THE LUXE: THE BURGER SUCKS
I can’t think of too many places that have experienced an opening as delayed as new John Torode gastrodome, The Luxe. When HP, who is the god of such matters, first sniffed out that it was on the cards, I had yet to finish the journey for EAT MY GLOBE. That’s how long ago it was.
Since then and for the last year, every weekend walk that has taken us through Spitalfields market has taken us past the painted hoardings of The Luxe with precious little evidence that anything was actually going on behind then. Then, just a few short weeks ago, an announcement came through suggesting that things might be afoot. At the tail end of last week, on my way back from a splendid meal at Needoo Grill, I saw workers putting the last licks of paint on the outside in preparation for today’s opening.
It was a long time coming, but based in on my burger, they still have some way to go. It may be unfair to judge on one meal, but we are talking about a hamburger here people, not a ten course tasting celebrating the life of Escoffier and on that basis, Hawksmoor just up the road has little to fear in the local burger turf wars.
Eventually The Luxe will spread over three floors and initially there was talk of JT doing for game what he did for steak at SOS. I have had mixed experiences at his first joint. The upper level was interesting and one of the first to introduce you to your cow before you ate your steak. I had some good meals there but it was and remains hideously expensive. The middle level was too absurdly noisy to ever consider it as a venue to eat and the ground level has bouncers to keep you away at night and trendy crowds to scare you away from their reasonable breakfast offerings at weekends.
Anyone who has eaten at Smiths of Smithfield will feel immediately at home in The Luxe. The ground floor is currently the only one open and has the same atmosphere as its sister with blaring bass heavy music making your ears bleed and insanely attractive staff whose perkiness just about wins you over. The menu too is instantly recognisable with that incredibly silly way of quoting prices (4.5 pounds) and a familiar list of breakfast staples, hot & cold sandwiches and a few dishes that actually require some cooking skill.
I am not quite sure why people seem so keen to name their burger after their gaff. If you do have such hubris, however you need to make sure it is any good. “The Luxe Burger” isn’t. It is a rather insipid affair in which good meat, delivered medium or well done, hides its light under a few salad leaves, a blob of coarse grain mustard mayonnaise and a slice of Kraft cheese that could have been given a bit longer to melt. The bun is more of a floury bap, which may raise a few giggles, but lacks the sweetness of a good minced beef delivery system. All in all, a pretty desultory effort particularly for a place styling itself as an urban canteen. Chips were little better and, remarkably enough for a place that had been open a matter of a few hours, tasted as if they had been cooked off in stale oil. I dipped a few in an shallow dish of passable mayonnaise and then pushed the rest to one side.
With a Quilmes Beer heftily priced at £3.40, sorry 3.4 Pounds, the bill would have come to £16.50, bringing it close to Hawksmoor’s pricing for a whole lot less quality. With the soft opening discount of 50% of the food it was an agreeable £10 including tip, still not enough to make me want to rush back, but numbing the pain of the full cost.
It doesn’t matter, however, because, by this weekend, the ground floor of The Luxe will already have become a beacon for the hip and trendy of East London. They will come to sit and chat in the light airy dining room. They will come to drink coffee and expensive beer as they read the Sunday papers and they will come to eat fish finger sandwiches while they talk about Gilbert & George.
John Torode knows exactly what his is doing and with The Luxe he has judged his audience perfectly. It’s going to be a smash hit just don’t go there for the burger.
(As a reminder of what a good hamburger should look like, the last picture is of my dream burger from Marty's in Los Angeles)