I was invited toÂ review Cafe Luc, which is a new restaurant in Marylebone. The Belgian restaurateur Luc van Oostende has opened Cafe Luc together with his daughter Julie. The result is a swank brasserie with Belgian/French inspired food. It is in general rather pricey but also offers cheaper options with starters ranging from 5.50 to 12.50 pounds and mains starting from 12 pounds. In addition, their three course set menu for 1 5.50 seems very good value for money.
I enjoyed the atmosphere at Cafe Luc. We went there on Friday evening and the restaurant filled up quickly with a nice mix of the young and the old, the chic and the rather less so. The dining room is bathed in a warm and subtle light and – with tables set far enough apartÂ – enables private conversation.
The complimentary bread was edible but they could slightly raise their game there.
A lot of the dishes on the menu sounded mouthwatering; to sample a wide range of their dishes we went for fish and meat starters and fish and meat mains.
The steak tartare (7.50) was a very generous portion which was just as well as we liked it very much. They served the raw minced beef surrounded by all the ingredients to be mixed in first (which looked very nice but I was too slow to take a picture) and then mixed it for us resulting in just the right amount of seasoning with a hint of spice. It was served with warm bread.
The crab tian with avocado (10.50) was lovely. It was a perfectly presented, very attractive plate of food with a delightful mixture of sweet crab and avocado nicely complemented by the quail egg.
One of the mains was very successful while the other one did not quite reach the standard one would expect from an etablisement like this.
The Red Mullet (19.50) was certainly interesting by description in the menu. I really quite liked the saffron based sauce it came with. However, the fish was ever so slightly overcooked and – the for me the bigger fault – it was completely over-peppered. The pepper taste was so strong that it completely masked the subtle flavour of the fish. A good idea but the execution was not quite there. The presentation however was – as in all the other dishes – flawless.
The second main was truly divine. The black chicken leg with champagne sauce (16.80) was delicious and creative. A moist and tender chicken leg was placed on a bed of perfectly al dente pappardelle immersed in a superb sauce with a subtle truffles flavour not overpowering the taste of the chanterelles. This all harmonisedÂ exquisitely with the smoky bacon.Â This was so good that I would happily forgive the small faults in the red mullet.
However, I had a slight problem with the creme caramel (5.80). It was not bad as such but it did not give me any special pleasure either. The creme caramel was not quite caramelly enough with a very light, watery sauce. It came with alcohol soaked raisins which worked fine for me – however, what I thought did not fit at all were the fresh grapes. The fresh and zingy taste of grapes for me just destroyed the warm and comforting flavour of the caramel.
The service was brilliant.Â They did not overfill the wine glasses, they were attentive without being annoying and very helpful in answering our questions. However, as I was not there incognito i cannot really say if my service experience is representative.
Cafe Luc is not a bad place at all, in fact some of the dishes showed high promise and culinary delight. It is a shame that this high level could not be maintained throughout the evening. I will however give Cafe Luc the benefit of the doubt and a preliminary green light, but I shall return withing the next month incognito and re-evaluate.
- Food: 7/10
- Service: 8/10
- Atmosphere: 7.5/10
- Value for money: 7/10
- Chances of returning: 100% (to re-evaluate)
- Verdict: Some delicious food but not quite consistent enough.