Oio, Osteria con Cucina, Clausen, Luxembourg

Opening a restaurant during a pandemic. It looks like possibly the craziest idea ever, indeed someone is doing it. That “someone” is Leonardo De Paoli, 15 years astonishing experience in Michelin stars restaurants, last but not least with Ilario Mosconi, at his restaurant in Grund. Leonardo is launching this week-end his first restaurant, “Oio – Osteria con Cucina“, located down the Rives de Clausen, overlooking the Alzette, where the former “La Biblioteca” had a short life despite the picturesque scenery.

We met Leonardo on the eve of the launch of “Oio” street food week-end, visibly excited, a bit tired, but never loosing his smile. Leonardo told us that the plan was to put to sea “Oio” with the anticipated opening in March and that the further stop of Horesca didn’t discourage his team. They decided to go ahead proposing a double format of take-away for the week-end of March 5th (Friday to Sunday, from 12 pm to 6 pm) in order to start welcoming the first clients as well as take advantage of the good weather. We said double format as you will have two possibilities: you can pick up some street food  (savory and sweet) and eat it around – likely on the bridge or the walk on the river. If you are not much adventurous, Oio proposes as well a meal kit which can be refreshed at home and you can as well pre-order online. Kit will be provided together with detailed instructions and link of videos to prepare them at home.

But what about Oio? What should we expect from this restaurant? Did we really need another Italian restaurant in Luxembourg city?

Leonardo replied to all our questions. The name “Oio“, literally, means oil in dialect, but its real substance stays in the idea behind: “Oio“, as the last trickle of olive oil to complete a dish, like a dash of oil and its lightness.

Leonardo describes his cuisine as tasty and easily recognizable, created starting from outstanding quality of material, worked as less as possible. The menu of Oio will be the same for lunch and dinner, without tasting menu and without the classic amuse-bouche from the chef, but with a price accessible to everyone – the kind of place you can come for lunch and in the same day also for dinner. The idea is to have a menu which will change continuously, based on seasonal products – Leonardo will work, for example, with Le Panier de Sandrine with seasonal vegetables which will be used to create the menu – rather than ordering raw materials starting from a pre-packaged menu.

Leonardo wants to create a direct connection with the client, who will be able then to check daily the dishes offered on their Instagram page. The menu card will be short but focused on quality as well as for beverage: a reduced Italian wine list, with prices in a range from 35 to 95 Eur, including some niche local wines. A bar cocktail card based on 5 / 6 cocktails – revisited: a Negroni with rhubarbs, a cocktail with olive oil, a cocktail with thym… Cocktails will be also available for take-away this week-end.

We asked Leonardo which is the target of his restaurant. He said Oio will welcome everyone but will definitely give a nod to people who are tired of the usual Italian restaurants in Luxembourg and to those who wants to feel on a vacation in Italy even at home in Luxembourg.

To complete the lovely dining room, minimal, elegant, warm and bright, the restaurant has a unique view on the river, where the idea is to have clients taking advantage not only of the dining option, but as well as of a “aperitivo” – sharing few apero dishes with a cocktail or a bottle or wine, without the need to go for the full meal choice.

Lastly, at the floor, a huge tasting room will welcome Italian cooking classes held by Leonardo.

Finally, we asked Leonardo which will be his signature dish. He replied that two dishes will mainly represent his style among the others: the “pappa al pomodoro”, prepared with fresh burrata and olive oil, and the “tortelli di ossobuco”, served with a parmesan fondue and a saffron sauce. Few ingredients, worked as less as possible, for an unpretentious modern Italian cuisine which is not much represented in Luxembourg.

We look forward to try “Oio” as soon as it will be open for dining, but for the moment, we recommend you to visit their street food stand this week-end, from Friday to Sunday, 12 pm to 6 pm.

 

A coffee with…. CheckQ

Angela interviews Mike Sebban and Kim Bliksas, CEO of CheckQ, the real time restaurant reservations app among the winners of the contest launched by the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy.

Last minute bookers, hurry up!

So, imagine being at home and being very hungry, wanting to eat out, being tired and not wanting to travel too many miles. Or even if you are still in the office about to leave, panicking about an empty fridge and sad pantry, the supermarkets around you are closed and, obviously, you have not booked anywhere.
A gray cloud with a fast food sign in the center looms before your eyes. At best, you start frantically phoning all the restaurants in the area in search of a free table… luxury item in this crazy period of social distancing.
What a sad after work!

