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.

Cafe Luc on Urbanspoon


Phil Letts said...

You prefer Chelsea to Marylebone? And Mayfair? Marylebone may have its faults, but at least there some actual human beings wondering around there. Chelsea is not genteel and sophisticated, it's crass and boorish. Nice review, mind.

Mr London Street said...

Love the review of the restaurant, but it's an odd picture you paint of the area. MHS is a lovely street with lots of great individual shops, some half decent bars and restaurants, Rococo, Moxon Street just across the way, a beautiful branch of Daunt Books and, if memory serves, a single Pret. Have you been there much?

Chris Pople said...

Phil/Mr LS: I know, sorry. It was raining and I was tired and hungry and a bit grumpy. There are definitely worse areas and I probably shouldn't have been so harsh. I still prefer Chelsea though :)

Matt said...

I knew you were going to get grief from what you said about Marylebone! For me it comes only slightly above Lewisham in the "places I want to be" list.

No mark out of ten?

Chris Pople said...

Matt: I don't leave marks out of ten (with rare exceptions) for freebies. Just a silly little affectation of mine that I should probably drop, but there it is.

Jonathan said...

You've made me feel very nostalgic for MHS. For me it's got real character. But never mind all that.

If I was still working in the area I'd be back like a shot to tuck into their dover sole.

Sharmila said...

I think this debate over bloggers all reviewing the same thing misses something really. I have no real issue wading through a load of reviews of the same place (Bar Boloud, Bruno Loubet etc.). That's my choice. But (and I know I'll probably be accused of dredging up an old argument), I have to admit it is boring to wade through a ton of reviews of the same places when they are freebies and PR-led events. I don't begrudge any blogger going to these types of things, but as a reader, I do find it less interesting, and there are just more and more of them on the blogs that I read (the majority of which I generally enjoy reading).

On a different point, Marylebone is totally better than Chelsea and Mayfair ;-)

Gin and Crumpets said...

Quite right. When faced with the crass vulgarity of Marylebone High Street, who doesn't long for the genteel sophistication of the King's Road or the quaint, old-fashioned charm of Knightsbridge? Could a sane person really prefer the moribund restaurants of Marylebone when the dynamic dining scene of Bond Street and Berkley Square is just down the road? I doubt it.

In many respects, Cafe Luc was smart to open up on Marylebone High Street, where there's such a dearth of even substandard restaurants that the locals will fall on their plodding bistro menu like starved, slobbering, Boden-clad animals. Imagine if they'd opened up on Sloane Street. The quality of the competition would've killed it within a week.

*eyebrows raised*

Northern Snippet said...

I don't mind reading lots of reviews on the same place,if the review is interesting you will read it.
Speaking as someone who doesn't know London,having some information on the area is also helpful.