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

Monday, June 14, 2010


Almost twenty years ago to the day I was on my way home from work when I passed a new restaurant being fitted out for its opening the following week. I went in, had a chat with the owners and made a reservation. Unfortunately, in my excitement I’d made the booking for the same day as the opening match of Italia ‘90. Fortunately, the meal at Cibo was fantastic and the Italian staff kept me updated on the progress of the match.

So what? Well it’s just one example of the basic Dos Hermanos MO which has never changed in many years of eating out. We’ve always loved going to restaurants, talking about restaurants and having an opinion on them for over forty years. Even better is the excitement we get when visiting new restaurants. To paraphrase a man more talented than I:

It's not some game we play
It's in our DNA
It's what we do

I can’t speak for HS but my view has always been that at any new opening there are going to be hiccups, in both food and service, but the experience will probably be as good as it’s going to get. Most places will struggle to keep standards up – though some places do – after that initial period when everyone has an adrenaline high and are super keen, and newspaper reviewers are cluttering up the joint.

Café Luc was just a few days into its soft-opening period when I visited but it didn’t really have the buzz I would expect at a new restaurant. It’s the sister place of somewhere called Café Theatre in Ghent and owned by some rich bloke who also owns Le Pain Quotidien, a branch of which, not so coincidentally, lies just across Marylebone High Street.

The owners didn’t appear to be present though and the disconnectedness of everything: the food, service and general atmosphere, made be wonder if they had just faxed a menu to somebody in London and told them to just get on with it.

It’s a nice enough space as you’d expect from Stiff + Trevelyan although as usual with such places I always start wondering how the owners are going to claw all the money back. All was made clear when I read the menus. Bar snacks (not available when I visited) hover around the £7-£8 mark, starters are mostly in double figures, a Goats’ cheese pizza is the cheapest main at £11.50. Crikey, that must be some pizza.

I should point out that there was 50% off the cost of the food when I visited but future visits would require a well stocked wallet. Mind you I doubt if I’ll be returning: some tough bread and a pot of butter lightly glistening with frost was only the start of a downward trajectory of my meal.

Conscious I’ve not been eating enough seafood recently I decided stay with things fishy for my supper. Just as well as I got a whiff of something fishy as I was served a baked Scallop. It was a big bugger served in the shell which was sealed with pastry. It looked a little untidy outside and was a bit of a mess inside. The scallop hadn’t been prepped particularly carefully and wasn’t the sweetest specimen going and I’ve not sure cooking inside the shell worked for such a large specimen. There was a pale, strip of bacon and some chopped leeks. At a fiver it barely made ok, at full price I’d want the kitchen to put a lot more effort into the dish.

Ditto with the Shrimp Croquettes which slewed comically on a plate that was too large for its cargo. The croquettes themselves were cooked ok with a nice greaseless crust but the filling was too liquid for my tastes. To amuse myself while eating them I played hunt the shrimp. I didn’t find many of the little blighters which might have explained the filling.

Sea Bream cooked on a plancha (it says here) again didn’t smell like the freshest piece of fish I’m ever going to eat. It was a bit flabby and fell apart far too easily. We really have problems cooking fish accurately in this country. The onion compote underneath was ok. Best were the unadvertised bits of squid that had also had the plancha treatment and had that smoky taste that derives from the application of direct heat on cephalopods.

Spinach came with some unwanted cheese. Frites, well, don’t bother. Dull wines, served in funny glasses added to the unease with which I endured my meal: once I’d chomped my way through that scallop I was already to give up on the place.

I decided to soldier on as I was intrigued as to what speculums Ice Cream was. Answer: as ice creams go, not very interesting. The Salted Caramel and the Vanilla similarly shared the same Steve Davis tendency. At least the coffee was decent.

I’m not a frequent visitor to Belgium but during my last trip to Brussels my meals were characterised by competent, honest cooking which while it may not have thrilled had a generosity of spirit which made one feel totally happy to be there.

It was admittedly an early visit to Café Luc but I can’t seem them ever developing that same joie de vivre. Not much good news from Ghent these days.

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Anonymous Goodforlunch said...

Harsh but probably fair! Did like the coffee cups. Sea Bass was better.

I think Luc was there at lunch, old rich looking guy sat at the bar. Didn't know about the Le Pain connection. Keep meaning to visit one of those but don't think I'd enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 12:16:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speculoos is Flemish gingerbread. So now you know! ;-) Ben

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 1:54:00 pm  
Anonymous Harters said...

I'm a fairly regular visitor to Flanders. If a place with such strong links to the area cannot make a decent shrimp croquette (perhaps the classic starter of the area), then it's a case of nuff said.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 5:07:00 pm  
Anonymous May said...

Had only just read about this in the papers. Not much fanfare about it's opening and going by your review it's not worth trying. Saves me a trip, thanks.

Surprising that this doesn't work as Le Pain Quotidien is not bad for a quickie simple meal, albeit a bit pricey for bit of bread and bits.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 6:07:00 pm  
Anonymous McLeish said...

Can't stand the pretentious pain quotidien,and its yuppie customers.
This place sounds similar,only without the dogs and kids.
Thanks for the warning.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 8:39:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the scallop looks gross. and that's from someone who loves scallops.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 8:42:00 am  
Blogger Alix said...

Speculoos are the little spice biscuits you get with coffee in Belgian cafes. If you're ever in Brussels, check out the speculoos ice cream at Glacier Zizi in rue Vanderkindere in the borough (commune) of Uccle. It's excellent. The ice creams are so popular that the shop only needs to open during the summer months. Other Belgian shops with, er, limited service don't have nearly so good an excuse.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 6:23:00 pm  
Anonymous Barbara said...