And now imagined being hungry, the fridge empty, the supermarkets closed, not having booked, not wanting to travel miles etc. To pick up your phone, open an app and quickly find the restaurant nearby, which still has a free table. Click, booked! Without queues and without waiting … Ah the rainbow!
Well, this is just reality. Forget the gray cloud, there’s CheckQ.

And since Corie is always on the alert and what happens in Luxembourg and does not miss much, when she asked me to interview the founders of this genial app, she had already tried it, of course!
While me, as usual, I go to eat, I do things, I see people … but I fall from the sky about news!

The interview with Mike Sebban and Kim Bliksas, founder of CheckQ, is held at the House of Startup, where their office in coworking with other startups is based. Cool, right near home. I had never entered it even though I pass it every day, looking up at the mirrored façade.
The interior décor is just like a collective of designers and creatives, with a slightly retro pop touch. Instead of staying in their office, we sit in the House cafeteria … with a coffee in hand, ça va sans dire.

 

 

Angy: Mike, Kim, you won a very important competition here in Luxembourg, which was attended by Startups from all over the world. I would like to know what the winning key was. But first I’m curious about your story. Where did you start from?

MIKE: Both Kim and I have traveled extensively in many countries around the world, taking inspiration and we are passionate about new technologies and innovative solutions that bring a plus to our daily life. You know? On vit à 100 à l’heure nous and so as much as the technology allows us to make the most of our time as we pleased! The two of us walked the same path. I lived in Paris for 6 years before arriving in Luxembourg in 2012 for professional reasons.
Kim: I was also in Paris and arrived in Luxembourg in 2013. We were colleagues until 2017, then we created Shawbe (Shiny, Awesome & Beautiful).

Angy: What was it about?

Mike: We realized that Luxembourg had a lot to offer in terms of local trade, but big brands obfuscated it and so we had ideas to give it visibility. We ran competitions on Facebook and gave away products or services in the various partner stores. The winners, going on site to collect the prize, discovered new places previously ignored, and contributed to increase their business thanks to other purchases and thanks to word of mouth. It worked well, but we had little financial capacity and we stopped this adventure. We then dedicated ourselves to other projects and training courses, always with the aim of increasing local trade.
Kim: Unfortunately, Covid 19 arrived in February 2020 and our business faltered. Just at that moment, the Luxembourg Ministry of Economy launched the Startup versus Covid 2019 competition with the aim of finding solutions to relaunch the country’s economy at a time when it was being tested. Startups from all over the world were involved.

Angy: Did you decide to participate at that point? With what idea? I mean, what did you bet on to win?

Mike: The protagonists of the Luxembourg ecosystem told us: “you who know the local trade operators well will find something interesting to boost business”. We made an analysis to identify the sector most impacted by the crisis. The result was: the restaurants.
At that time, we were in post lockdown.

Angy: What was the primary problem with restaurants after the opening in May?

Mike: The social distancing that for restaurants translates into a reduction in the number of tables: here is enemy number one. Let’s assume that from 50 tables we had reached 20 or sometimes even less. We asked ourselves: what can we do to increase the turnover of those 20 tables? They must be never empty, must que the few available are always busy. So, to stimulate turnover, we developed a virtual waiting list system, a remote queue, so if the customer had arrived at the restaurant and found it complete, he would have inserted himself in a virtual list, waiting quietly at home, for the its comfort and the safety of all.

Angy: But here you are talking to me about the virtual waiting list. It seems to me that this is not the only focus of CheckQ or am I wrong?

Kim: You’re not wrong. In fact, having entered the first test phase of the App, we realized that restaurants in Luxembourg are not always complete. Our mission needed to change a little. It had to become that of “attracting” customers to the restaurant.
Mike: We all usually use classic booking systems or call the restaurant in advance, or use digital platforms. And all the walking restaurants? Or is it the passing customers? Or those who book at the last minute? For them, we told ourselves, digital can be a salvation. Rather than making dozens of phone calls looking for a table, in our App they can find a marketplace where they can see the available seats in real time and book instantly.

Angy: Fantastic and useful for all last minutes like me. Was this the winning idea that allowed you to beat all competing international startups?

