A coffee with… Enza Fuzio

When I discussed with Corie next interview to publish on the blog, the one you are about to read today, I was initially perplexed. Corie in fact proposed me to meet Enza Fuzio, the owner of Ottika Enza. I was told that even if she is neither a chef nor a restaurateur, she is still a very central figure in Luxembourg lifestyle (and nightlife). Enza was born here in Luxembourg, by Italian parents, Corie added, she might have many things to tell you, “I am sure you will enjoy meeting her!”

I trusted her and went straight to Rue Aldringen. Finding my way around Royal-Hamilius construction site, that is evolving visibly every single day and totally changing the skyline of the city. Arrived at Ottika Enza, the first question that comes to my mind is “how did I manage never noticing this shop?” – indeed I pass here in front a thousand times per day.

Ottika Enza is a small but cozy space where the original mood of the glasses blends with the passion that its owner, Enza Fuzio, has for pop art – and you definitely cannot miss it. It is also the only eyewear store in Luxembourg to sell the Italian Independent brand. And Enza, around it, has created a community or, as she loves to say, a fan club, built up around the passion for glasses that are a bit special. Just like her.

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Angela: – Enza, good morning and many thanks for having accepted our invitation. Do you prefer to speak in Italian or in French?
From this question we move straight forward talking about orecchiette for a moment, as Enza, like me, is from Apulia.

Angela: How was your interest in glasses born?
Enza: It was my vocation since I was a child. When I was 10, I had to put the first glasses. I went to buy them from Ackermann, in Place de Paris, that does not exist anymore. I was so fascinated by those white coats and their know-how that at the age of 12 I told my parents “I want to be an optician when I grow up.” At the age of 19, after completing my studies and internship, I came to Optique Berg, where I worked for 28 years as if it was my own shop. Until 2 years ago, when it closed.

A: A year ago you opened this store, Ottika Enza, which is your own, this time for real. And which has a very strong personality. It is colorful, effervescent, and modern. What is your philosophy behind?
E: My shop must be like I am, I told myself before having clear ideas about how I would personalize it. I looked inside and I realized that I wanted to propose something different that would reflect me, which would bring out my passion for creativity and art. A passion dormant during the years when I was married. My then-husband did not believe in art and this curbed me in expressing myself to the maximum. Thank God he left…

A: Do you want to keep this part or do you prefer I cut it out?
E: Oh, you must include it for sure. Everyone tells me “you’ve become another person” (after he left). This is totally incorrect: it just came out who I really was. All the path through the difficulties I’ve had to face in recent years has led to what I am today. A rebirth.

A: Tell me more about all these street art works displayed here in at the shop, in “your home”. Especially that giant mural!
E: I love photography. When the demolition of the old Hamilius area begun, I started taking pictures, I documented all the demolition, I had a huge archive at home and many people asked for it. So I was printing these pictures and putting them on display on the window of the other shop. The owner of the LTL, the company that made the demolition, passed casually in front and complimented me.
When they finally dug and they went more than 33 meters below ground, I was able to go down 2 times with them. They gave me a helmet and a vest and I was taking pictures. When down there, I saw all the graffiti that were there and they were going to be destroyed. At that point, I had a heartache. Center Aldringen has always been a meeting place for young people for ages; after school, we were meeting with friends to spend there our spare time. So it has been a crossroads for many generations who have left them the signs of their passage. So I asked if I could keep a small fragment of the wall to preserve a piece of art and to remember the past years…

A: Very brave! But I suppose it was impracticable, wasn’t it?
E: This is not over yet, listen! One day a guy who was working on the excavations sent me a picture of a fragment 2 meters long asking me if I wanted it. I wondered how he could take off the graffiti. End of the story, a few days later I got in the shop the whole marble plate with the amazing graffiti on it and that’s the original that you see on that wall. It is the only piece that has been saved from that underground gallery. It is also signed because I contacted the artist Alëxone Dizac, who now lives in Paris, and when he came to Luxembourg at the opening of an art gallery he passed by to sign it.


