Winterlicious 2015 is Marben’s first time participating in the event and their menu was a hot pick. Offering the same dishes for lunch and dinner meant lunch reservations were quick to get booked up.

Atmosphere: I’ve been to Marben several times for dinner and drinks but this was my first visit during the day. The restaurant was packed and much more relaxed and casual than at night. Servers hustled from table to table and conversations were lively. Our group of 5 was seated at a comfortable booth with plenty of elbow room.

Service: Did I mention they were full? So full that service was behind and we waited about 30 minutes for our table. Winterlicious can really crowd great restaurants. The hostess was friendly, helpful and kept us updated on our status. On a positive note, our seating was at 1pm so by the time we were finished our meal, the lunch queue was done and we could take our time sipping coffee. Our server was also efficient and friendly, cutlery was changed in between courses and she checked in on us throughout the meal.

Food: Usually I get the charcuterie plate at Marben, but with their Winterlicious menu, I was eager to try the dishes with a more Spanish influence. For starters The Fiance and I split the Ontario Apple and Manchego Cheese Salad and Steamed PEI Mussels. The salad was tossed in a light mustard-herb dressing, the leaves sat on thin apple slices and was topped with roasted pumpkin seeds and slices of manchego cheese. The dish was everything I like in a salad, a light cheese, touch of crunchy and a light dressing. The bowl of mussels were fresh and cooked well with strong Asian flavours. We ended up dipping all of our bread in the lemongrass, ginger and chili flavoured sauce.

For mains, I started with the Spanish Seafood Stew and then switched with The Fiance to try half of his Johns Burger. Our table all agreed that the hand cut fries were amazing and there wasn’t a single one left. All of the seafood in my stew was fresh and cooked to just past raw. I found the saffron flavour rich and overpowered any seafood flavour. The snap peas were barely cooked, sweet, crunchy and perfect. My favourite bite was the octopus. Between the two entrees, I prefered the Johns Burger more. I loved the sweet chutney paired with a slice of aged cheddar cheese on the meaty patty. And there were those fries. I had one forkful of the vegetarian option, Cauliflower Tagine, but had to take a picture at the beautiful presentation. The bright colours almost made the dish too pretty to eat.

Between the three desserts, my favourite was the Nutella Creme Brulee, followed closely by the Vanilla Panna Cotta, which beat out the Chocolate and Olive Oil Truffle by a hair. I loved the flavour of the creme brulee, not too sweet and rich. The filling was more cream than custard and the top was very charred.

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