Trattoria da Gino, Luxembourg City

The story is the same: you see “work in progress” on a window in the city previously occupied by a restaurant you walk by and you start to wonder which kind of food you are going to eat there next. And then, when the sign unveils, you discover that it is, once again, an Italian restaurant.

The question is: do we need another Italian restaurant in town? This was the same I might have initially crossed my mind when I discovered that, at the place of a lunch eatery next the station, an Italian trattoria was going to open, Trattoria da Gino.

My curiosity has never been stopped by a cliché, therefore I decided anyway to try the restaurant – well, I said, even if it was just another boring Italian night, would still be Italian.

I could have not been more wrong.

The place itself, to start with, it is quite different from most of the Italian places I have been in the city: bright is the first adjective I would use to describe it, cozy, relaxed, with a clean and open kitchen on view at the end of the main room – open kitchen in an Italian restaurant in Luxembourg for me is a first time.

First time I visited Trattoria da Gino was a very calm Saturday night at the end of August, during the Fair, and the restaurant was full but not packed. We have been welcome by the owner, Gino – you have probably seen him already around as he has an astonishing experience in the food industry in Luxembourg.

While drinking an aperitif, I discovered the lovely details of the place. The restaurant embraced perfectly the concept of Italian “trattoria” : there is not a menu, but the dishes proposed a la carte change on a daily basis for dinner, are limited to a few and are written on a huge chalkboard on the wall.

We decided to share a starter (“vitello tonnato”, a North Italian cold dish composed by tiny slices of veal and a tuna fish sauce). For main, I went for “Fusilli Calabresi con Sugo di Porcelletto” – homemade pasta from the South of Italy with a piglet sauce, while my friend had Roasted Duck with Plums sauce.

During the meal, we drank one of my favorite wine ever – Marina Cvetic Montepulciano. The list of wine – as the food card – is limited but has indeed some extremely interested items.

Our dinner and our entire evening were amazingly pleasant: I was surprised above all by the fact that, even if the place is low key and casual (exactly a “trattoria”), ingredients are gourmet, dishes are polished, wine list has a lovely selection and the dish presentation is definitely very refined – more like a high end restaurant than a casual eatery.

I did not mention the taste of the food, which was amazing.

I did not miss the chance to come back to visit Gino very soon afterwards – fact is, they are publishing the daily menu on their FB page and when I am leaving the office and I see something I like, as it is very close to where I live, I just ask myself: do you want to cook or do you want to have …? Well, you know already the reply.

On my second visit, I had another succulent dish – “fregola” (an Italian small type of pasta typical from Sardinia) with sea food followed by a delicious Baba’ with rhum – still dreaming about that. Another time, I had a sandwich with octopus. Then I lost the count…

Well – actually I have been there on a wine tasting night – but I am happy I did not have many pictures about that, but only blurred memories and a memorable headache to follow 🙂
Indeed, Gino is also organizing special nights that are just a good excuse to try the place – on a regular basis, there are wine tasting events and after-works. Watch out the Facebook page for more update.

To conclude, the striking contrast between the concept of the restaurant – a low key Italian trattoria – and the result they obtained – a fine-dining selection of dishes and ingredient, special wines and sophisticated presentation – is making Trattoria da Gino a unique place in its style on the Luxembourg scene – and therefore a must to visit.

This article has been adapted from the one we originally published as contributors on the new Editus website.

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.

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.

 

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 😛

 

Mu Restaurant at Sofitel Le Grand Ducal

Unexpectedly but true, we are finally back on track with our reviews. As you may have already seen, there are couple of news on the blog, starting from our new addition Angela, who will take care of gastro-events and will help Jenni and I in covering as much as we can about the social life in Luxembourg.