A:
This is a beautiful story! Thanks to your sensitivity you have given new life to this work of art that would have been destroyed! What about all the other works you have here?
E: Here in the shop there are works by Daniel Mac Lloyde who last year received the first prize Young Street Artist in Rotterdam. A work by Thomas Iser, realized a few days ago: it is a window with clouds, behind the window everyone sees his future, the one that he / she dreams, his / her dreams. Madeleine Putz realized my portrait. And then there is also a work by Jacques Schneider.

A: And from street art to design, tell me about Lapo Elkann, who brought you so much luck.
E: I met Lapo Elkann at a fair in Milan and I was the first to export his brand (Italian Independent) outside Italy. Now they tell me that I was their brand ambassador. I believed in this design, I wanted it and I promoted and still promote it. Now there is a wonderful relationship with all of them.

A: I know that there is such an interest in your choices that you even manage a community on social media.
E: Yes, when people are interested in a brand then they follow you, and for Lapo brand I created a small fan club and I often organize events in store. I love to invite my clients in a festive situation, allow them to see glasses without the obligation to buy them, drink some bubbles together. On those occasions, I choose a complete collection, I display it, then there is a DJ, prosecco, photographer … people come to drink a glass, look at the collection dancing at the rhythm of music.

A: I know that in December you celebrated the first year of this eyewear boutique. Too bad not to have attended, but thanks for the invitation. How did it go?
E: It was Saturday and it was beautiful. I had the opportunity to show the glasses of Italian Independent collection made especially for me: a Unique Edition, 50 glasses with the skyline of the city of Luxembourg, as per their tradition when they open a single-brand store in other major cities of the world. On the frame there is written Unique Edition Ottika Enza Luxembourg. A hit. I have 25 pieces left.

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A: These glasses are beautiful. They really suits me as well J Let’s go out for a moment here. Royal Hamilius Project. How do you see it? What do you expect? Will Les Galeries Lafayette be a positive or negative news for the commercial activities around here?
E: Absolutely positive! The whole area will become a point of attraction, will be made totally pedestrian, other shops will move or come here; I do think it will be the most beautiful area in the city. They will open at the end of the year, November, and I cannot wait.

A: Not afraid of competition?
E: No, because my shop is not like the others. I have my clients who have been following me for years. Moreover, the spaces inside the Galeries Lafayette will not be easily accessible from an economic point of view and therefore I do not think that my small and independent competitors can afford those costs. And then I believe that healthy competition is only good.

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A: I agree with you. (We move back inside). From what I can see on social networks you are very involved in the nightlife of this city, you were born here and you have certainly seen its evolution. They tell me that Luxembourg was quite off before. Is that true? What has changed?
E: When we were young, we said that Luxembourg was dead. The places for “going out” were very few. Then, over time, there was a mega revolution. When I was a teenager, there were only 3 or 4 bars, Clausen was not there like we see it now. We had to travel out of Luxembourg most of the time for having fun. All the bars you see now have perhaps opened in the last 10 years.

A: What do you expect then between 2 or 5 years? Will it become a more attractive city?
E: Yes, thanks to the arrival of the University center. This has allowed the birth of many activities related to leisure, nightlife and catering. First the city center was dead because the youth was missing. Now it’s different. Too bad that the university center has developed in Belval and for me it was a huge mistake, but still an improvement that will bring so much more movement. Luxembourg is reborn!

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A: And now a ritual question for us: what are your favorite places in the city? And in what genres, styles and tastes do you recognize yourself?
E: If I go out to the restaurants, I eat essentially Italian or French, I do not like exotic tastes.

A: So you’re not a sushi lover like me?
E: No no no!… (laughing) I love going to the Essenza restaurant, the owner is very special, I like him as a character, I like his restaurant, I like his cooking. He’s a bit crazy, like I am!