Mike : Yes, because CheckQ is a concrete help for restaurateurs. All together in the same virtual place are a major force. What’s more, becoming a CheckQ partner has no cost to them. They only pay a fixed fee for each customer if the mission is done. On the other hand, the goal is to give them visibility. This first. Lots of advertising for our partners (restaurants) and very little commitment. Those who live nearby benefit from it and the restaurants as a result.

Angy: How exactly does it work? Do your partners have to continually update the system to announce the number of seats available?

Kim: When the service starts, the restaurateurs report the number of unreserved tables and then the system works alone. Once the user books through CheckQ, he has 15 minutes to go to the restaurant. Just the time to get rid and sanitize (for the restaurant) and just the time to arrive (for the customer). The concept always remains to never let a table be free.

Angy: I haven’t used it yet. Can you show me how it works?

Kim: It’s super simple. The App opens, click on TROUVER UN RESTAURANT, enter the number of people to eat with and immediately appear the list of restaurants with places available within a range of 5 km, from the closest to the most distant. At that point, after the choice, click MANGER MAINTENONS. In addition to the booking button appear: the address, the map and the description of the specialties. Done! The restaurateur receives a notification and at that moment the available places indicated on the app decrease.
Upon reaching your destination, we inform you that you have a reservation with CheckQ.

Angy: Are you liking the concept? Do you have many memberships?

Kim: The app launched on October 5th and the download numbers are encouraging. Even those of the partners. Now 35 restaurants have joined CheckQ and can be viewed during that famous last minute when we remember being hungry.

Angy: Do you use it?

Mike : Every day at noon we are forced to have lunch out and we are always many, in order to compare ourselves with colleagues from other startups (an incubator is a bit like a big company , only we are all entrepreneurs) and every time le mene souci : we are many and we need to find a place without wasting time. CheckQ c’est top pour ça , not only do you discover new restaurants , but in 2 clicks on bloque une table et on va direct manger .

Angy: What is the order of appearance on the list?

Mike: Among the partners there are several high-quality ones. But in the first interfaces of the app it is not clear. They can also be starred, awarded, famous. We wanted the selection by the user was viewing. You eat first with your eyes… And in fact, we asked the managers to send us uniform photos, which show a dish that enhances them. Let’s not forget that the goal is to lead people to restaurants. Only after the choice the description is discovered. The first criterion of appearance, on the other hand, is proximity to the customer.

Angy: What if all the tables were booked and there was no room? No chance for hardened last minute?

Kim: I sure do. We specify that the App has a double functionality. In addition to booking in real time, it also allows you to queue with an estimate of the waiting time.

Angy: So let’s say the hardened last minute is me, can I book at the last minute, find it full, queue up and still have the luxury of doing it while sitting on my sofa?

Kim: Or taking a shower … hahaha

Angy: Ahahaha
Thanks Mike and thanks Kim for the time you have dedicated to me.
Would you like to add something before greeting the readers of Barefoot in Luxembourg (who are both users and restaurateurs)?

Mike : Yes . The Covid situation is shaking the signs again. So right now we are launching the news: until March 31, 2021 the restaurateurs who join CheckQ, in addition to having no listing costs, will not even pay the fixed price for each customer conveyed by the App. The crisis is too hard, we must listen to them.

Angy: Genius and with a heart of gold!
Come on now I’ll let you go, I know you have a lot to do.
Let’s take a picture? Don’t be shy and smile. Say Cheese!

 

Mani D’Oro, Gasperich, Luxembourg

We kicked off the week with a place which used to be (and I discovered it is still!) my favorite and we will continue today with a review of a brand new restaurant!

Mani D’Oro (translated: Golden Hands, an idiomatic expression used in Italian to define someone who is gifted in doing manual works) has been opened for less than one month on route d’Esch, just before getting to Cloche D’Or.

Their core is the preparation of fresh pasta: you can eat sur place or take it away, together with pizza, sandwiches and salads. As Mani D’Oro is open from Monday to Saturday, from 11 to 8 pm (Saturday till 3 pm), we decided to visit it for Saturday lunch, which, since I am getting old and I am not partying anymore all night long, has became a very pleasant ritual.

As said, Mani d’Oro is located on the main street and has a lovely terrace on the front side – I am already looking forward to summer apero, I know!
The décor and the atmosphere are sophisticated and refreshing: a big counter as soon as you get in, where you can order or pick up your take away, tall tables on one side and table booths on the others, with a line of chairs in front of the windows with the view on the outside – very much street food feeling. On the back of the booths, the kitchen and laboratory, with bright windows on the main room – so you can see all the preparations.

