 2011 03:17 PM

        I haven't been for a while, but I absolutely love the Drake for brunch.

      3. p
        pakmode RE: justpete Apr 4, 2011 02:30 PM

        Wow, impressive indeed.

        I will try Marben for brunch sometime based on your rec.

        1. kwass RE: justpete Apr 4, 2011 03:19 PM

          Based on your recommendation, I also really want to try Marben for brunch!!

          -----
          Marben
          488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

          1. justpete RE: justpete Apr 4, 2011 03:56 PM

            Great! I'm certain neither of you will be disappointed. I'm also anxiously awaiting to go for dinner - ironically, I'm more enthused to go than my SO - but probably because I made her go there three times in a row for brunch. haha.

            1. p
              peppermint pate RE: justpete Apr 4, 2011 04:27 PM

              I've had Marben's brunch on my radar for a while and your review just made me put an extra few asterisks beside its name. Another spot that had been on my list, and which I finally tried this weekend, was Lola's Commissary. I haven't had a chance to write a review but I really enjoyed it and I expect you will too. The other placed is Beast - loved my one dinner there and can only imagine what they do with brunch. There haven't been a lot of reviews on this board but the ones that have been posted have been great.

              I know what you mean about wishing you had discovered it sooner - I was way too late to the game with Hoof Cafe's brunch and had to cram in 3 visits in their last 2 weeks of existence. And while I haven't been in a while, I've also had some good brunches at The Drake.

              3 Replies
              1. re: peppermint pate
                justpete RE: peppermint pate Apr 4, 2011 05:01 PM

                Ah yes. Definitely have Beast on my radar. That, George (im a splendido guy) and Woodlot are my three places that I haven't had a place to try as yet. I'll add Lola's as well. Thanks!

                1. re: justpete
                  p
                  peppermint pate RE: justpete Apr 4, 2011 05:17 PM

                  Assume you mean George and Woodlot for dinner (both excellent, in different ways)? Neither serves brunch, do they?

                  1. re: peppermint pate
                    justpete RE: peppermint pate Apr 4, 2011 06:02 PM

                    Yes, I threw dinner talk in there as well. My apologies. :)

              2. f
                fickle RE: justpete Apr 4, 2011 05:49 PM

                I really enjoyed that John's burger when I had it for dinner there one night. Will definitely need to check out brunch now. Was it the fries Kennedy that you had? They're cubes of thinly sliced potato cooked in duck fat and then deep fried? Those were very yummy so I'm glad they're taking the time to perfect them if they were not executing them properly.

                2 Replies
                1. re: fickle
                  g
                  ggom1 RE: fickle Apr 4, 2011 05:59 PM

                  Marben is one of my go-to places for brunch, lunch or dinner :) I also like Beast a lot.

                  I've only had the Marben Fries Kennedy once and found them a bit odd. What fickle is describing is the Pommes Kennedy, but when I ordered the Fries Kennedy, they were actually cubes of fries, not cubes of thinly sliced potato like the Pommes Kennedy.

                  Marben's pig roast was also very good, I went with four friends which is about the right number since you can try a lot of the sides and they give you a heaping plate of roast pork to share. And FYI, it's possible to buy some of the products they use - we wound up talking to our server about the balsamic vinegar that came with our bread and were able to purchase a few bottles.

                  1. re: ggom1
                    jlunar RE: ggom1 Apr 5, 2011 06:35 AM

                    I've been meaning to hit up their Pig Roast! I have it in my calendar...

                2. justpete RE: justpete Apr 5, 2011 11:30 PM

                  Oh my - I forgot to mention one very important thing - they have BEEF BACON! I'd never had it before until last weekend It's everything you've dreamed it would be!

                  (ok - this was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but it's pretty darn good!)

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: justpete
                    d
                    Derksen RE: justpete Apr 6, 2011 06:21 AM

                    They sell beef bacon at some No Frills stores. I bought it a month back and was very surprised with the flavour - quite reminiscent of pork bacon with a welcomed beef flavour. Very tasty stuff!

