The formal dining room at Marais with its heavy linens and rolling champagne cart can seem intimidating to those accustomed to more casual settings. But that is not the whole story at the Grosse Pointe restaurant marked with gaslights on its chocolate brown façade.
Something new has been added — a café menu offered in the morning Tuesday through Sunday in the cocktail lounge.
This is not by any means sturdy ham-and-eggs fare. Pastries baked at dawn are set out on the bar to be teamed with an equally wide selection of coffee, espresso and cappuccino, made with San Francisco’s robust Intelligentsia coffee. A daily changing quiche, often the classic quiche Lorraine with bacon and cheese, is available for those who want something more filling, and it is accompanied by a tangle of fresh greens in a light vinaigrette.
You might say it’s the morning version of happy hour and it is definitely not intimidating.
The doors and windows are thrown open and that gives Marais a welcoming feeling. Presiding over the a.m. version is Monica Gilbert, wife of chef/proprietor David Gilbert, and Megan Mathews, who switched from evening bartender duties to the early shift. She gets an occasional order for a mimosa, but most people stick to the excellent coffee.
Although the pastries, ranging from donuts with Boston cream pie filling to lemon and cinnamon coffee cakes and lavishly frosted cupcakes, are handsomely displayed, they are not self-serve. Patrons make their choices and then order and are served on the same fine china used in the dining room if they are eating in, or nicely packaged for carry-out. No styrofoam here, of course.
The house-baked confections are made from dough (pate viennoise) prepared each night by David Gilbert, and finished at the crack of dawn by baker Scott Boczkowski. On one occasion, I arrived at noon, and there was just one chocolate croissant left, and it was memorable, with just enough chocolate to insure that the flaky layers of pastry was not overwhelmed. The next time I got there earlier and had my choice of the goodies, which included an equally delicious cinnamon roll with an extra touch — buttercream frosting. Suffice it to say that these are not ordinary pastries.
The setting of copper-topped bar, high-backed chairs and soft light from open filament bulbs, adapts well to the morning schedule. For those who prefer Marais later in the day, the room re-emerges at the cocktail hour in its traditional guise and with its own dinner menu that includes a $12 burger, fresh oysters and charcuterie.
Café at Marais
17051 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe
Call: (313) 343-8800
Hours: 7 a.m.-noon Tues.-Sun.
Prices: Daily changing quiche $5.99, yogurt parfait $4.99, pastries $2.50-$4.99, fresh juices $5, coffee and tea $1.95-$4.65
Credit cards: All major
Liquor: Full bar
Noise level: Low
Parking: municipal lot or street
Wheelchair access: No barriers
What the ratings mean
★ — routine ★★ — good
★★1/2 — very good
★★★ — excellent
★★★★ — outstanding