An der Villa, Steinfort, Luxembourg

If you have lived in Luxembourg for more than couple of days, you must have heard the name of Thomas Murer, who became a local celebrity in 2016 when he got to the semifinals of the cooking-show Top Chef. After this experience, Thomas worked for Aal Schoul, in Hobscheid, that was on my “to try” list for long time, until finally he left to open its own restaurant, An der Villa, in Steinfort. This time I did not want to miss my chance and through a bit of help (thanks Sandra!) got my table booked couple of weeks after the opening.

As said, the restaurant is located in Steinfort, 30 minutes drive from the city off peak hour, in this magnificent white villa – that yesterday night, with a light rain and a soft fog, had the fashion of an Agatha Christie novel.

Angela and I made our way through the candles at the entrance around 8 pm. There was not a formal welcome or a clear way in and the door accessed in the middle of the dining room. One polite lady took us through the tables to check our reservation and finally accommodated us to our place. The dining room is wide and bright, with smaller areas only slightly separated. The white is predominant and almost the unique decoration, together with minimal balloon lamps, sepia pictures without frames and light brown wooden tables – no cloth and a basic ampoule with simple white flowers.

We ordered a cremant as aperitif and were given our menu: the food proposal, as expected, is centered on the territory, with several fish, meat and veggie choices, plus two suggestions of the chef out of the menu (one meat and one fish). Should you wish, you can order a tasting menu (65 Eur, to be ordered by the entire table) that is composed by 5 courses and it is presented as the suggestions out of the menu. The menu is fixed (yesterday it included trout, foie gras, veal, beetroot among the others) and as we were not completely agreed on the items included, we decided to order a la carte, ending up to take the same dishes 🙂

We were introduced to the dinner by a delightful amuse-bouche (it was foam with a kind of arancino), remind me of the cordon bleu my mom was preparing when I was a child. As starter, we both had the fried egg in breadcrumbs while for main we had the scallops – that were among the Chef suggestions.

We drank a bottle of Alice Hartmann Riesling and concluded our dinner with a plat of cheese (should I specify it was for me?) and a dame blanche with speculoos and salted caramel for Angela.

Total bill read 201 Eur (out of which 60 Eur were for the wine).

Pictures and then my impressions of An der Villa.

Please sit down, as this is going to be a long, controversial one. And I am going to structure it a bit differently compared to the previous ones as it would be too complicated to distinguish between “like” and “don’t like”

Food. Food was in average good. I said in average as it was a bit of a rollercoaster.
The amuse-bouche was spectacular.
The fried egg was fairly good but the accent on the sweet note was too bold for me – it was prepared with langoustine, honey and a mousse with carrots and pumpkins. The salted element – herrings caviar – was too limited and it missed a balance in the consistency with a crunchy element (should have been given by the fried langoustine, but again, it was not enough).
The scallops were heaven. In this case, to me, the dish was perfectly balanced in consistency and taste, the sweet element of the Jerusalem artichoke cream, the crunchiness of the fried mushrooms, the herbs, the truffle scent (but why not the shaved slices?). I loved the dish and would have been ready to have a second portion straight away.
Finally, the cheese plat. Now – you would say, cheese is cheese, what can go wrong? Right, but only partially. To me the dish lacked totally in presentation – and slightly in content. There was no effort whatsoever and it was a pity, as the chutney that accompanied it were delicious. The effort was not even in explaining which cheese the dish was composed of – you can guess, but why you should?
The thing I appreciated most about the food I had, was to remind me of tastes of my childhood, with very local and seasonal ingredients.

Service. Our waiter was smiling, polite, lovely. He was doing his job with extreme passion – you can see it – and even if under pressure, was able to give us further information on dishes and ingredients. I really appreciated, above all in consideration of the fact that, to me, it looked the place was quite understaffed. Waiting time was a bit too long and we felt forgotten couple of times – my point is: if you decided to have the wine kept far from the table, you should monitor it very closely. If you are not in the service condition to do it, you keep the wine at the table so customers can help themselves. Our glasses were empty for most of the second part of the meal, to be filled up only when we were almost over with the dessert and we are about to order coffee. It was not a matter of carelessness by our waiter, he did not just have physical time to do so, poor thing.
The other significant item to me was the missing of a “welcome area” and a formal welcome in the restaurant: you get in the middle of the dining room, I don’t say you have to have someone to open you the door but at least a corridor / alley to wait, instead of doing it among other people eating. Similarly, the reservation sheet was on a shelf in-between tables.

