"It's not much but it's ours"

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


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)

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Anonymous Ken Watson said...

I walked by it,and can confirm the music loudness.I can never figure out why there is such loud music at many places.The customers have to shout to speak to each other-which is not exactly relaxing.The noise dulls the senses and make you want to rush it just for the bored staff?
Anyway, coarse rather than course meat?And does Kraft actually make cheese?Or were you making a joke about the fluorescent orange, plastic, rubbish that passes for cheese in the USA?

Tuesday, September 01, 2009 3:10:00 p.m.  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Thanks for picking up on the typo. Duly changed

Yep, Kraft makes cheese and it actually works in the context of a burger. It should just be allowed to melt!



Tuesday, September 01, 2009 3:12:00 p.m.  
Blogger Patrick said...

At first I thought the last burger picture was just another angle of The Luxe Burger and thought it actually looked quite nice. Oh well.

Your description of East London types "They will come to drink coffee and expensive beer as they read the Sunday papers and they come to eat fish finger sandwiches while they talk about Gilbert & George." was spot on.

They'll also do it wearing very expensive glasses made to look like 1970's NHS frames too. With clear leneses in them.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009 3:28:00 p.m.  
Blogger thegoodfoodquest said...

I recently visited Gourmet Burger Kitchen in York. Cost us just under £50 for five of us, but I have to say it was good. They have outlets throughout the UK, and on my two visits, the burgers are the tops!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009 11:07:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My main issue with supposed "gourmet" burgers (if you'll forgive the phrase - i mean any burger for which they try and charge you 8.50 - 10 quid), is that in their attempts to show you that the burger is not straight off a production line, it comes looking like a cricket ball. Rounded in middle, impossible to get a bite of properly and it destroys the bun instantly.

Your contrasting pictures display the point nicely. Well made burgers can and should be a patty, rather than a ball of meat.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009 9:17:00 a.m.  
Blogger Grobelaar said...

Did some burgers on the barbecue at the weekend and put Kraft Cheese slices on for old-times sakes. Wasn't a fan to be honest. The slices were too thick and cloying and yeah they were melted too. Wish I could have got some cheaper/thinner cheese slices - but Waitrose probably isn't the finest purveyor of processed cheese slices. Still just off cheese on burgers - think it's unnecessary addition.

Thursday, September 03, 2009 2:28:00 p.m.  
Blogger Douglas Blyde said...

They will come to drink BAD coffee (what a silly place The Luxe is)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009 10:30:00 a.m.  

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