Marylebone High Street is undoubtedly one of the prettiest addresses in London (despite its proximity to hectic Oxford Street). Providores, the Conran Shop, Rococo Chocolates, Divertimenti, Cucina Caldesi and La Fromagerie, just around the corner, are some of the places I love to visit whenever I am in the area.
I would have probably missed Café Luc in one of these trips had I not been invited by Massey Travel for a meal there this summer. Since my first visit, I have had the chance to return to this Belgian brasserie a number of times with friends, so this is a round-up of the five or so meals I had there this year.
French resident chef David Collard, former executive head chef at five star Langham Hotel, has worked with other top chefs including Joel Robuchon at Restaurant Gormand, Marcus Waring at Petrus and Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park. I had the pleasure of meeting David on a couple of occasions, and more recently he showed me around his kitchen and demonstrated how he prepares one of Café Luc’s signature dishes – Steak Tartare.
Growing up in Brazil, I used to love eating kibbeh nayyeh (raw minced beef or lamb mixed with bulghur wheat, and seasoned with onions, mint and olive oil) in the many Syrian restaurants there, so I am a real fan of the European equivalent of this loved dish – “Steak Tartare”.
Café Luc’s did not disappoint – the meat, a 21-day dry aged LMC ("leg of mutton cut") of beef supplied by Finclass Butchers, was ultra fresh, silken and well seasoned with onions, mustard and capers among other spices. I really loved this dish but felt that the texture could have been slightly improved had the meat been finely chopped as opposed to minced. At £7.50 for a starter portion (£17 as a main), I also thought it was rather well priced.
Another excellent à la carte starter was the “Crab Tian” @ £10.50 – a beautifully presented dish made of Cornish crab with avocado, tomato dressing and quail egg which I enjoyed on two of my visits.
One of my favourite à la carte main courses was the “Roasted Partridge” served with caramelised chicory, foie gras and truffle shavings and @ £18.50, it was again very good value.
The “Chicken in Champagne” served with wild mushrooms, diced bacon and papparedelle pasta @ £16.80 (apparently one of David’s family recipes) had a deliciously creamy sauce and earthy flavours from the mushrooms which combined well with the pasta and grilled chicken.
Two of the most popular desserts are the "Roasted Pineapple" @ £7 served with coconut sorbet and pistachio, and the "Apple Tart" @ £6.50 with caramel and Grand Marnier sauce.
Some of the highlight dishes that I had from the set menu included:
"Fine smoked salmon, English crumpet and horseradish cream"
"Terrine of duck confit with foie gras and served with toasted sourdough"
"Pea risotto with aged Parmesan, and wild rocket"
"Steak with peppercorn sauce and pommes frites"
"Crème Brulée au Nutella"
"Lemon tarte with raspberries and chantilly"
The wine list is primarily old world and rather comprehensive with a large number of bottles also available by the glass or carafe. Of the entire wine menu, there are only two bottles priced below £20 (at £18.50), and despite some of the wines being available on tap, I still felt that the mark up was slightly excessive (the cheapest 500ml carafe on tap was priced at £15.30).
On my first visit, the sommelier suggested a bottle of 08 Patrimonio by Domaine Leccia. Patrimonio was Corsica’s first Appellation region (AOC), where the native “Nieluccio” varietal is used. The wine was terrific with black fruit (cherries) and vanilla aromas, full bodied and with great complexity but sadly a price tag to match.
Service at Café Luc can be inconsistent – I have had the most attentive service there (both as an invited reviewer and as an anonymous paying customer) but there was more than one occasion when I felt it was a tad rushed and impersonal.
Cafe Luc is offering a set menu for £1 for lunch, afternoon tea or dinner. There are 15 3-course set menus available per day for the period of Friday 7th January until 7th February 2011. To find out when to book – subscribe to their mailing list, Facebook page or follow them on Twitter (@CafeLuc_)
Thanks to Massey Travel for introducing me to Cafe Luc.
Cost: the set menu is priced at £15.50 while the à la carte menu would cost around £35 for a 3-course meal (excl. drinks).
Likes: the Patrimonio Corsican wine was excellent (although expensive), as were the crab tian, steak tartare and Nutella crème brulée. The set menu @ £15.50 is in my opinion excellent value.
Dislikes: inconsistent service and a wine list with very few affordable options.