The Place. Minimal atmosphere, you love it or you hate it. While I generally prefer more baroque settings, to me the ambience was really in line with the kitchen and therefore I loved it  – you had this impression to eat at newly renovated countryside house of your youngest aunt and I liked the effort of matching the spirit of the territory in the food with the shell of it. On the negative side, the acoustic of the place is horrible: while the restaurant was full but not packed, above all on our side, it was to me almost impossible to hear the waiter describing the dishes and very difficult to speak with Angela.

Finally, what Angela called the “human” element. At the end of the dinner, she told me she was fine but not impressed. And that she would have expected the Chef to come out of the kitchen to greet his guests. She told me: at that point, maybe if I shared a quick chat with him, I would have forgotten the things I did not enjoy about our dinner. I share this view. I think that, above all at the beginning of an experience, the personal element of the Chef might be able to cover those lacks or gaps that are normal when you open a new place. Well, this was not the case yesterday.

To conclude and sum up, as it was a pretty lengthy review this time. I had a pleasant dinner at An der Villa with Angela. I appreciated the strong presence of local elements in the menu of this very minimal – but noisy – restaurant out of town. I loved my scallops dish. Basically, there was nothing extremely wrong in our dinner, only couple of misaligned elements. Still, as probabily my bar of expectations was set pretty high, I was still not 100% satisfied and missed my WOW factor: food was fairly good – with some peaks up and down – but everything else was not. So at this point, my question would be: is this place worth the ride? I would say no at this stage, but I would probably give it another try in the warmer season to check if it was only a matter of time.

In the meanwhile, if you want to try it, it is perfect if you are looking for a local cuisine with an innovative accent. Great for dinner with friends or girls night out.

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Expogast 2018 – It’s a wrap!

It has been a week, now, since Expogast, the most relevant gastronomic exhibition in the world of cooking, closed its doors and it is then time to make a quick summary, in the wait, not that short, of next edition, in 4 years time.

Our “Barefoot in Luxembourg” team spent much intense and funny times behind the doors of Luxexpo The Box, from the first day of the opening ceremony, with its fires and drums: we interviewed the chefs, photographed every corner and, of course, tasted the amazing food!

The Villeroy et Boch Culinary World Cup / Expogast 2018 in Luxemburg – that this year had a specific focus on respect for food and was particularly attentive to the fight against food waste – went finally to the Swedish National Team, the silver medal to the Singapore National Team and the bronze medal to Denmark. This is to talk merely about the final results, but if you had attend the Expogast during its 5 days kermesse you probably knew it was not just that bit.

Many other gold, silver and bronze medals have been awarded in the five days at Luxexpo The Box.

If we focus on the competition of National Teams, leaving aside minor competitors such as Juniors, Community Catering and individual Chefs, they participated in two different main categories:

– the cold food competition, “Show Food”, where cutting-edge techniques are used to achieve culinary design works for exhibition (preparation is not visible)

and

– the “Hot Food” category, where a 3-course menu had to be prepared in 6 hours  during spectacular show cooking, and then served to 110 people. Indeed, it was possible for the visitors to seat down and taste these fabulous 3-course menu, but – here come the trick – you should have booked your ticket well in advance through the Expogast website – at least, we know for next edition.

In both categories, National Teams received their scores by an international jury of chefs and industry experts.

For the “Show Food” the jury’s score was based on a visual examination of the final work. For the “Hot Food”, the judges observed the work on the team also during the preparation time in their boxes and evaluating through several different criteria: method, technique, innovation, cleanliness, agility, concentration, taste, aesthetics, presentation.

Among many we talked, we were impressed by the words of Chef Gaetano Ragunì, general manager of NIC, Italian National Chefs, who explained us that there are no big differences between cooking and soccer competitions. Cooking is as well a sport discipline in all respects, completed with sacrifices, study of new techniques, night tests, long years training, mental and physical concentration and, above all, a life around the world to support the team.

This comparison left me stunned, but with one new sport to support in my life: competitive gastronomy, of course.

