We finally did it.
The Mediterranean Restaurant next to The Garage has been a work in progress for quite some time and the word around Shunyi has been everything from skeptical to optimistic. What kind of Mediterranean? Greek? Italian? French, Spanish or perhaps Lebanese? There are many countries around the Mediterranean, all with quite distinctive cuisines and with a name like Marebella many of us suspected Spanish but no one knew what to expect and we were not super eager to try either.
Unfortunately, more often than not, Western restaurants in China are a miss. Over priced and inauthentic, scattered menus and kitchy décor. The food is almost never up to par and the service horrible. Obviously there are a few exceptions but overall, hen bu hao.
So, we were a bit doubtful when we decided to give Marebella a try for lunch the other day. The restaurant had only two other tables occupied so we received a warm welcome and could choose wherever we wanted to sit. A plus we think. There is nothing more annoying than when you are asked for a reservation in an empty room.
There was a damp smell in the place and the room was too warm but then again, that is nothing new here in China! It’s just that, it’s a brand newly opened place! It should smell of paint - almost!
We were handed the menus and quickly understood the Mediterranean concept - there is something from every cuisine around the Mediterranean represented on the menu! There is pizza and pasta, tzatziki and hummus, falafel and even tiramisu.
Through the grapevine we had heard that it was a safer bet to stick with the Middle Eastern dishes so that’s what we decided to do. Just as we were about to order the Mezze platter as an starter, a complimentary plate of selected mezze appeared. We were offered a taste of the hummus (too grainy for our taste), baba gannoush (no smoky flavor whatsoever in this eggplant dip) and little bites of cumin carrots (they were actually quite good).
Skipping the appetizers, we instead decided to share a plate of Lebanese Taboule and the house falafel. Well, we are very sorry to share with you that the taboule was no taboule! There was an abundance of couscous, a few specks of parsley and a handful of chopped vegetables with a good citrusy twang. Our main issue with this dish is that, for starters, taboule does not involve couscous! There should be bulgur and not much of it. The chopped lemony minty salad goodness with a few grains of bulgur that we expected was not to be found.
So already disappointed in our meal, we turned to the falafel. Well, we are sorry to say that they were not any better - over cooked and extremely dry. Served with French fries (really?!?), a dollop of hummus, some salad leaves, rubbery mushrooms and even more couscous.
Perhaps we should go back once more just to give Marebella a fair chance to improve but sadly, we just don’t want to waste our money and time on it.
Shape up Marebella or you will probably soon only be a distant memory.