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Cafe Luc, Marylebone

September 21, 2010

Cafe Luc markets itself as a “modern European brasserie”, with French and Mediterranean influences. It is also Belgian Week from the 20th to the 27th of September, so there was also a Belgian 3-course set menu to choose from.

As an aside, hi! I’m back from my unannounced hiatus. It’s not completely stopped me from eating out, though, so I have hundreds of photos I need to upload and restaurants to blog about. It will take awhile, unfortunately!

Back to Cafe Luc. I’d originally wanted to book for 9 of us, but obviously calling 4 hours before we were supposed to have dinner didn’t exactly leave us with many options. As many of us had school the next morning and the only time slot offered to us was at 8:15pm, the manager agreed to give us a table for 6pm on the condition we’d give the table back after 2 hours. I wasn’t keen on keeping an eye on the watch as it feels like a race, almost, but what could we do?

Being the first one to arrive, I sat down and ordered a cup of tea while waiting for the others. It was very quiet at 6pm, but the place was buzzing at a pleasant-enough decibel level by the time we left – not too loud, yet not too hushed. I really enjoyed my tea, funnily enough. The tea set was very chic, shiny lacquered black with gold trim, and the sugar came in a little matching bowl but they weren’t cubes nor was it regular granulated sugar, just somewhere in between. And they gave me a little square of dark chocolate with aniseed to go with it (I didn’t get to eat it because someone else scarfed it down before I realised what was happening, grr).

After everyone else arrived, we placed our orders. Most of us went for the 3-course set menu which can be had for £15.50, but The One Who Stole My Chocolate ordered the Belgian set menu (also 3 courses for £15.50) and some went a la carte. We were presented with two baskets of crusty French bread which was unremarkable. At least the butter was salted and sufficiently soft. My starter, terrine of jambon persillé with Greek mushrooms and grain mustard dressing was lovely. Several fat, pink, porky pieces were nestled in gelatin and lightly dressed with mustard, studded with little cubes of sauteed mushrooms and served with two slices of toast. Normally the ratio of terrine to toast is way off, but Cafe Luc had just the right amount of terrine. I did feel the mushrooms added an unnecessary flavour and would have preferred some peppery greens to go with it, but not a big issue.

My main was the pavé of salmon with Puy Lentils à la française (grelots onion, bacon and parsley). To be honest, I didn’t enjoy this dish very much. The salmon was meltingly soft but it could have done with a crunchier crust – I wonder how they cooked it. The salmon was topped with a blanket of green powder which was quite salty, but the salmon itself didn’t seem to have much flavour other than, well, fish. If the herb topping fell off the salmon, it started tasting bland next to the lentils. Maybe I’m just used to my food being salty. Could be the Chinese in me. The moules frites from the Belgian set menu were much better; a gigantic dish of slippery mussels with a side of fries. That’s important. Fries, not chips.

Most of us ordered desserts, as they were included in the set menu. My bitter chocolate mousse with orange sauce was excellent, with the citrusy orange gel-like sauce lending the perfect injection of acidity into what would otherwise be a cloying dish. There were also little crunchy bits in there (almost like pieces of fried noodle that had been shattered, but probably more like pastry, ha) which added a nice surprise to the texture of the mousse.

Bizarrely, 8pm came and went and no one said a word about us having to leave the restaurant. It was almost 8:30 by the time we left – was the other group late? Was there even another group coming? Ah well, I shouldn’t complain, really! I was pretty pleased with my choice of Cafe Luc tonight as there were parents who came along as well, and it wasn’t too loud (sometimes I can barely hear a word in a gastropub) nor too fussy or expensive if you stuck to the set menu. I’m not sure I would pay the prices for the a la carte, but that’s not because I doubt their chefs’ cooking skills, only because I’m quite satisfied with the set menu which is much better value for money. The service was also very smooth and the atmosphere of the place was just right for the night. Would definitely come back again if I wanted to catch up with a friend over lunch or dinner. I believe they do afternoon tea and breakfasts, as well.

+: I liked their portion sizes. I didn’t leave feeling like a pregnant woman with triplets. But if your appetite is bigger than mine (and it is pretty impressive, if I do say so myself), the portion sizes might seem a bit paltry if you only order 2 courses from the a la carte.

-: Underwhelming salmon as my main course. Might just be a one-off experience though; everyone else seemed to enjoy their dishes.

Cafe Luc
50 Marylebone High Street

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