Aside from competitions, the Expogast consisted as well in three main halls of food products and wines, that visitors can taste during the exhibition as well as buy. So next to stands selling Turkish sweets scented of orange flowers you can taste the excellence of Italian wines, choose your oysters and lobster, try Spanish ham and drink Luxembourgish cremant.

On the last day of the Expogast, after an electrifying dance and light show, in front the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Sweden raised the well-deserved prize: a cup that is a symbol of chefs around all the continents raising the earth towards the sky.

This was my first approach to the world of cooking in Luxembourg and left me enthusiastic, I am already counting down for next edition!

Les Jardins D’Anais, Clausen, Luxembourg

Some days ago I was about to publish this article related to Les Jardins D’Anais – it was pending from the end of the summer and it was finally ready to go. As indeed I have already planned and booked to come back there next week, I decided still to keep it on hold and to go ahead with other reviews, to add some more pictures and a more detailed description. In the meanwhile, the restaurant has been awarded with its first Michelin star, so I changed the plan and decided it was a good moment to talk about my experience there.

Over summer, I was lacking inspiration for places for taking visitors when, suddenly, the opening of Les Jardins D’Anais came to rescue me – thanks Marco for the suggestion!

The place is not totally new: the location, in fact, is the same than the old Les Jardins du President and, then, Maho, just a short walk from Rives de Clausen.

I used to love its first version, as it reminds me of my arrival in Luxembourg. One of the first company I worked for used to organize very swanky Christmas parties and, at some point, in my earliest years in Luxembourg, one was at Le Jardins du President. I was quite young at the time and so was the silly boy I was dating, who was totally unused to a corporate environment and its rules. So after (more than) couple of drinks – as the open bar was an unexpected experience for him – he was jumping in the middle of the main restaurant room like I would probably do only at 7 am in front of Marco Carola. My colleagues slowly started to leave, including this very old guy who was the companion of one lady in my team. We were seated next to each other over dinner, so my boyfriend retained it was appropriate to say them farewell properly. Boyfriend complained they were “already” leaving and when the guy mentioned the fact he was not young like him, boyfriend replied “tell me the truth, now she (his wife) is tipsy so at least you will have  good f*ck at home tonight”. Wonder they did not catch his Italian humor. I just wanted to disappeared and dragged him to the taxi line without even say bye to the others.

It seems ages passed since that moment. After the period of Maho, that was not my favorite, the location has come back to Le Jardins d’Anais with some significant interior design changes and a more sophisticated, light allure.

I took our lawyer visiting from the US there right at the end of summer, as said – those pretty warm weeks we had and a place with a lovely garden seems to be a perfect bond.

We dined in the veranda – that was a great compromise to enjoy the weather without the night peak in temperatures – and we chose our dishes a la carte – even if the restaurant proposes couple of very nice set-up menus.

I went for the egg and caviar as starter followed by turbot. As it was a business dinner, I did not take pictures of my guest meal, but she had beef filet as main course and, trust me, it looked very tasty.

Pictures of the dinner (mine), followed by my impressions about Les Jardins D’Anais.

 

What I loved about Les Jardins D’Anais:

  • The place is perfect: the structural changes that has been done made it really bright and peaceful – I remember at Maho I had issue to understand what was in my dish as it was too dark. At Les Jardins D’Anais you will not have this issue. The tract I appreciated most is that the ambience is so reserved and quiet you will feel kilometers aways from the noisy of Rives de Clausen. It is a fairy tales’ heaven in the middle of the city.
  • Food was just wow. I am not in the position nor I have the knowledge to say more than what the Guide Michelin has already said, but I appreciated in particular the complex composition of dishes, all made by different textures, perfectly combined. I also liked very much that tastes were really light, perfectly balanced, soft.
  • Service is in line with the ambience and cannot be differently. We felt pampered the all night since the first step into the restaurant – just to mention one small detail: I went out to have a phone call in-between courses and the waiter accommodated me at a table in the garden and went even inside to take my glass of wine.
  • Lastly, they have an amazing wine list – that to me is a quite important detail -. We had a remarkable Barolo and my guest was amazed by the whole dinner experience.

Nothing to note on the downsides, our dinner was to remember. Still, I was happy it was a business dinner as with 4 glasses of Champagne, 2 starters, 2 mains, 1 bottle of Barolo, 2 coffee, we hit almost the 400 Eur bill – said that, the Barolo was also the pricey part.

