Friday, 10 September 2010
Café Luc, Marylebone
I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark and guess that this probably isn't the first review you've read of Café Luc. In fact, given a recent slew of posts (see here, here, here and here for starters), I can see why you might be completely sick of reading about it and may want to ignore this review entirely. So, here's your opportunity to do so - anyone not interested in another food blog review of Café Luc despite clicking on the title "Café Luc" in a food blog and reading this far, well, you only have yourselves to blame.
It is a fact though, that whether through blanket invites from PR firms or just via the particularly rabid word of mouth that seems to infect bloggers from time to time, certain restaurants will attract a number of reviews at once. It can either be interesting to see different individual's takes on the same place, or tedious spam, depending on your point of view, but it's important to remember that there is no conspiracy - bloggers write when and what we want to write, and only the most misguided and self-important of us would deliberately avoid a good restaurant simply because they want to fashion themselves as some kind of contrarian rebel. It occasionally can seem unfair that when every single professional critic visits the same restaurant in the same week nobody bats an eyelid, but when a handful of reviews of Sushi of Shiori appear simply due to the fact it's a brilliant restaurant (I'm already planning my third visit), the sniping starts. But you take the rough with the smooth and hope that overall you entertain more people than you irritate.
And talking of irritation, Marylebone. Walking to dinner last night, I couldn't help thinking what an odd part of London this was, with its crumbling hotels, depressing high street chains and overpriced pubs spilling patrons onto the tiny pavements. It is ostensibly a wealthy area, but in contrast to genteel and sophisticated Chelsea or Mayfair it feels trashy and loud and hard work. I was grateful, then, to step inside the doors of Café Luc and console myself with a glass of Austrian white and a couple of brown shrimp croquettes. Sort of a hot potted shrimp mixture inside a crispy breadcrumb coating, they were actually pretty good and a generous portion too, although you'd hope so for £11.20. My friend's steak tartare looked the part and they had thoughtfully arranged the ingredients around the meat instead of mixing it all up beforehand, but - and it's a big but, unfortunately - I'm afraid the steak itself wasn't quite of good enough quality to hold its own in a tartare, and required quite a bit of salt and pepper from the table to make it palatable. Still, could have been worse.
Mains were much better. Moules Mariniere were everything you could hope for and, to be fair, everything you might expect from a restaurant run by Belgians. Big, plump mussels in a delicate white wine sauce, they went down very well, and frites were nice enough if a bit oily. My Dover Sole though was superb, the dense, meaty flesh lifting off the bone in gloriously satisfying chunks. The restaurant has a habit of serving some of their seafood courses with a clump of deep-fried parsley, which is best ignored, but they can do a lovely meunière sauce and know how to cook fish to perfection. I wish the same could be said of the accompanying spinach, which was dry and grey and under seasoned and tasted like boiled weeds. But just look at that fish.
So there's your Yet Another Review of Café Luc. I hope it didn't irritate too much, and you can now get on with your lives. It's not the greatest restaurant in London, or the cheapest (unless you can catch their very reasonable lunchtime £15.50 for three courses offer), but they are very good at seafood and although it's perhaps alone not a reason to visit Marylebone - in fact it may not even be a reason to stop avoiding it - it is at least somewhere worth dropping in if you're nearby and fancy something fishy. And on a street boasting not much more than another twelve branches of Pret A Manger and EAT, I'm sure this will be enough.
I was invited to review Café Luc. From 20th-27th September is "Belgian Week", with a special menu. Read more about it here.