Now – talking about food – on Friday night it was finally girls-night and with a big night ahead, Jenni and I decided to have some food, but in style, before hitting the dance floor. Normally ,when we go out on the week-ends, I don’t like having a full 3-courses dinner – I am 36, you know, and afterwards I would feel just the urge to jump in my bed instead of at Paname 🙂
At the same time, while having some tapas style dinner, we were looking for a kind of poshy location – as we wanted to dress up a bit for the night 🙂 – so we decided to try Mu, the almost new restaurant inside Sofitel Le Grand Ducal. Indeed Mu has been since its opening on my “to try” list, but I was always skipping it, as my previous dining experiences at Sofitel were awful.

We got a reservation for 8:30 pm on Friday night and our welcome was nice and friendly. The restaurant has been completely changed compared to when it was “L’Etoile Top Floor” and has a more relaxed and young appearance – still stylish and sophisticated, but more on the urban side.

The mood of the menu has also completely changed: understood it was our first time there, our waiter was really nice to explain us the formulas. There are several tapas, perfect to share or as starter, and then a list of main. While the focus of the main courses can be definitely found in beef dishes (with a great choice of sides and homemade sauces), the menu is not shy of solutions for non-meat eaters.

We drunk a glass of champagne before starting and as per our plan, we went for tapas: we ordered babaganoush (eggplant hummus), vegetarian fataya (pastry ravioli), clams, tuna tataki, scallops and octopus.

Dishes were surprisingly good: as said, based on my past experiences with Sofitel Le Grand Ducal, my expectations were not that high. I was glad to be extremely wrong. In particular, the scallops were amazing (and I am not a fan of scallops), lightly hot and with grilled pineapple. Octopus, prepared with pimento du patron (one of the dishes I miss most from Lanzarote), was soft and tasty. And finally the tuna tataki was just fresh, delicious and perfectly prepared.

The other two tapas – babaganoush and fataya – were definitely nice but personally speaking missed a bit of the quid other dishes had (the fataya in particular) so I would not order them again.

Over the course of the dinner, we drunk an amazing Chassagne-Montrachet 2012.

After 6 tapas in total we were pretty full, so even if the list of dessert (and the cheese selection) was great, we decided to conclude with a coffee and two rounds of digestif.

Pictures of our dinner followed by my impressions.


What I loved about Mu Luxembourg
:

  • I loved the mood of the place: it is refined and sophisticated, without being too formal. The view, ca va sans dire, is worth alone the visit and it is perfect for a date but also for a night with friends.
  • The tapas we had were to die for: I loved, loved the food and I cannot wait to come back to try further dishes on the menu. What was also impressive for me was that portions were not too tiny (6 tapas in two were enough for a girls’ dinner) and the prices are extremely fair (tapas are between 8 and 12 euros and main courses between 15 and 37 euros). This is definitely a place you can visit for having a lovely, tasteful, elegant dinner without asking for a loan.
  • The service was nice and polite, with some ups and downs, as normal: in particular, our welcome was great and at the restaurant reception they were outstanding. During the night we had a bit the feeling to have been forgotten, but it was quickly recovered at the end with a delightful farewell.

What I liked a bit less about Mu Luxembourg:

  • I enjoyed very much our time there. As said, maybe because my expectations were very not that high, our evening came out amazing and I would definitely recommend the place and come back again soon. If I only have to find something I was less than impress, the prices for SOME drinks. While the food menu is more than reasonable for such high-class restaurant, a glass of pink champagne is billed 37 Eur (yes, you read right) and the cheapest Cognac is also around 20 Eur. Still, if you want not to faint when you get the check, you have other options (international digestifs, like Limoncello or Bayles, for example, are still around 8 Euros) and the list of wine is coming with some nice options around 40 Eur.

In conclusion: if you are looking for a place with a modern elegant twist, but without unneeded white gloves, Mu is the place for you. They propose a fairly priced menu with amazing tapas – and some good-looking meat choices I have yet to try, including burgers. The service is lovely and the place definitely perfect to impress a date or for a night out. Watch out the drink choices if you don’t want your bill to add up.