In conclusion: I am very glad Les Jardins D’Anais was awarded with its first Michelin star. My experience there was delightful and I look forward to come back next week. The place is very calm, bright and heavenly, even if just in the middle of the city. The food proposal, ca va sans dire, is amazing and it is perfect for a business dinner, a romantic date or a special celebration. During summer, the garden is definitely an unbeatable asset.

 

New place: Skybar Restaurant and Bar, Bertrange, Luxembourg

Happy Monday! Another week has just started and I though it would have been a good idea, instead of fishing into my still pretty deep backlog, to inaugurate it with a brand new restaurant review. I posted some updated on my IG account during / after my visit at Skybar restaurant and bar and I received so many questions I felt very motivated to write this morning, despite a cold and unproductive week-end.

The opening of the new Skybar restaurant and bar was highly anticipated by a very mysterious social media campaign. A website was in place already couple of months ago, together with the possibility to reserve a table starting from November 15th, the day of the official opening. Pictures were very limited until the opening day, referring just to few interior design details, and they were no indications regarding the menu card or what kind of the food to expect. This was enough to make me very excited and to book my table for the day after the opening as soon as bookings were possible!

The Skybar is part of the new extension of City Concorde mall in Bertrange, not exactly in the city center, but still easily accessible by car and by bus (bus n. 6 from Gare Rocade / Hamilius taking around 15 minutes from the latest, off-peak hours).

As I really did not know what to expect, we reserved at 7:30 and, at that time, the mall shops were still opened and packed, so it was a bit awkward getting in fully dressed up. Once out of the elevator that is leading you to the second floor, the situation totally changed. The Skybar welcomed us with dark and wide windows on the floor and a crowd of curious people trying to spot what inside.
The atmosphere, there, was sophisticated and cosmopolitan, definitely reminiscing of an upscale lounge in a European bigger capital. I loved the contrast between the baroque bar at the entrance and the huge, linear kitchen on display at the end of the room. Space between the tables is more than fair and we were accommodated to one on the second row. Do not expect Heron Tower view – the issue here is not how tall the building is, but mainly that outside is very dark. The view should be amazing during the day. The space on the terrace is large almost as much as the one of the restaurant and it is already furnished with minimal, colorful design piece – we were already anticipating with Jenni long happy hours over the next summer season.

While sipping our fist glass of champagne of the night, we were studying the menu just handled to us. There is a very interesting separate drink list, with classic choices mixed with innovative cocktails’ names. Next to that, an alluring food menu: starters, mains including a wide vegetarian list of proposals and a ceviche bar, desserts, all with classic roots but contemporary mise-en-scene.

I went for salmon as starter and Jenni for scallops – but we ended up having half and half to try both. As main, I chose out of the ceviche menu – even if I was intrigued as well by most of the dishes proposed – the langoustine and pimento ceviche. Jenni had the octopus.

I concluded, ca va sans dire, with a plat of cheese, while Jenni had a matcha cheesecake. During the dinner, I had two glasses of Viognier and one glass of bio red proposed by the waiter with the cheese. We concluded with espresso and a grappa.

Total bill, including 2 starters, 2 main, 2 desserts, 2 aperitif, water, wine, coffee and digestif (we check all the boxes 🙂 ), read 170 Eur.

Pictures of our dinner and my first impressions regarding Skybar restaurant and bar to follow.


What I loved about Skybar restaurant and bar:

  • This is going to be definitely my week-end place to dine. I loved the atmosphere: sophisticated, without being excessively formal, modern, made of strident contrasts between the predominant dark colors of the interior and the colorful, bold details around the furniture. Background music (electronic/minimal): definitely an asset. Interesting crowd around: well dressed people of every age, great to see and to be seen. I talked a lot in the past reviews about places where you can have drinks & food in the mood for clubbing afterwards and this is definitely that kind of place that was missing.
  • Food was my personal highlight, as it overcame my expectations: I did not know what to await and when a place is such a show-off on the appearance side, it often ends up being boring or “already seen” on the gastronomic side. Not the case of Skybar: the food, from the amuse-bouche down to the cheese, was amazing. Every dish was complete in all its sides: difference in consistency, mix of tastes, roundness to the palate, presentation. I would definitely order again the langoustine ceviche (maybe not during a date LOL), but all the dishes we had were outstanding.
  • Couple of reviews ago I was talking about the fact that places that are just opened normally have room for improvements and it is normal to accept some small deficiencies in terms of service, as the team is still working on trial. Well, at Skybar there is nothing I could say about the service, except that it was great. Smiling, precise, on time. Our breaks between courses were never too long and we were offered cordial suggestions on our choices. Bravo.