The menu has a choice of pasta to match: you choose your format and you choose the sauce (including several vegan and vegetarian options), plus pizza in three sizes, sandwiches and salads. Some daily suggestions are also available.

I ordered a pizza La Piccante (ventricina sausage and nduja sauce) in the smallest format while E. went for one of the daily suggestions (home made ravioli with porcini mushrooms and truffle).
We concluded with a tiramisu to share and we were offered two shots of limoncello.

Total bills reads 49 Euro, 24,5 Eur each (for 3 beers, 1 bottle of water, 1 portion of pizza, 1 portion of truffle pasta, 1 tiramisu, as said limoncello was offered).

Pictures of our lunch are followed, as usual, by my impressions about Mani d’Oro.

What I loved about Mani d’Oro:

  • I definitely loved the concept of the restaurant and the decorations: honestly lunch places I have tried so far are going in-between extremely cheap eatery and posh restaurants offering pricey lunch options. Mani d’Oro offers you a very affordable Italian experience in a captivating atmosphere. Also – the restaurant has a great selections of cocktails, Gin and other drinks, so it is not your usual lunchtime place.
  • I loved the pizza and I cannot wait to come back to try more of that: crunchy, not greasy at all, light in the dough and with first quality ingredients. The small portion (12 Euro for the topping I have chosen) was definitely more than enough for just one person and I have found myself imagining there sharing a large size with several friends and a Campari (or Aperol Spritz, depending what you like). E. also said his pasta was delicious, even if slightly smaller in size: the pasta with truffle is the most expensive one (20 Eur – and it is very reasonable as they came to shave the truffle at the table), but other pasta dishes are around 12 Eur, like salads, 6.5 Eur for sandwiches). Again, ingredients are top quality and you can definitely taste it.
  • Service was friendly, with detailed explanations and very present despite the place was very busy during Saturday lunch (better to book during peak hours). I also appreciate very much the take-away and delivery option. I am a fan of pizza al taglio (don’t blame me, I like it more than your typical round pizza) so I would definitely prefer ordering it at home to share with friends.

What I liked a bit less about Mani d’Oro:

  • At the moment, as the place is open until 8 pm during the week, it is perfect for lunch or late lunch, after-work or a very early dinner. If you fancy their dishes after 8 pm, you will need definitely to wait for next day.
In conclusion: I loved Mani d’Oro and as it is not far from where I live, it is going to be my place to go for Saturday lunch and after-work with friends. Their pizza is delicious and they offer a great selection of pasta, sandwiches and salads – together with drinks, also alcoholic – for a very fair price in a charming location. 

Piadi – Italian Food House, Bonnevoie, Luxembourg

Last week I went back to basics and came back after long time to have dinner in Bonnevoie. If you missed the previous episodes, I have lived in Bonnevoie for about 10 years and probably my first posts on the blog were very centred on that area, a bit like now they are focused around Place de Paris 🙂

Piadi – Italian Food House is another one of those places which have been on my list for long time, so a quiet night of the week while I was not feeling cooking seemed the perfect night to try it.

We got there at 7 pm (yes, I know.. “eating with the chicks” as we say in Italian) and got to choose our table as the restaurant was basically still empty. The location is very nice: just few steps from the central station, with bright windows on the first roundabout in Bonnevoie. Not fancy, but definitely colorful, those kind of places were you feel like smiling as soon as you got in.

We were informed there was a special tasting night (“Pasta lovers”) and, if we wanted, we could have had three small portions of pasta for 19 Euro.
We decided to eat a la carte a as you know I am not very past oriented.

We started with a Negroni and a glass of white, together with a platter of cheese and cold cut, accompanied by piadina and gnocco fritto – a typical specialty from Emilia Romagna. We were not sure about portions, so we hold on the main order, but, after the starter, we were definitely still hungry: I went for a dish of passatelli with pesto and clams (another pasta specialty from Emilia Romagna) and E. for a piadina with Italian sausage, onions and bell peppers.

We spent 84 Euro for: 2 glasses of wine, 1 Negroni, 1 bottle of water, 1 starter to share, 1 piadina, 1 passatelli, 1 espresso, 2 digestif. 42 Euro each.

Pictures of the dinner followed by my general impressions of Piadi – Italian Food House.