                    1. re: justpete
                      pinstripeprincess RE: justpete Apr 6, 2011 06:30 AM

                      caplansky's has been doing beef bacon since they opened the official shop. i've never dropped in for breakfast though so have no idea what it's like.

                      1. re: pinstripeprincess
                        p
                        pakmode RE: pinstripeprincess Apr 6, 2011 08:10 AM

                        I had Caplansky's beef bacon this weekend.

                        It was goooood.

                        Caplansky's $9 breakfast platter has got to be one of the best values in the city.
                        It's called 'The Special' on their menu.
                        Unlimited drip coffee that was nice and strong.
                        2 Potato Latkes with a flavourful and cinnamony apple sauce.
                        Toast,. 3 eggs and 3 crisp pieces of beef bacon done right.

                        I think the beef 'bacon' is actually 3 big strips of their smoked meat fried up.

                        1. re: pakmode
                          c
                          childofthestorm RE: pakmode Apr 6, 2011 08:22 AM

                          Caplansky's beef bacon is amazing - and they'll sell you some to take away in proper deli fashion. I had a pound of it in my fridge that did not last long at all.

                          Oh and it's not the smoked meat. Has a faint maple taste if you like that sort of thing.

                          1. re: childofthestorm
                            num nums RE: childofthestorm Apr 7, 2011 07:48 PM

                            not sure if everyone knows, but they'll make a "club" sandwich with the beef bacon and smoked turkey if you ask. pretty tasty.

                    2. shekamoo RE: justpete Apr 7, 2011 03:38 PM

                      no pancakes, correct?

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: shekamoo
                        justpete RE: shekamoo Apr 7, 2011 11:17 PM

                        Not as yet, no... unfortunately. If they did some buttermilk pancakes with some cherry compote... and maybe some almond mascarpone... I may not need to go anywhere else for brunch, well, ever. Ha.

                      2. p
                        piccola RE: justpete Apr 8, 2011 05:20 AM

                        I actually much prefer the brunch to the dinner here, partly because the veg options are better and more creative.

                        1. p
                          poshnoshtoronto RE: justpete Apr 8, 2011 06:17 AM

                          I've totally got to try brunch there! I've enjoyed so many dinners and have come to love being "at the pass" with my girlfriend or hubby or whomever I can talk into dining with me. This table is the window into the kitchen... not fantastic if you have a group as I think there only 4 or 5 seats and sitting side by side isn't easy conversationally. But dinner with a foodist pal, is so much better when the chef is serving you and giving you the scoop on what went into that dish's construction... as well, you're seeing how they're handing your food which is always clean, focused and with such attention to detail. Guess I'll see about booking a brunch now! Thanks for the post!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: poshnoshtoronto
                            justpete RE: poshnoshtoronto Apr 14, 2011 03:40 PM

                            ha. I watched them clean a pig's head - yes, a pig's head at the pass last weekend. It was pretty graphic!

                          2. l
                            littlelam RE: justpete Apr 17, 2011 12:37 PM

                            I just had brunch there today. Loved our seats in the raised booths across from the bar. For me, it was an enjoyable, but not outstanding, brunch. The fresh bread that came with the housemade jam and butter was delicious and a nice start to the meal. I had the omelette filled with some tomatoes and cheese and served with a small salad. It was a fairly standard dish, though I thought the simple salad was well dressed and seasoned. For dessert, a couple of us split the ice cream sandwich. That thing is difficult to eat with cutlery! Perhaps if we had more patience, we'd have waited until it softened a bit, but we didn't and instead just picked it up and bit right into it. As far as desserts go, it was ok. I enjoyed dipping it into the creme anglaise and chocolate sauces which came with the sandwich. I did find that the crust of the sandwich was a bit dry and tasteless.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: littlelam
                              justpete RE: littlelam Apr 17, 2011 01:21 PM

                              Omelets are omelets. Next time you go, order something more interesting. You wont be disappointed. I don't think the ice cream sandwich is made for knives and forks... It is more on the subtle side, though. I think it's meant to be a delivery mechanism for the creme anglaise and chocolate sauce.