What I liked a bit less about Skybar restaurant and bar:

  • I think if you get here, you already understood I loved the place and there is nothing to date I would change. Personally speaking, I would book again at a later slot for dinner – as said, it is a bit strange getting in through the mall with people still shopping – but this is definitely a failure on my side, as I was too curious to try it for booking later. Also – if you want to go there – booking is almost mandatory – try to make up your mind in advance, as they are now fully book for the next couple of weeks – I placed my next reservation, as soon as out, for mid-December. The online reservation system is very smart and user-friendly, so check online availabilities.

In conclusion: I believe the Skybar restaurant and bar might be the next place to be in the Luxembourg gastronomic and nightlife scene. The place is perfect to have dinner with friends or a date, before going out, for a celebration, “just because you need champagne”: it is posh, without being formal, the atmosphere is glamorous, the interior design urbane, the service young and fresh. It is definitely a place with a bold personality and an interesting menu, including vegetarian choices. Highly recommended if you fancy something different and new.

 

A coffee with… Alessio Zappala

He is the one in charge of “feeding” the Italian Ambassador in Luxembourg. He knows her tastes and works hardly to delight the palate of the renowned personalities from Luxemburg and European political scene who frequent her table.

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His name is Alessio Zappala, known as Chef Alessio, he was born in Sicily, Italy, and he is a volcano of gastronomic knowledge, stubbornness and happiness. This might have been probably what impressed the Ambassador Mrs. Rossella Franchini, before choosing him for her kitchen. We met Alessio for a coffee at Caffé Torino in a sunny morning and ask him some questions, for the readers of Barefoot in Luxembourg to get know him better.


Angela
– Chef, what does it mean for a young chef to play such an institutional role?
Alessio – Working for the Italian Ambassador in Luxembourg is a mission. And not just for what you represent, but for the commitment it takes to promote Italian culinary culture in this country. Since I have been working for her, I had the opportunity to work toward my philosophy.

AN – And what is your philosophy?
AL – Here in Luxembourg, Italian restaurants do not lack, indeed, we can say that there are a lot. Despite this, finding who really respects the tradition and the high quality of our products is very difficult. And I understand it, because it is often more effective to meet local tastes and to choose products easily available rather than making efforts to keep up the pure, authentic Italian gastronomic proposal. So I commit myself and I fight for not coming down to these compromises. Each Italian recipe is made of typical ingredients, most of which are excellent. Let us use them, let people know, we don’t have to add elements that have nothing to do with our culture.

AN – You’re right. I am on your side. And tell me how the ambassador caught you?
AL – In 2014 I won the Bronze Medal at the World Cooking Championship at ExpoGast, an international haute cuisine event, in which I obviously represented Italy. That was followed by the silver medal during the period when I was in the Federation of Italian chefs in Belgium. These occasions are unique, you know, to make yourself known. Not to mention my commitment in Luxembourg to grow the Italian Chefs Federation.
So, coming back to your question, it was that one evening a few months ago, I received a proposal that I could not refuse 😉

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AN – And now you cannot get away from the one question: what does the Ambassador fancy to eat?
AL – The ambassador has refined tastes and is respectful of every single ingredient. It is for this reason that she does not like the excess of spices and sauces, to taste the most authentic flavor of the dish. She decides the main and the sides. And as she decides, there are no further questions.
As for her preferences, she especially loves game prepared with the typical Italian aromatic herbs and the sauce that is naturally released during cooking. Then she often makes herself the bread with which she delights family and guests.

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AN – Thanks Alessio, it’s always nice to meet people through their tastes. And tell us, where will we find you soon?
AL – This year, from 24 to 28 November, the Expogast is back, returning to Luxembourg every 4 years and featuring international culinary art. With a lot of competitions, between 46 teams of different nationalities for the “Villeroy & Boch Culinary World Cup”. Well, I will coordinate the Italian team.
So dear Italian readers (and not only!), come to cheer for us!

