After hearing about it for aeons, I finally got the chance to try out the Marmalade Pantry. Had brunch there today with May, whose thighs, I was glad to see, did not appear any chunkier than usual.
The Marmalade Pantry is one of those chic but casual eating holes, rather like Corduroy and Fich but without the deli portion. It fills up incredibly quickly, so if you're looking to go there for lunch, it's probably a good idea to make a reservation.
Almost all the tables were completely filled within forty-five minutes of them opening, and with reason too, because the food is very good.
The only problem though, is that the waiters' uniforms are really tacky. They wear plain white t-shirts that are very crumpled and look like they've been slept in repeatedly. There is a not-so-fine line between casual and pyjamas.
Prices are nothing to joke about, and as they don't have a separate lunch menu, like The Canteen, it might be more worthwhile to come for dinner instead. That being said though, the portions are quite huge. Looking at the salad and bread board the table next to us ordered, I felt positively bulemic. 'Course, this was after I had finished my own rather large meal, but at least you're getting more than enough food for the price you're paying.
May ordered an affogato, which was a coffee/vanilla ice cream drink, and I had my usual iced chocolate ($7), which would probably have been better if they had made a shake. As it was, the vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce and chocolate milk weren't well mixed, and the whole drink turned out rather sweet (3/5). While it did come in a very big metal cup, $7 was still a considerable amount to pay.
May had an interesting-looking salmon bagel that came with "wasabi creme fraiche". I still have no idea what that is.
I was torn between the burger and the kids' banana pancake meal, but in the end, with a pretentious name like The Ultimate Beef Buger, there really was no competition. At $19, it's about the same price as the one in Corduroy and Finch, but this one is loads better (4.5/5). The patty was very meaty and juicy, aided in part by the liberal topping of roasted cherry tomatoes. The burger itself was quite large, and it came with a huge quantity of fries. Only complaints: no salad, and gherkins! I hate gherkins. They are like evil cucumbers.
After the meal I was completely stuffed. Couldn't even try any of their famous desserts.
Very convenient location in Palais Renaissance, allowing you to stroll over to Borders or Lido after your meal.
In terms of ambience, the Marmalade Pantry has a nice circular dining area, which channels lots of good feng shui around. The running water nearby doesn't hurt, either. Now if they could just get rid of those dreadful uniforms.
Service is nothing to crow about, but it isn't as dreadful as their uniforms. Sorry, just can't get over that one.
The Marmalade Pantry (casual, takeaway)
390 Orchard Road
Unit B1-08 to 11
Overall: Come for dinner, and bring a large appetite.
Edit: I went back a second time for lunch today (14/06/05), this time with a view for dessert
This time I ordered the Grilled Chicken and Bacon Club ($17), which, again, came in a huge portion. This confirmed my impression that you should either come here for dinner, or only for dessert. While the club sandwich wasn't bad, it wasn't fantastic either (3.5/5), so really it was merely postponing dessert.
The service seemed to have improved somewhat, but perhaps I may have been biased due to the pretty waitress.
After having heard so many good things about it, the Sticky Toffee Date Pudding ($10) finally appeared before me. It was a departure from my usual chocolate dessert, but I was pleased I ordered it (4.5/5). The pudding looks innocuous enough on the outside, but inside it's stuffed with (what else) sticky date toffee. While it was a little on the sweet side, the flavours were mild and went extremely well with the vanilla bean ice cream it was served with. Very very yummy.
Although my inner chocolaholic would like to lynch me for saying this, occasionally chocolate isn't always the best thing to order. Michele had a chocolate truffle cake, which was the pastry equivalent of a brick of foie gras. Much too rich and heavy, it was about three times too large to be palatable. Even I couldn't help finish this monster.