Ukelele, Clausen, Luxembourg

If you are following my blog, you have probably already realized my “restaurants to try” approach. I have a “to do” list with new openings and restaurants I have never been, but it often happens that if I don’t visit a restaurant immediately after the opening, I loose a bit of interest, as I have the impression my readers will not be extremely reactive, considering there might have been written already enough on the subject.

It was the case of Ukelele, this Thai corner located in Clausen, just off the Rives. I wanted to try it so much as soon as it opened, I lost the moment, for one reason or the other, and then everybody was so much talking about it that it went at the bottom of my “next restaurant”. What could I added if a general public idea is already wide-spread?

I love Thai food indeed and I tend to stick to ordering delivery from Bangkok Thai at the station – the place is a bit dodgy (sorry!), but the food is authentic and well priced, compared to other Thai restaurants I have tried in the city (not the time to mention now, but you can easily find in my reviews).

So – I have almost forgot about Ukelele, when my boyfriend decided to surprise me with a reservation that read “I passed there in front, I liked it and I pop in for reserving”. I could not say no: first of all, because generally speaking I am the one in charge of restaurant reservation in our family and therefore it came pretty much as a shock (no offense intended, just the fair truth 🙂 ). Second, because normally M. is very picky concerning food – and as much as he can eat his Delirio Culinario pizza with gorgonzola and salami at least three times per week, he is totally unmotivated regarding exotic cuisine. So – I told myself, why not.

I got to Ukelele a bit earlier than him and the place was half-busy. I gave my name at the counter and I was indicated two tables on the main street side. There were actually three tables available in total – one in the corner with two chairs and two on a bench. I wanted to be on a chair but I was told to choose between the other two.

I ordered a Thai Tonic while I waited for M. to arrive and I was given the menu. He got there from work with his usual delay and, little by little, the restaurant got really packed.

He also had a Gin to start with and we ordered. We went for a mixed starter to share, I follow with a basil beef, while he had red curry chicken. We concluded with espresso and cognac.

After the pictures of our dinner, you will find my thoughts about Ukelele – and yes, I know lots have been written already, so these are just my two cents.

What I liked about Ukelele:

  • The place is very nice and I loved the decorations – specifically the reversed umbrellas on the ceiling. The atmosphere is warm, welcoming and casual, as well as the service. If you are not familiar with Thai cuisine, the staff is very glad to help you doing an informed choice, advising on hotness level, sauces and so on.
  • I liked the food: the basil beef was definitely MY dish and would order it again straight away. Perfect level of hotness and delicious, authentic flavors. The starter platters was as well tasty. The spring rolls were so good I wanted to have other ten probably, while I liked the fish cake a bit less, but it was a kind of starter I would have not ordered in a single portion. Go for the rolls, definitely 🙂
  • While you could not expect to pay the same price you would in Thailand – in Bangkok, I probably had the same dinner for the equivalent of 17 euros and my Thai colleagues were complaining about the fact it was a rather expensive place – Ukelele is fairly priced, with main around 15 euros. We had basically everything (Gin Tonic to start, a shared platter of starters, two main, a good bottle of wine, coffee and cognac) and we spent a bit more than 100 Eur.

What I liked a bit less about Ukelele:

  • We had a lovely dinner and I would definitely consider to visit the restaurant again – even if over week-end it is often fully booked, so having to reserve well in advance might be, for me, a restrain factor. There are just few points I would note, as you know I am picky: the place is small and very cozy as said, but if you end up in a night where the are big groups, like the night we visited, it becomes a bit noisy. Second, on the same side, you are basically dining with the table next to you. That might be positive if you are in the mood for talking, not really if you want to have a reserved conversation and the table next to you speak your same language. Lastly, the bench where I was seated was very uncomfortable as it is at a different level to the table compared to chairs, at least if you are tallish like I am. Ask for a table with chairs 🙂 Silly points, as usual, indeed, and nothing that would stop me to consider it as my first choice for Thai dining in.