I'm very surprised to read this review. I went to eat at Cafe Luc yesterday and really enjoyed it. The atmosphere was nice and laid back, and the organic chicken was delicious!! But the best was clearly the pineapple desert, definitely worth a try.

Friday, June 18, 2010 9:27:00 pm  
Anonymous Ben said...

Guys, you have made me obsessed with spotting shills! Barbara, SHILL!!!!!

Friday, June 25, 2010 12:11:00 pm  
Anonymous Charles said...

Ah I get it!

Put in a comment that's not in line with the inaccurate review of the restaurant, then you're a shill!

Sorry, but I got a completely different experience of Cafe Luc. To start with, the atmosphere works just great for me. The people are nice, efficient and polite and a chat with the owner added to the attention that I was given.

The dishes seam just great. On the first occasion I had a duck of the Landes. It was perfectly cooked and had a lot of flavour. On the second occasion I had the onglet, again very tasty.

The wine card is quite impressive and seems to be well chosen with references coming from family owned estates (they did a great job at eliminating the dull 'negociants' like Jadot, Guigal, Drouhin, ...) from France and internationally. With such names as Chapoutier, Domaine des Perdrix, Shaw and Smith, ... anyone calling this card dull must be dumb. Anyway, I had a good sip of Bouzereau's Meursault 'Les Tessons' with the duck, the Château de Côme St-Estèphe with the onglet, laid back and enjoyed my time.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010 6:43:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Hi Charles,

Glad you had a good time. What puzzles me though is how you know what sort of experience I had. This either makes you extremely empathic or a complete fuckwit. I suspect it's the latter.

Happy Eating!


Tuesday, June 29, 2010 11:42:00 pm  
Anonymous Charles said...


Maybe because I read your article from beginning to end.
Maybe because you made your point clear.
Maybe because your article was not in line with the kind of experience I got, on two occasions, though we can agree, it wasn't in a soft opening period (at least, it didn't appear like that to me).

Anyway, that doesn't entitle me to call you a fuckwit, nor does my comment entitle you to call me a fuckwit.

Your article and your comment just entitle me to question your taste and your judgment.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 10:35:00 am  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

The thing is, Charles old boy, you could have just put that you had a different, better experience but instead you start using words like "inaccurate" and "dumb".

It's quite clear you haven't a clue what you're talking about and so my comment still stands. Hopefully, they'll be along soon to take you back to the home you've escaped from.



Wednesday, June 30, 2010 3:31:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

You also appear to have been accessing the site from Belgium. Please tell me you have nothing to do with the company or the owners - it would make me sad.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010 9:46:00 pm  
Blogger bron said...

Is it a prerequisite to shill that you must use painfully stilted english? Just asking as it seems to be a common trait.

Good review - shan't be taking myself there any time soon.

Thursday, August 19, 2010 11:31:00 am  
Anonymous Charles said...

Don't be sad Hermano1.

My wife works with a Belgian Telco. It's quite clear you haven't a clue on IPs. If you want to, I can explain you some day.

Concerning the rest of your 'post', did you add any extra information to the conversation? Doesn't appear like that. Well, I didn't expect it anyway. It just explains the value of your comments... and how they 'stand' (how pretentious can one be?)

Bron, fantastic how you can judge a review based on no experience by yourself (how little self-esteem can one have?).

Anyway, yesterday I was back at Cafe Luc. Lots of smiling people. Jazzy music. Great shrimp croquette and perfect steak tartare, prepared for me by the waitress. The Mâcon Villages was mineral, zesty, hint of smokiness and hazelnut. Service amicable and precise.

And, oh yes, it seems that the pros, those who know what they are talking about, actually like Cafe Luc. Why am I not surprised?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 6:51:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...


Could we have this comment again, but perhaps this time in English so I can have a clue what you are talking about?


Tuesday, August 24, 2010 9:43:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

Bonjour Charles,

Good to hear from you again - you always brighten up our day with your semi-literate ramblings.

Note quite sure what you're trying to say but I assume it's just more random insults. Which says it all really.

Anyway, glad somebody's enjoying the place - it was deserted when I walked past last Saturday lunchtime.

Don't be a stranger.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010 11:29:00 pm  
Anonymous Charles said...

ouch, that hurts!
not ;-)

I don't think I'm alone in liking the place. You might want to take a look at toptable. But then again, all these people, sorry shill, probably don't know what they're talking about as they say the opposite of what you 'stand by'.

Hey, who knows, it might even have been me who posted all the comments. Maybe I must consider making a profession out of this shill-thing.

So long guys, it's been fun conversing with you. It was quite pointless, to you and me, but I'm quite happy with that. It'd be awkward to me should we have agreed on dining matters.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010 2:34:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 1 said...

What was that? Something about toptable?

Never mind, one day you'll know a bit more about food and wine. When you do, come back and say Hi.



Thursday, August 26, 2010 7:09:00 pm  
Blogger roym said...

wow, what an ill mannered exchange.

anyway, went yesterday eve, had steak tartar followed by chicken in champagne sauce. that came with papardelle i could have eaten all evening. all were absolutely delicious. also had a glass of oude compangie wine, only because id never heard of it.
perfectly enjoyable evening but maybe prices are a little harsh for this kind of "grand cafe" thing. maybe you should give it another crack?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010 12:45:00 pm  

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