AN – We, at Barefoot in Luxembourg, will certainly be there. So now last question: What have you got up your sleeve?
AL – There is something in preparation on the menu, but I cannot announce anything yet. Readers will have to wait a few month, they have to stay tuned until next interview 😉

AN – Thanks for this pleasant coffee together, Alessio
AL – Thanks to you Angela for having given me the possibility to talk about my projects on the blog.

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If you want to follow Chef Alessio Zappala check his Facebook Page here.

Pictures are courtesy of Laura Iberti. Follow her Instagram account here.

Agave Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar, Hollerich, Luxembourg

This was for me the most waited opening of 2018 – you know why? As I live just nearby and when I saw “tequila bar opening soon” my heart started giggling – LOL.

So when finally Agave opened its door last month, it jumped at the top of my place to try – and my dear friend Jenni came to support me – never seen she left me drinking alone one week-end.

We booked for Halloween night – and I recognize now, it might not have been a great idea as first try, therefore my review should be read in consideration of the above.

We got there around 8ish and the place – that is kind of small – was already packed. I was immediately surprised to note how they did a great job to chance completely its appearance compared to its predecessor (“I Quattro Mori“, that now moved to Esch/Alzette). The restaurant now is colorful, bold, joyful. Remind me of this tequila bar just off the harbor in Isla Mujeres that was serving giant Margaritas – I definitely need some Caribbean vacations I did not take this year!

Anyway – as said, we got there and it was very full. We had our table and we were given menu card. Now, as usual, we started with the idea of limiting our choices as we wanted to “go out” after. We ordered, in the meanwhile, two frozen margaritas, classic, and went after for two starters and one main to share. As starter we had nachos with guacamole and shrimps ceviche, followed by shrimps tacos.

Our wait was the longest I remember in a while and when we were almost done with our second drink and I started feeling tipsy, we checked for our food. Finally, after 5 minutes, it arrived, all together.

As we were pretty in a hurry to get downtown later, we skipped the coffee and the tequila – we actually had them at my place while waiting for our cab 🙂

Our bill: 4 margaritas, 1 bottle of water, 1 guacamole and nachos, 1 shrimps ceviche, 1 shrimps tacos (4 pieces), read 81 Eur in total.

Pictures of the dinner followed by my first impressions about Agave.

What I liked about Agave:

  • The restaurant is lovely: the atmosphere feels authentic, I love the decorations and it is everything but commercial. I think they did a great job trying to give the place a different accent compared to those already existing in the city, something never seen, and I definitely appreciate it – you don’t feel to be in Luxembourg and it is a difficult exercise considering the surrounding area.
  • The food was truly good: loved the guacamole and the shrimps tacos, really. Ceviche was to me a bit a hit and a miss – it was good but could not enjoyed it fully as it was submersed in raw onions – and if you plan a night out, it might not be the greatest thing to eat – not that I had to kiss anyone, but still.
  • The menu also has some very interesting choices: as Jenni does not eat meat, we were a bit limited, but I want definitely to come back to try other dishes that I saw running around toward other tables and looked very good. Portions are also more than fair.
  • Last, but not least, our margarita was amazing, the list of cocktails is fascinating and I would definitely go for a cocktail again.

What I liked a bit less about Agave:

  • Now the painful part. We waited to much, really too much. More than 1 hour and 15 minutes to get nachos and guacamole to me it is definitely not acceptable and I was very annoyed. To make it up, they took everything together, that was also something I didn’t appreciate – as table was small and after 10 minutes food was over.
    I don’t feel the urge to be bad and I think what happened might be considered acceptable considering Agave has been open for less than 1 month, so it is still on trial. And, not to forget, it was Halloween night, so it was fully booked. We talked with a friend who dined there just the day before and said she had a very relaxed dinner. So, keep up and I am sure things will improve.
  • Second thing we noted is that, as it was full but relatively small, it tended to become very noisy – perfect for friends’ dinner, a bit less in that specific case for a romantic rendez-vous.

So – in conclusion: Agave is a new Mexican restaurant at the very end of rue de Hollerich. Decorations are colorful, drinks amazing and food tasty. The place has been opened for less than one month, therefore there might be still room for improvements (for us, the waiting time ). It is a vibrant place with a different kind of cozy atmosphere and I would definitely visit it again on a calmer night to taste other items off their interesting menu list. Strongly recommended for a night out with friends.