 

To sum up: Ukelele is a lovely Thai restaurant in Clausen. The location is very unique and warm and the atmosphere is casual, with a friendly service. Food is on point and prices are fair. My recommended dish would definitely be the basil beef, if you like spicy food. Perfect for a night out with friends. Reservation needed – in advance for the week-end.

Alterego Restaurant, Luxembourg City

Can creative cuisine be as well affordable? I had the truly impression recently that the most sophisticated one restaurant gets, the more expensive the final bill is going to be. Sometimes it is perfectly justifiable as well as appreciated. I tend to save at least couple of dinners per year for outstanding places – mostly Michelin stars – and even if when the check is close to the 4 digits, I have never had real regrets, as they definitely deserved. But, from my experience, there are more and more restaurants which tends to offer a slightly gastronomic proposal and to have Michelin-starred prices – I can definitely find couple of examples in Luxembourg. I am not perfectly comfortable with this market approach and I am recently looking forward as well to find some good food at fair prices – who is not?

So couple of weeks ago, I was pretty keen to try a new Italian restaurant that opens its door less than one month before. The place is called Alterego and it is located in route d’Esch, next to the BIL headquarter.

If you are about to close this review before going ahead as you are fed up of “Italian places” in Luxembourg, I would suggest you not too, as this is definitely a different one!

So, I spontaneously met with Jenni at our own headquarter (aka Paname) and we decided to try something new, at least for eating. We called Alterego to reserve and arrived there around 8ish on a Thursday night.

The restaurant is very cozy – tiny, but lovely arranged in a way not to make you feel suffocated. Thing I like is that while from outside the place is quite anonymous – looks like a neighborhood brasserie – inside you have a warm and welcoming unique feeling.

We started with an aperitif – a great Negroni – and we then ordered a selection of starters to taste, one primi piatti to share (black tagliatelle with cuttlefish) and one main to share (crispy codfish), followed by a homemade tiramisu and its relevant cocktail.

Find the pictures of our dinner followed by my comments.


What I liked about Alterego:

  • The food was OMG: when I decided to try this restaurant, I had good expectations about a fair, well executed traditional Italian cuisine. Gosh, I was wrong! Dishes are sophisticated, exceptionally presented, food combinations unusual and traditional plats revisited. Among the starters, my favorite one was definitely the “Knodel”, these sausage and potatoes balls in a light broth with smoked ricotta. The best dishes of the night, to me, the black tagliatelle – a perfect combination between the imperfections of homemade pasta and the rounded, deep taste of the ingredients. Finally, the dessert: I don’t have sweet tooth, you know, but this deconstructed tiramisu, accompanied by a tiramigiu cocktail, enchanted me. It was too good looking to eat and too tasty to finish the meal without. As the menu is changing every month and it is based on a regional cuisine – this month it was Friuli Venezia Giulia, from February 19th another (surprise!) region – I really look forward to come back again and try new proposals from the house.
  • The service was great: we were a bit bitchy, honestly, but they maintained their aplomb. In particular, after we ordered the selection of starters, we realized that Jenni does not eat meat and we asked to not have meat dishes. Only the first couple of appetizers came with meat and after that the order was adjusted, even in progress. Then, for the following two dishes, we requested to have them to share and instead of bringing a portion in the middle, they already split the dish in two, both for the primi piatti and for the main course. Smile, great attitude and explanations as well as in English made the rest.
  • The bill came out incredible fair: we had a huge dinner (several starters to share, two main to share, dessert, a bottle of wine, coffee) and the final check read 104 Eur in total. We had aperitif and digestif offered by the house.

What I liked a bit less about Alterego:

  • Our dinner was great and I would honestly strongly recommend the place with no exceptions. The night we have been there was really quiet, but honestly I don’t mind being in a calm place once in a while!

