Just Opened: Marben trades in the onyx for oh-so-popular reclaimed wood

Just Opened: Marben trades in the onyx for oh-so-popular reclaimed wood

Carl Heinrich with a companion in the newly redesigned Marben (All images: Karon Liu)

Splendido did it, then Centro, then Brassaii, and now Marben. Sure, they’ve all been renovated, but more specifically, they’ve all received make-unders.

Back in March, Marben auctioned off bits and pieces of its former self, including the famous glowing onyx bar, in order to make way for understated pieces, vintage fixtures and reclaimed wood. General manager Sarah Evans says the Wellington West restaurant’s overhaul was meant to lighten up the place and make it known for its food rather than its scene (Brassaii cited similar urges). Still, with the restaurant open until 2 a.m. every day and Bavette—a separate downstairs party space—set to open at the end of the month, Marben isn’t retiring from the revelry. “The city needs a rowdy restaurant,” says Evans.

Along with the new decor—construction scraps, weathered bus stop signs, mason jar lamps (courtesy of Evans’ mother)—the back of the house has received new leadership. Carl Heinrich, formerly of Cowbell, was brought in mid-renovations to take over the kitchen and create a new seasonal menu after chef Craig Alley parted ways with Marben. Ryan Donovan, also of Cowbell, is now the restaurant’s head butcher.

The result is a proudly snout-to-tail menu that includes such turns as Heinrich’s brunch bacon: shoulder meat, jowls, hocks and, yes, the pig’s face. More timid diners can taste the burger that comes with a big pile of fries ($17). But it’s not just a regular burger—it’s braised short ribs folded into ground beef topped with Branston Pickle. The bun is made in house to ensure correct size, taste and texture.

Yet the new Marben isn’t just filling another seat on the carnivore bandwagon. Salads are their getting their due, too, such as the turnip iteration ($7). Heinrich informs me that tubers were pulled out of the ground that morning. Sliced thinly and sprinkled with salt and a light ranch dressing, the attention to detail means Marben is serious in helping the neighbourhood shake off its clubby image.

Marben, 488 Wellington St. W., 416-979-1990, marbenrestaurant.com.