A: Coffee, ops, pardon, espresso, where you drink your favorite one?
E: At Caffè Torino. No doubt. We support Juventus in my family and in Turin we visited the original Caffè Torino, we became friends with everyone in Turin. When they opened here for me it became a little bit like home. Every morning I take the cappuccino there, the only one for me.

A: Enza thank you for this nice chat. Before going to drink our cappuccino at Caffè Torino which is nearby, tell me, when will your next event be?
E: Follow my Facebook page Ottika Enza and you will discover it.

Brilliant!

Here with this wonderful woman, sparkling, avant-garde, I go to warm up with a good cappuccino. I remained to chat with her twice as much time as was used for the interview. About restaurants, family, the courage of women, the power of awakening!
I know that this new friendship will bring me much more than this interview!

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Jazz Night at Come à la Maison

It has been quite a while since we had a girls’ night out and the perfect occasion came last week, when Come à la Maison organized a Jazz Night at dinner.

The restaurant Come à la Maison is located just between rue de Hollerich and Merl and have lived over the past years an incredible ascending parabola, starting as an informal Italian eatery inside a furniture shop and expanding its activities in the same building, diversificating the offer, with a seafood corner (Come à La Mer), a wine corner (Come à la Cave) and more recently a pizza and a winter corner (Come à la Montagne).
I admit I have been there only couple of times for the brunch, which was and continues to be one of the main feature of the restaurant. The brunch offers a unique and amazing selection of dishes, from fresh oysters to homemade pasta, in a buzzy but posh atmosphere, perfect above all for a celebration or if you feel you want to have couple of prosecco to spice up your Sunday – and if you are hungry, as definitely does not come up as cheap.

Finally – it was the time to try Come à la Maison for dinner. We got our reservation at 8.00 pm and we arrived quite on time despite the light snow. The concert was already on in the main dining room, where you get through a labyrinth of accesses. The restaurant, the whole one, including the other rooms and annexes, was packed.
We were given the menu and took our time to decide while enjoying the music. Finally, we went for a shared board of charcuterie and cheese with truffle. As main, I had a “Focaccia Burger”, Angela a pumpkins soup and Annamaria a beef tartare. We drunk a bottle of Valpolicella Ripasso Giusti and concluded with espresso and Amaro del Capo.

Now it is time for the pictures of the dinner, followed by my impressions of Come à la Maison.

Things I liked about Come à la Maison:

  • The atmosphere is mint, really. I can definitely understand this to be one of the main success factor of the place. It was kind of noisy, but in a positive way, very Italian, warm and pleasant. Perfect to unplug after a day at work and have fun.
  • I found the food offer to be nice, far from the boring “already seen” in most of the Italian restaurants in Luxembourg, but without being too edgy. Mostly classic dishes but made modern and appealing, at list in the presentation. Also the wine list proposed fairly priced bottles next to great labels.
  • The service is very informal and perfectly in line with the place, waiters are smiley and kind and even if as said the place was packed we never felt forgotten.

Things I liked a bit less about Come à la Maison:

  • We had an extremely funny evening, made even more pleasant by the vibes of the Jazz Trio. I was positively surprised by the restaurant and above all by the atmosphere. Said that, would I come to Come à la Maison only for its food? Honestly not. Food was definitely not bad, but was nothing too special that you feel the urge to eat again tomorrow and my friends shared my same view. In particular, the selection of cheese and cold cuts with truffle was delicious – with basically zero input on the restaurant’s side – while the main was slightly disappointing – bland taste, zero fantasy, plain ingredients.

To sum up: I was positively surprised by the lovely atmosphere at Come à la Maison. While, to me, the food is not the main reason to visit the restaurant, the combination between the music, the atmosphere and the service makes the restaurant perfect for a night out or a celebration, where food might definitely not be the priority. Moreover I definitely love the events they propose, so watch out their Facebook page if you want to spend a different evening accompanied by good music.

