Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Cafe Luc

When’s a cheapskate not a cheapskate? When he fails to notice things like BOGOF offers on Big Macs, three multipacks of Walkers Salt & Vinegar crisps for less than three quid (that’s also in total- 2358 calories, 149.4g fat, 10.8g salt, etc) or a bottle of the truly vile FirstCape Red Cape wine drops to £2.99! But when’s a cheapskate on a higher level not a cheapskate’s on a higher level then? When he misses out on the opportunity to buy Frank Hederman’s definitive beech-smoked salmon for less than half price at Selfridges, or forgets to bring-your-own-bottle of Gewurztraminer Gesetz to Loong Kee Cafe and indeed overlooking the £1 offer at Cafe Luc!

I first read about Cafe Luc here. It was after reading Su-Lin’s review that I decided to subscribe to Café Luc’s mailing list. Thankfully it paid off with dividends. However, I must also admit that prior to reading the other various reviews of the place, I was entirely apprehensive and this could well do with Cafe Luc being Belgian; the unfortunate prejudice conjures up words like boring and unimaginative. I mean, I like moules and frites but our fish ‘n’ chips batters (NPI) it every time, and with no apologies here, Le Pain Quotidien sucks! As for the latter, go fly the flag for there’s nothing wrong with our very own Greggs! Once a cheapskate, always a cheapskate, that’s me (although altogether on a higher level)!

Cafe Luc brands itself as a European Grand Café, well, at least on my tab bar (Google Chrome) it does. It’s supposedly a brasserie but its interior, in which ‘relaxed’ and ‘upscale’ were deployed on their website, suggested more of a fourish star hotel dining-experience but without the dead calm and muzak. Typically the use of wood usually exudes warmth, but not so here, à la the David Collins School of design, the amount of wood used as shown has completely the opposite effect. The dining room is hopelessly lacking in character and I believe this greasy spoon down the road trumps it anytime! The service however, was exemplary, so much so Michel Roux and his first-class sidekick Fred Sirieix would’ve been proud.

I pressed my well-to-do buddy George along to Cafe Luc on the day of my £1 Menu booking. Now, if and when Cafe Luc decides to offer another sale like this again, beware of the conditions -

One £1 booking per table
One £1 booking per person
£1 deal is only valid for £1 menu
£1 bookings are only valid during the stipulated period.
The date of your £1 booking cannot be changed

George was made fully aware that he had to pay the full whack but not I. It was when we were shown to our table that I began to feel a little uneasy. ‘Who’s for the £1 Menu?’ the maître d’ asked. In the midst of the bourgeois atmosphere I sheepishly bleated me! George was presented with both the à la carte and lunch set menus. Now, George being part of the landed gentry, went à la carte and we both decided alcohol was off-limits as we both had to stay sober (him, bidding for some vintage Arne Jacobsen chairs and me to replace several needles on a DJ’s plethora of turntables). George ordered a litre of still mineral (he doesn’t do tap but he’s still a likeable snob if I may say so). Rather despairingly, I noticed from the neighbouring tables that l’eau tap was served in beautiful bottles that made our £3.50 Kentish water looked like we’ve been had!

The menu for the Baldrick kind (I have a cunning plan…I only pay a pound!).

George’s starter of cauliflower soup with coriander pesto and curry oil at £6.20.

Now at this point, George and I were wondering where the basket of bread was, in spite of being apparent on all the other tables. George politely exclaimed, ‘Perhaps it’s because you’re on the pound sponge and bread’s an additional premium!’ I said, ‘Old boy I didn’t bring you to bore me’ and flagged a waiter immediately about the bread. An oversight, we were assured by the front of house.
Anyway George thought the soup reminiscent of subtle brilliance. He was predictably pleased. I did try a spoonful, good but I couldn’t detect any curry spices, seeing that I’m so uncouth I’d rather have this any day. I would’ve been more contented if George had ordered the steak tartare instead!

Tut-tut. High class restaurant, chipped butter dish (more of an ashtray don’t you think?), health and safety, listeria, etc …

My starter of Country terrine and sourdough bread at 33.333p.

No complaints at that derisory price tag. Terrine's is terrine, this was thus so. Not keen on cornichons (always felt they were only binge fodder for pregnant ladies) but the jellied meat-stock cubes were outstanding.

George’s mains of cod at £19.50.

Served with scallops (not so, more like one but cut up in three pieces), celeriac puree, artichokes, leeks, chives and shavings of black truffle. The fish was beautifully roasted and the accompanying ingredients on the plate tasted ace. This was probably Michelin material as the whole dish was undeniably accomplished.

My mains of steak and chips at 33.333p.

No complaints at that derisory price tag I repeat. With peppercorn sauce and watercress leaves. Cooked medium rare as requested and George reckoned you couldn’t beat the Belgians when it comes to the pommes frites, I agreed. Peeps, if you’re reading this, my £1 Menu is based on the restaurant’s Set Menu (£16 for three courses) and the steak frites is I believe a permanent fixture. Now the word steak here (not necessarily at this establishment) can sound vague, it could be a cheaper cut of beef like hanger, onglet, rump or in my case here a discarded skinny sirloin; that means you’ll need to order the meat rare or medium rare otherwise the endless chewing activity would piss you off! I was also surprised by the quality of the cow eaten served here, it was admirably palatable. Well done Café Luc.

George’s pudding of roasted pineapple with coconut sorbet and pistachio at £7.30.

Pricey but beautifully executed. The whole dessert reminded me of a deconstructed piña colada without the rum. Just in case you’re wondering, that large ring of pineapple came from a fresh fruit as opposed to tinned. The pistachio and pink praline bits were a nice touch.

My pudding of Nutella crème brûlée at 33.333p.

No complaints at that derisory price tag; said thrice.
A signature dish at Cafe Luc. The portion was perhaps too large, served a little too cold, but nevertheless stupendously sweet! I strongly recommend a strong black coffee after this.

The £1 offer is a clever ploy- or rather a healthy gamble- on Cafe Luc’s behalf. As you can see, even without a drop of booze, your dining companion alone can rack up the bill considerably without much trouble. This is, after all, an expensive place for brasserie dining, but then again, we’re talking Marylebone High Street where budget is hardly an issue. I can somehow picture Cafe Luc as Marylebone’s equivalent of Oslo Court in months to come, a haven for the very rich and mature residents of the Howard de Walden Estate. Would I come back again? Yes- only if someone else is paying for me or I’ll have to wait patiently for the next £1 sale.

50 Marylebone High Street


Mrs S said...

Love a great food deal, or any deal for that matter. But how can you make the reservation? Was/Is it only for people on their email list?

Su-Lin said...

Yay for the £1 deal! I missed it this time but I'm waiting for the next one!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love your blog but can never tell if it's a joke or not..(which I think is a good thing :) x