                            2. r
                              ragged25 RE: justpete May 24, 2011 12:44 PM

                              I went to Marben this past Saturday for brunch and had a pretty good experience. We ordered the burger and the yogurt and a cup of cappucino. One thing we noticed was that we did not receive their bread like everyone else did. I didn't notice this until we were well into our meal, hence we did not bother asking for it. From reading some of the posts, I guess I kind of missed out.

                              The star was definitely the burger. I have had a few burgers around Toronto that have been highly praised (Harbord Room, Nota Bene, Burger's Priest) and Marben's version deserves a mention as one of the better ones. As someone had mentioned, they mix in beef brisket with ground beef and the results were pretty amazing. I didn't really notice the cheese as much as it was a pretty mild cheese - swiss perhaps but the main focus was the patty and it shined. I would order that again in a heartbeat.

                              I've attached a pic for your viewing pleasures so enjoy.

                              On a sidenote about the service, the service I would say was a little slow given the amount of people (Approximately 20 diners), but we didn't mind it since it was a beautiful day and we were out on the patio. They did screw up a lady's order that was sitting next to us - her benny came with peameal bacon when she requested no meat. The waitress apologized for the screw up and promptly took the order off the bill which was good to see.

                              Overall, I had a great experience and will be back!

                              -----
                              Marben
                              488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

                              Nota Bene
                              180 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2A1, CA

                               
                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ragged25
                                j
                                JennaBean RE: ragged25 May 24, 2011 12:58 PM

                                That looks like a great burger! Thanks for posting the picture! I love the pink centre.

                              2. t
                                tylerchris RE: justpete May 25, 2011 07:49 AM

                                I also really enjoyed my brunch here a few weeks ago. My gf and I split the Ryan's Charcuterie small plate app (for $10, 3 cuts of different parts + mustard/dipping sauces) which was quite tasty. I got the bread pudding (which for me, was a bit too rich to finish by myself - I personally would only get this if it's to share in the future)

                                Also want to agree with a previous poster on the bread they give you - it's quite good and warm, and the jam and butter are excellent.

                                Great spot - will be going again in the future.

                                1. pinstripeprincess RE: justpete May 25, 2011 11:16 AM

                                  they don't do pommes kennedy anymore... why... well my server launches into a spiel about how they focus on seasonal ingredients, quality of the food, menus changing, etc etc... woman, it's potatoes. how in the heck is that not seasonal or local, i mean you have fries on the menu. their service is... weird, to say the least but it looks like they're trying harder. what appeared to be a manager was constantly hovering around servers as they were putting plates on tables, by hovering i mean nearly 1 ft away.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: pinstripeprincess
                                    d
                                    dubchild RE: pinstripeprincess May 25, 2011 12:15 PM

                                    I've also had issues with sometimes getting bread and other times not. I agree service needs a little polish. At this price point they should be able to attract better staff. Regardless the food keeps me going back.

                                  2. prima RE: justpete Jun 20, 2011 06:11 AM

                                    I tried the brunch at Marben yesterday. In a nutshell, nice patio, ok food, good service on the whole. Wasn't in the mood for eggs or bacon, so I went with the burger. The burger was ok, the fries were good, coleslaw was the non-vinegary type. Liked their version of Branston Pickle, which surprised me, since I usually am not a fan of Branston Pickle. After trying Marben's burger, Nota Bene's burger, the Harbord Room's burger, Globe's burger, and Earth's burgers, I've come to the realization that upscale burgers are lost on me.

                                    Enjoyed the caramelized bread pudding, that we split amongst our group.

                                    The server was generous with the bread, and brought us a second order. Liked the coffee, also liked the espresso. Liked the fact the server did not rush us.

                                    While I'd go back if I was looking for brunch on a patio, I found the menu choices not interesting enough for my taste.

                                    Marben's brunch menu: http://www.marbenrestaurant.com/image...