A coffee with… Remy Manso

Sitting in a quiet restaurant off the station for a dinner-briefing, Corie asked me:  – What about Remy Manso for next interview?
– Who? -, I replied – clear signal I have moved to Luxembourg only very recently.
– He is the owner of numerous and interesting restaurants in Luxembourg. It manages at least a dozen, mostly Latin, including El Barrio.
– I love El Barrio. – I suddenly replied, after that name caught my attention  – So, of course I’m in -.
I followed up Corie’s contact with Remy and took an appointment with him – guess where? – at El Barrio, which, at 11 am, had a surreal calm atmosphere – if you have been there in the night, you will definitely understand what I mean.
After few minutes into our talk, I’ve found out that there could not have been a better chance to meet Remy, since he just opened his thirteenth place. Yes, you read that correctly. Piri Piri is number 13 restaurant of Manso Group. And it is a Portuguese restaurant, that aims to become the top of its genre in the city – but we will get there later.

Angela: I am so pleased to meet you, Remy, I cannot hide that I imagined you to be older. How can you be so young and have all this responsibilities? And managing so many restaurants and being so relaxed?
Remy: I work in a structured way, starting at 8.30 am with reservations and finishing at midnight after going around all the premises, or almost. I try to be present here and there every day, except one: Sunday, that for me means football… (laughing) …And then I surrounded myself with trusted collaborators, without them I would never have arrived here. You need to invest in reliable people, the best ones and I have chosen them among my old friends. We grew up and evolved together. It’s not only me to succeed in the business, but the whole team.
A: Do you give me a few names of your children?
RDäiwelskichen, Batucada, Chimi Churri, Manso, JFK, The Game Utopolis, The Game Downtown, Toro Toro, El Barrio, El Gato, Boca Loca in Echternach, Gringo’s and Piri Piri, the latest born.

A: Wow! So many! So we can talk about the plans for the future in a while. Now I’m curious to know how you started. Can you tell me more about your takeoff?
R: After school, I went to work with my father, who is no longer there. I learned a lot from him because he was a self-made man, really starting from nothing. He arrived in Luxembourg from Portugal in 1982 and in the evening, after work, he slept in the car. I owe him everything. I started out as a dishwasher, then as a cook and then, together, we managed Daiwelskichen and Batucada, both of which still exist. Growing up without skipping steps is very important. Only in this way can you learn to know how to really manager your business. There are many people who come from a completely different background and want to open a restaurant. They believe that it is enough to put their banner outside the door to make millions. It does not work like this. I have the notion of reality. I study the market and try to understand it, without ever believing I have fully understood it.

A: On the other hand, how do you choose what and where to open?
R: Here we are neither in Paris nor in Milan or New York. The population is limited and you have to study the territory and the public well before opening a gastronomic point of any kind. The people of Luxembourg invest a lot of their free time in the gastronomic circuits or in the cocktail bars, but, even if it is high-handed, they do not like to be fooled. The Luxemburgish do not give a second chance. So I open a new place only after doing an X-ray to the market. At that point, if I decide to start a new adventure I choose the best, point to quality, adequate and valuable interior design and I pay attention to the quality / price ratio. I do not mean to be a perfect owner, but I always work very honestly and this allowed me to get to the number 13 🙂

A: Yes! Quite right! You mentioned that with the new entry you are at a peak of 13. Tell me about the newborn!
R: It’s called Piri Piri and it’s a bomb. The kitchen, for the first time for my group, is Portuguese, like my homeland, but far from the one already proposed here in the city. Our culture is melancholic and evokes calm and sadness. This is why I have always preferred to open local Brazilian, Argentinian, Mexican and Spanish. I like to dance and also mojitos 🙂 But it was time to do something to pay homage to my father, who would have wished to open a restaurant with the flavors of his land. I also wanted to do something for the Portuguese community that is very large here. With my partners we had a lot of fun choosing the pottery and furniture, and I tested all the dishes. It is a restaurant completely different from what is already there in Luxembourg. Beautiful inside, with attention to the smallest details, with a traditional touch, but with a modern, refined and very rich design. Even the cuisine has its roots in Portugal, the flavors are authentic, but pervaded by a new twist. Some hints? The cod ceviche for example.

