First Look: Margo, Led by Acclaimed Chef Mario Paecke

First Look: Margo, Led by Acclaimed Chef Mario Paecke

Highly anticipated modern European bistro

by:  
Celia Hu  Celia Hu  on 5 Sep '21


Margo, the newest addition to Leading Nation group’s portfolio, is a contemporary yet intimate bistro concept centred around modern European flavours. The restaurant group, founded by Gerald Li and Kevin Poon, own and operate several notable eateries, including La Rambla by Catalunya, casual café chain Elephant Grounds, Wagyumafia and Yakinikumafia.

The chef behind the kitchen counter is Mario Paecke, who was most recently Chef de Cuisine at SOMM and the right-hand man at two-Michelin-starred Amber at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental. The cuisine at Margo has a strong German undertone, paying homage to the chef’s heritage and conveying the flavours he holds most dear, coupled with a swish of refined finesse.

The cosy venue, designed by M.R. Studio, features velvety, dusty pink banquettes, warm wood panelling and colourful terrazzo countertops. Head upstairs to the mezzanine floor to Kyle & Bain, a dark, mysterious martini bar headlined by award-winning Beverage Director John Nugent, whose previous position at The Diplomat took the bar to #20 on Asia's 50 Best Bars 2021 list. The bar is named after William Kyle and John Bain, who patented the first ice-making machine, an apt name considering the bar’s entrance on Ice House Street.


A series of häppchen, which means “snacks” in German, whetted our appetite. The octopus terrine with roasted tomato and chive mayonnaise
 ($98) strikes a balance between the slightly tart tomato flavour and the briny yet also sweet octopus. The foie gras with smoked eel and green apple
 ($148) is indulgently creamy, but the smokiness of the fish and tart apple help to cut through the richness. The Fukuoka snow crab cocktail with green asparagus over seaweed brioche ($148) feels like a rather substantial “snack” given the heftiness of the bread.

We washed these bites down with Paper Bird ($110), a fruity cocktail made with Plantation rum, Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, Aperol, pineapple and lime.


The seasonal salad ($178), punctuated with rhubarb, local pepper and honey, was given a hearty shower of Belper Knolle cheese tableside. Seasoned with salt and garlic, then rolled in crushed black pepper, this particular lactic-fermented cheese resembles black truffle, especially when shaved.


The rainbow trout confit ($258) nestled atop a hearty potato salad is garnished with grilled leek and pickled radish. The tanginess of the radish adds contrast to the heavier potato salad and fish.


The beef tartare ($268) from world-famous Alexandre Polmard butcher is strongly flavoured with porcini mushroom and white onion and is adorned with a quail egg yolk. The seasoning mix overpowers the natural flavour of the beef, which we think should be allowed to shine.


The 12-month local tilapia ($378) is topped with delicate slices of fresh peach, accompanied by buttery chanterelle mushrooms and mashed potato. A decadently creamy verbena champagne sauce is poured tableside. The mashed potato is dangerously creamy, while the chanterelles have golden caramelisation from the browned butter in which they are sautéed. To us, tilapia isn’t an exciting fish in terms of flavour or texture, and the price of this dish is on the steep side for a locally farmed fish. We would expect a more interesting and flavourful fish at this price point.


We’d never pictured langoustine and meatballs in the same dish, so we were intrigued by the königsberger klopse with langoustine tails ($430). The northern German meatballs, made from a mix of pork and beef mince, are tender and flavourful, especially when drenched in the creamy caper sauce, which is poured tableside. Bavarian potatoes and intricately carved button mushrooms add various textures to the plate alongside the plump, succulent langoustine tails, which were perfectly cooked.


We recently learned that the secret to a delicious, puffed-up and crisp Wiener schnitzel is to dip the meat in alcohol (preferably gin) before coating it in flour. This tried-and-tested tip was given to us by a friend who travelled throughout Germany trying every Wiener schnitzel she could stomach whilst taking meticulous notes.

Margo’s Wiener schnitzel with frites ($395) is thin and beautifully puffed up, with a crispy coating, although it was not as juicy and tender as we would have liked. Garnishes include a rich mushroom and foie gras duxelles, which is a bit too rich to go with the fried veal, and a cucumber salad, which is, thankfully, more refreshing. Fat wedge fries, served piping hot with a fluffy interior, are accompanied by a curry- scented ketchup that adds flavourful complexity to this popular carby combination.


The apple vanilla Tatin ($128), created by Executive Pastry Chef Eane Wong, who worked with Elephant Grounds for over six years, is simple yet delicious. Drizzled with vanilla cream (again, poured tableside), this classic dessert with its thick wedges of tender, caramelised apple ended our meal like a warm hug.


The six cheese platter ($448) comes with organic honey, onion and dried fruit chutney and walnuts. The eye-watering price of this cheese platter is definitely not for the faint of heart.


Verdict

We became fans of Chef Paecke’s cooking when we tried his delectable dishes at SOMM, but somehow we didn’t have the same memorable experience at Margo. The dishes we tried here were solid, but there weren’t any that stood out to us as highlights. We also find it difficult to comprehend such high prices for bistro-style food that’s made using relatively common ingredients. As Margo is still in its infancy stage, we look forward to seeing how the menu develops as the months progress.


Shop 6, G/F, The Galleria, 9 Queen’s Road Central (entrance on Ice House Street), Central, 2130 7731, book online


This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.


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Celia Hu

Celia Hu

Editor-at-Large, Jetsetter Food Nomad