                                    If I'm craving bacon and eggs, I'd rather order them at Detroit Eatery or Good Bite. If I'm looking to spend a little more at brunch, and especially if I'm travelling more than 20 minutes out of my way for brunch, I'd rather go somewhere like Lola's Commissary, Easy Restaurant or Beast.

                                    -----
                                    Good Bite
                                    2463 Yonge St, Toronto, ON M4P2H6, CA

                                    Marben
                                    488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

                                    Harbord Room
                                    89 Harbord St, Toronto, ON M5S1G4, CA

                                    Easy Restaurant
                                    1645 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6R1A9, CA

                                    Nota Bene
                                    180 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 2A1, CA

                                    Detroit Eatery
                                    389 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4K1P1, CA

                                    Beast
                                    96 Tecumseth St, Toronto, ON M6J, CA

                                    Lola's Kitchen
                                    634 Church St, Toronto, ON M4Y 2G3, CA

                                    1. j
                                      JennaBean RE: justpete Jul 26, 2011 08:56 AM

                                      Finally got to try Marben for brunch this past Sunday. I'm not sure if I was just expecting too much but it was a big letdown.

                                      I had the bread pudding french toast with a side of sausage and my bf has the eggs benny.

                                      My french toast was so overly sweet I only ate two of the four slices and really wished that the compote they put on top was served on the side so that I could have maybe enjoyed a few more bites. I should add that I generally like rich and sweet things but this was way way over the top. The sausage was tasty but still didn't cut the sweetness of the french toast.

                                      When the bf ordered the eggs benny the server said they were out of peameal but the server went on and on how they make there own bacon so it is a big slab yada yada. The eggs benny arrive - two tiny eggs on one tiny (yes homemade) strip of bacon cut into two on two of a tiny english muffin. It was so sad to look at on the plate. The salad in the middle was at least double the volume of the eggs benny.

                                      The server forgot my coffee even after asking him twice. I didn't bother a third time as we just wanted to leave.

                                      I think the food was 'fine' but nothing more than that.

                                      We both left still hungry and headed up Spadina to the market for some shopping and a nibble.

                                      I'm happy that others enjoy the Marben brunch but I won't be back.

                                      -----
                                      Marben
                                      488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

                                      11 Replies
                                      1. re: JennaBean
                                        justpete RE: JennaBean Jul 31, 2011 09:09 AM

                                        Although I agree the service can sometimes less than desirable, I have to disagree on all accounts with regards to the food. I went again today, and the table to my right ordered the eggs Benny. I had remembered what you had said specifically about the eggs benny being tiny, so I was on the lookout for them. I wasn't in th mood for something savoury, so didn't order them myself. Well, the two tables adjacent to me ordered the Benny, and I can safely say that each of them was about the size if my clenched fist, and I do have big hands - so maybe they just had an off day - if the served you a normal portion, however, and youre looking for gigantic portions, this is not the place for you.

                                        With regards to the French toast, im also a huge rich/sweet fan, and although the compote can be occasionally sweet, it is usually not heaped on the FT, and you can control the sweet notes with your ratio of compote to bread - and wasnt the texture of that fresh made bread insane? Always is, when I'm there.

                                        I also have never left there hungry, ever. I'm stuffed right now - just not as stuffed as I was after the 15 course tasting menu at colborne lane the other night. Ha.

                                        1. re: justpete
                                          prima RE: justpete Aug 1, 2011 11:34 AM

                                          Maybe the portion sizes vary at Marben, depending on who is plating. I've only dined at Marben for brunch one time, but the portions seemed to be smallish compared to most brunches I've ordered in TO. Similar portion sizes to School (which I do not recommend- the food at Marben is better than School) or Le Petit Dejeuner. I found the portion sizes at Lola's Commissary, Globe, Globe Earth, Bonjour Brioche and the Drake to be more generous than Marben's portions.

                                          2 of us ordered the burger (the patty was generous, but the servings of fries and slaw were relatively stingy), and 3 of my friends ordered the bacon & eggs (which were on the small side), and we ordered 2 orders of the caramelized bread pudding to split amongst 5 of us. We ate enough not to be hungry, but we weren't stuffed after we left Marben.