A: What does Piri Piri mean?
R: (Laughing). It’s a curious name, isn’t it? It is a spicy pepper typical of Portuguese cuisine. I chose it because it is very evocative.

A: Good luck then! So now we got a bit on the personal side. How can you be sure you differentiate one place to the other and you just don’t “copy paste”? I want to say: out of 14 restaurants, it takes imagination to avoid the same concept from happening again, doesn’t it?
R: Since working with my father, we have always chosen to address to an audience that loves the “Latin fiesta“. And so from the local Brazilian, to Argentine meat, passing through Mexican cuisine, without forgetting the Mediterranean area, one thing is certain, in my restaurants there is always a common factor that is the caliente style and typical of the Latin culture, but with an always different menu. I choose some detail that differentiates them, so that each place has its own identity. And where the food proposal looks similar, it is the location to be different – in the city and out-of-town for example. Said that, I believe that El Barrio is the strongest of all, is the “maison mère” because here everything has been done to perfection, just thinking about the fact that we have chairs for 400 Euro each, we have 20 people only in the kitchen and we have a kind of meat that is the top: the wagyu beef. Maybe I will seem arrogant, but I think there is nothing better in the city for quality / price ratio. I must also add that a great job had been done before I arrived, when it was still La Boqueria. I’ve always been fascinated by this place, in fact I wanted to direct it many years ago, but I was too young and they did not take me seriously. Better like this! Now I’m more mature and able to manage it.

A: Tell me the truth Remy, do you have a place in your heart among all?
R: Yes, Manso Restaurant occupies a special place. That’s where I put more about myself! The concept and the menu talk about me. Before and during the opening, in every place of the Mediterranean in which I went on holiday, I identified dishes that excite me most and put them in paper. Some dishes are Spanish, some Italian, some still Greek, and Portuguese and French are not lacking. But this choice was a mixed blessing! Do you know why? The “Mediterranean Cuisine” category is too vast and does not allow the Manso to have a well-defined identity. Usually the identity makes it the nationality of origin of the gastronomic proposal or the main ingredient of the menu. This is missing at the Manso. In the eyes of the public you can eat anything and everything, which is equivalent to nothing precise. So if at lunch I have a good customer basis mainly due to the offices nearby, in the evening we are penalized because people choose to go there they know exactly what to expect.

A: Oh, I’m sorry. Do you have a plan B?
R: Of course! Despite being in my heart, I will soon say goodbye to it!

A: Ah no, it was your favorite! And then will they become 12 again?
R: Noooo! Not at all! They will always be 13 because Manso Restaurant will turn into something else. And here’s the news for the year 2019 😉

A: Are you telling me that you have another opening in mind when you just opened Piri Piri?
R: Yes, yes. And yes, this will be an absolute novelty because for the first time I will be completely different from my kind to open a restaurant serving Greek cuisine. On the other hand, half of my members are Greeks. And we want to do it well! In the best way. We will also go to Greece to get ideas, so we will gain in authenticity and ideas.

A: Fantastic Remy. And when do you intend to open it?
R: We will start work in January.
A: Wow. I’m afraid that if we stay here to talk a little bit, you can make me a program of openings until 2030 …
R: Hahah no. I do not intend to reach 20, but creativity and the desire to do are certainly not lacking.

A: Thank you for your time Remy. It was a true pleasure meeting you.

I greet my interlocutor, but before going he shows me something that I adore. A nice piece of wagyu beef comes out of the kitchen to finish immortalized straight in my hands. Ok, I do not know what to put on my 2019 to try list first: Piri Piri or wagyu here at El Barrio. What would you say?

Pictures: Giacomo Salvemini (instagram.com/slv)

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.

 

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.

Cineast Festival: the 11th edition

Participating in a press conference always allows you to get in the mood that the event intends to transmit. This was the case of the presentation conference of Cineast, the Central and Eastern Europe Film Festival in Luxembourg held last week at the Cinématèque, that this year celebrates its 11th edition.