In conclusion: We loved Alterego. It is a very special Italian restaurant, definitely different from those you might have tried so far. The cuisine is regional based and the menu changes frequently. Dishes are sophisticated and well presented. The restaurant is perfect for a romantic date, a rendez-vous with friends or a night “you just don’t want to cook”. Above all, prices are extremely fair. Recommended!

Barefoot in Luxembourg meets People: Cecilie

A new week starts with a new interview for our Barefoot in Luxembourg meets People column. Today Jenni is introducing us Cecilie, a dynamic, smiling lady who is reminding us, among all, how important is to believe in your dreams.

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Good Morning and Welcome Cecilie! Can you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit more about who are you and what are you doing here?

Sure! My name is Cecilie Rigneus, I am originally from Norway, and I’m a nurse (former one!), a mom and a personal trainer. I arrived in Luxembourg 17 years ago with my husband, basically because of his job. At that time, my children were very small and the prospect of working was stressful balancing child care and long working hours. So I decided I was going to look another way and began to look at options of starting my own business. This would then give me a more flexible working schedule and allow me to work from anywhere at any time and around my family. Being able to share my business opportunity with people is something I am truly passionate about as I am able to change their lifestyle with reduced stress and added freedom. I also wanted to inspire people to pursue a healthier lifestyle in the long run.

My friends and family would describe me as a happy, positive and including person who love living life to the fully.

Can you tell Barefoot in Luxembourg readers a bit more about your business?

It was 8 years ago, whilst I was looking for a flexible business that I was introduced to this opportunity and I just knew it was for me. I call myself a “Lifestyle Optimizer”. My business is divided into two categories: clients and partners. With regards to my clients, I aim to inspire them to look and feel younger in the long term by encouraging them to make the best choices with health, fitness and wellbeing. Partners are typically people who want to get away from regular office jobs, want more flexibility in their working hours or have moved here and have a hard time finding a permanent job due to the language barriers, education or skills.

My motivation of helping people is to offer them a possibility to earn money with the option of working from any location and country with totally flexible working hours.

Why should people in Luxembourg be attracted to your business?

It’s a great way to make money on your own terms. As a business owner you set your own goals and get the necessary coaching and support to help make it happen. There are also no special requirements for success, just the right attitude! To get a better idea how to be more involved is to come to our next event, which is on Saturday the 3rd February at 11.00. To receive more information people can send an email to info@lifestyleoptimiser.com.

What are your future plans?

To continue living life the way I do! My business allows me to travel and to meet so many inspiring and interesting people.

My motto is that I don’t live to work but work to live.

Coming back to your Luxembourg background, you told us you have been living here for 17 years.

Yes, and in this 17 years I have seen a lot of change in Luxembourg and I love to be a part of that change. Luxembourg is such a diverse community with so many nationalities and cultures.

What is your favorite place in the city?

I like Come a la Maison because of its unique concept. It’s truly a lifestyle kind of place with stylish decoration, healthy choices, food and the best coffee.

What is your preferred night-life spot in Luxembourg?

I don’t have the same desire to hit the nightlife anymore. I tend to go out for drinks with friends and if I have to choose some places then I’d say Boos Café in Bridel or Mansfeld in Clausen.

What do you like about Luxembourg life?

I love the diversity. You can just be yourself and people will accept you for who you are. Luxembourg is also very family friendly and I’m happy to have my children growing up here. It is also very green and the healthcare system is excellent.

What do you miss here and what would you like to change or improve?

I would love to see more of the cheaper health stores. I have to say I have seen a big change when it comes to people getting more health conscious and availability in healthy options. There is definitely room for more. I love both fashion and home deco, but have to admit I don’t find much of my Scandinavian style here.

What is the best place you visited in a range of 200 km from the city and that you would suggest for a day trip?

Champagne region is my personal recommendation. I love the rustique French countryside, I love bubbles so I can’t really ask for more.

How would you describe Luxembourg with three adjectives?

Safe, international and open minded.

Thank you for being with us today Cecilie.

To discover more about Cecilie you can follow her Facebook page here.