 

 

After-work at El Barrio, Kirchberg, Luxembourg

One of the nicest things about working in Kirchberg is that, during the week, after work, I have often the possibility to visit places that I would normally not, as totally opposite than the area where I live now .

Over the week of Holy Mary, in August, I had some friends visiting from Italy and as I could not take all the week off – even if I would! – during the working week one evening they came to pick me up at the office and we decided for the first round of drinks to stay around there. We took the opportunity to visit for the first time El Barrio, the Spanish restaurant that recently replaced La Boqueria.

If you remember my previous reviews, La Boqueria used to be one of my favorite places for food and ambience and I had also a private dinner there with Sergi Arola and was awesome. On the other side, it was coming pretty expensive (that generally for me it is not necessarily a negative point but I could see where the comment was coming from) and, above all, the last couple of times I have visited it, the service was not memorable – well, I would say, it was awful. In particular, I have been there less than 10 days before the final closure and I remember I had the clear feeling things were going downhill – while we spent more than 200 Euro only for drinks and some tapas and even if the place was completely empty, we have been relegated to the smallest table in the room and we were ignored for all the time of the dinner.

Anyway – this is history now and I was happy the place found quite soon a new investor.

The location of El Barrio did not change much and it is still stunning. Again, one of my favorite place in Luxembourg for ambience. We didn’t reserve and we understood in the future this might be a bad idea, considering it was a Monday night the place was really full already at 7:30 pm. Luckily they were able to find us a spot.

We were accommodate at the first floor, that, even having an open view on the restaurant, it is slightly less formal.

We went right for tapas and sangria – what else? We ordered octopus (clearly one of my favorite dish), cod fingers, patron peppers, garlic bread and tuna fish filled peppers.

Pictures of our after-work (and of our silly pose in their unique bathroom) followed by my impressions about El Barrio.

What I liked about El Barrio:

  • The food was delicious: we had only a small selection and I definitely could not judge the whole menu at this stage, but what we had was really, really tasty. My favorite bite was definitely the octopus – if it was not for my friend to stop me, I would have ordered other 3 portions. So if octopus is your thing, I would recommend to order it. Also the patron peppers were yummy and this is a dish I failed to find authentic out of Spain – not in this case.
  • The place, once again, is lovely: if you are fed up of the standard minimal black and white decorations that are being cool in most of the new restaurants in Luxembourg now, if you are looking for a place that brings you joy and light, this is definitely the place for you. This is not the kind of place where you can be in a bad mood. I bet you will smile as soon as you enter the door.
  • Last, but not least, the service: as I said before, the service was a big NO for me at the previous restaurant and I was a bit afraid of seeing how service would have been managed in a place so big, as I understand it might not be easy. Indeed, we could have not been happier: we had only one server for the night – that to me is the best choice – and he was one of the most amazing server I had ever encountered in my “blogger career” – no jokes. He was nice explaining us the dishes and the formulas, to address our doubts without being pushy, great to ensure our night was going well and finally to accompany us to the stairs when leaving. Very good job!

What I liked a bit less about El Barrio:

  • So, as per above, our evening was very pleasant and I look forward to come back again to try the full menu. If I have only to find couple of notes: it was August and the weather was cloudy but not that bad. We want to eat on the terrace (that is covered, so not a big issue) and we couldn’t, as it was closed. We couldn’t even smoke there and had to go each and every time downstairs. I think one of the nice things of El Barrio is definitely the terrace and it is a pity to keep it completely closed for the clients.
  • Regarding the food, it was all tasty and well presented. The only dish I would not order again and I would not recommend would be the garlic bread. I was expecting some hot and salty grilled bread, what we received was a plain baguette accompanied by aioli sauce. Reading back the menu at home, it was clear that my expectations were wrong (and it says bread and garlic mayo), but still not worth it to me.

In conclusion: I am happy to say that for what I have seen so far El Barrio really improved the general standards compared to the previous brand. Food is delicious, portions more than fair as well as prices and our service was amazing. To that, you have to add this is one of the most stunning location in Luxembourg and your view is completed. I would say this is perfect for an upmarket after-work, for a business event, a girls night out and definitely a date – in that case, if you invite me, be aware I would go for the Royal Sangria 😛