Together with Corie on my side and with a pen and paper (I had not done it for quite a while), I took notes 😉 to give you some more excitement and insider tips regarding the Festival.
In the warm atmosphere of the main cinema room and after a hot tea with croissants, the speakers told us with great humor the strong motivation that led them here.

“An X-ray of the former communist countries, a story of their sociological ghosts, traditions and history through a selection of the most beautiful films from Central and Eastern Europe expressed through a new wave of Czech, Polish, Romanian cinema and in general European Middle Eastern cinema “. The words gave us an idea of the main focus of the Festival, that will kick off on October 4th and will invade the Grand Duchy (so not just Luxembourg city, but as well other areas, as Vianden and Esch and off the boarder in Saarbrucken) with its events until October 21st.

CinEast2018_poster_nologo

We will see film contaminations and new trends that mirror the multiculturalism of the countries left by Communism, but also of their search for identity.
No iconic characters, but power of images and dialogues to celebrate with this edition the centenary of the independence of the Baltics.
On the menu, at the Cinemateque, Neimënster and Ciné Utopia, but also all around the capital, more than 100 films between movies and short films with a new entry: a film from Georgia, a novelty of this edition.

7 films in the race:

Ága / Ага, by Milko Lazarov

Alice T. by Radu Muntean

One Day / Egy nap by Zsófia Szilágyi

Take It or Leave It / Võta või jäta, by Liina Trishkina-Vanhatalo

The Load / Teret, by Ognjen Glavonić

Silent Night / Cicha noc by Piotr Domalewski

Winter Flies / Všechno bude, by Olmo Omerzu.

An international jury will award the “Grand Prix” and the “Prix Spécial du jury” while the jury will award the “Prix de la Critique”. And the public? It will also be protagonist with an important role: the spectators will be called to contribute with the “Prix du Public”. The awards ceremony will be held on October 19th at the Cinématèque.

The festival will be not only an occasion to go to the movies, but also an opportunity to party, Luxembourg certainly does not pull back and will honor the countries represented with gastronomic evenings, photographic exhibitions and musical events, all to remember the precious link between
film and music.

Laco_Deczi_2_photo_by_Tomas_Krist

The musical program starts on Friday October 5th at Melusina with the traditional Balkan Party, hosted by the Macedonian brass band Džambo Aguševi Orchestra and DJ Tagada. A few days after the Polish group Pasimito will accompany live the classic silent film Battleship Potemkin at the Cinematheque (11/10). The Baltic Party at the Rotondes will be headlining the Latvian indie rock band Polifauna (13/10) and the next day the Slovak legend of the jazz trumpet Laco Deczi will perform at Neimënster during the Jazz Apéro (14/10 in 11:00). To finish in style, the closing party will be hosted by the French group Attoft Fanfare (Melusina 20/10).

Attentat_Fanfare_4

The cineart program is centered around the great photographic exhibition “Identities” (4-24 October), which will take place on Thursday, October 4th from 5:30 pm in the vaulted cellars of Neimënster, festival also offers two exhibitions of film posters: Polish Film Posters: Kliś Kubica Urbańczyk at the Ancien Cinema in Vianden with modern creations for well-known Polish films (October 4-20) as well as Art_Desire_Freedom: Czech Film Posters at the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Luxembourg with original posters for films of the Czechoslovak New Wave (October 10-18).

Finally, the cinema-gastronomy program consists first of all of the gastronomic evening with a large selection of Eastern European dishes and drinks on 9 October at Brasserie Wenzel. In addition, there will also be specialties and snacks available during the concerts as well as special evenings dedicated to certain countries: the evening Georgian (6/10), Latvian (8/10), Czech (9/10), Slovenian (13/10), Slovak (13/10), Bulgarian (15/10) and Lithuanian (16/10).


Enjoy the show and find the detailed program here.