                                          -----
                                          Le Petit Dejeuner
                                          191 King St E, Toronto, ON M5A1J5, CA

                                          Marben
                                          488 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E5, CA

                                          Lola's Kitchen
                                          634 Church St, Toronto, ON M4Y 2G3, CA

                                          1. re: prima
                                            p
                                            piccola RE: prima Aug 1, 2011 05:01 PM

                                            See, I feel like that's the ideal. I hate getting huge servings at brunch because it's not the kind of food you wrap up to go, and I hate having it go to waste.

                                          2. re: justpete
                                            j
                                            JennaBean RE: justpete Aug 2, 2011 07:03 AM

                                            I was still hungry b/c I couldn't eat more than two slices of the french toast it was soooo sweet it made me feel a bit ill and as noted I didn't have any coffee to help wash it down. It still make me crinkle my nose just thinking about it. Maybe it would be better described as a brunch dessert. Even some creme fresh would have been a nice addition instead of the compote.

                                            My bf is a bigger eater than me but his first meal of the day is always small and this was just really really small. They were either using silky chicken eggs (which I use at home so I know they are very small) or just regular small eggs.

                                            I didn't eat the bread that came to the table before our food as I knew I was having bread for my brunch so I can't comment on that.

                                            1. re: JennaBean
                                              r
                                              rstuart RE: JennaBean Jun 4, 2012 12:36 PM

                                              This is an older thread.. just wondering if Marben is still worth checking out for brunch?

                                              1. re: rstuart
                                                haggisdragon RE: rstuart Jun 4, 2012 05:44 PM

                                                Yep its pretty much the same.

                                                1. re: haggisdragon
                                                  r
                                                  rstuart RE: haggisdragon Jun 4, 2012 06:24 PM

                                                  Fab...thanks!

                                                  1. re: rstuart
                                                    justsayn RE: rstuart Jun 4, 2012 07:56 PM

                                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/848569

                                                    If it's a burger you're after, try L'ouvrier.

                                                    1. re: justsayn
                                                      r
                                                      rstuart RE: justsayn Jun 5, 2012 06:23 AM

                                                      Nope.. not such a burger fiend in the AM. Just a different place for brunch. Thanks for the burger rec. though.. will keep in mind for the summer!

                                                      1. re: rstuart
                                                        justsayn RE: rstuart Jun 5, 2012 06:50 AM

                                                        Then its the bennie : )

                                                2. re: rstuart
                                                  justsayn RE: rstuart Jun 8, 2014 11:44 AM

                                                  Bumping this thread. Almost exactly two years later the question arose again...Is the new Marben brunch worth checking out.

                                                  Going by our meals today, the answer is no. Even the brewed coffee lost what it once had, both flavor and depth gone. The Tortilla de Chorizo is served in a super hot, wide bowl which looked very appetizing with the Spanish Tortilla/Frittata/Omelette (whatever you wish to call it) in the middle surrouded generously by over salted greens. The biggest problem was that I don't like my salad cooked so I attempted to scarf it down quickly. The waiter stopped to ask if everything was ok and I responded by saying "just trying to eat my salad as quickly as possible before it cooks on this plate." His response was that yea the plates are hot. I wish he had instead offered a side plate to move our salads to because although obvious now, I hadn't thought of that at the time.

                                                  The tortilla was much too filled with potato and almost none of the promised chorizo. This combination left each bite way too dry. The whole thing lacked flavour. I want to blame the chorizo and say it was just too lean and bland but there was so little in it, I'm not sure where to put the blame.

                                                  The burger is now 19 bucks! No thanks. Other premium burgers in the city are less money and with better coffee alongside.

                                                  Then there's the credit card machine. I chose to tip by percentage. This selection was followed by only one option...20%. Give me a break. Yes you can choose a custom % at that point but I have never before seen a restaurant push only 20% as the easy choice option.!

                                                  Won't be back. And given how empty the place was, I don't think it was just an off day.

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