What I liked about Piadi – Italian Food House:

  • As anticipated, I liked the place and the general feeling the place is giving you. It is very relaxed and friendly and the nice service is definitely completing this feeling. It is a place you can go straight from work for a quick drink accompanied by Italian antipasti, you can have an informal date or you can meet up with your friends. Probably the colors of the place are making me thinking you cannot be sad among those walls and you will definitely link that dinner to happy circumstances.

  • Food was good: we were given more piadina and gnocco fritto with the starter once we finished them, the squaquerone cheese which is included in the antipasti platter was my personal highlight and I liked very very much the passatelli – more than the piadina honestly. The menu is pretty various as well: a nice choice a la carte as well as suggestions of the day which are going from starters to main – they had rabbit that day that I love, but I was not feeling very much for that, next time. It is definitely a place where you can have dinner (or lunch) with pasta lovers, vegetarian or picky eaters.

  • As said, service was very kind and my bonus point goes definitely to the Negroni I had. Most of bars and restaurants are recently serving Negroni -which is my favorite Italian cocktail – and even if I have found really good versions around – and some interesting relook -, the one I had at Piadi’ was the one to me which tasted closer to the one I have in Italy.

What I liked a bit less about Piadi – Italian Food House:

  • Once again, another place where I cannot find something to dislike, we had a very happy evening and I would probably come back. There was only one small “discomfort” regarding to the price of some items, if we want to call it like that. The shared platter has two size (a small and a bigger one) and we ordered the big (21 Eur). We were feeling to have only that but as said we were still hungry after – I feel that compared to other places I had the mixed starter, the portion size is slightly misaligned with the price, but it is not a big issue, you just have to know you can/need to eat something else after. Same for the “digestifs”, rarely seen a shot glass priced 5 Eur, so I will probably not order it next time.

To know: together with the a la carte dinner, Piadi is also organizing various interesting tasting nights, all oriented around typical products you rarely get to eat somewhere else (like “Tigella night”) and Sunday brunches. To be informed about these events, follow them on their Facebook page.

In conclusion: Piadi – Italian Food House is an informal Italian place, focused on authentic Italian products from Emilia Romagna, located in the heart of Bonnevoie. You need definitely to try gnocco fritto but next to that you can have other very tasty dishes – and delicious cocktails. It is the perfect place for a night out with friends or an easy going date.

Al Grappolo, Gare, Luxembourg

A new week has started and the weather is very depressing, isn’t it? Personally I am a fan of the cold season, which I prefer much more than the hot one, but rain… I can’t really handle it. After a week of much work and some social gatherings, last week-end I just stayed in and cook for my friends.

But.. I have still couple of reviews to post about “new” places I have visited during the previous week-end. Al Grappolo, in rue Adolphe Fisher, is one of these places. It is not new, as it has been open for some time now, but for some reasons, even if I wanted so much to try, I never had the occasion. I heard a lot of great stuff about it, so I was very curious and excited.

First of all, book in advance as the place is very small. We got there around 8 pm and the place is pretty cozy, the atmosphere is calm and warm. Candlelights, white table cloths, an old fashion record player. We ordered a Campari spritz to kick off the night and then the owner came to our table to introduce us the menu. Indeed, there is not a fixed menu, but it is changing every day with some limited choices.

We chose two portions of porchetta (roasted pork) with gorgonzola to start. To follow, I had veal with mushrooms, L. calamarata (a kind of pasta) with squids and E. pasta with “nonna” ragu.

We had a bottle of primitivo during the dinner – which took ages to be chosen, so praise to the patient of the staff who supported our decision – and we concluded with some digestives.

Total bill read 210 Eur – two starters, three mains, 3 apero, bottle of wine (which was around 50 Eur) – 70 Euro each.

Pictures of the dinner – starter pic is ugly, but I was so hungry I forgot to make it before eating – followed by my impressions about Al Grappolo.

 

Things I liked about Al Grappolo:

  • My expectations about food probably were generally too high, we had a pleasant, tasty dinner, but I think what makes the place special is the combination between the good food, the amazing atmosphere and the bubbling service. Walking into the door, you are catapulted in an Alice in Wonderland’s hole, where Luxembourg grey sky is thousand years far, surrounded by this welcoming feeling you might have when you eat at someone’s place.
  • Next to the food, the choice of wine is incredible, wide and interesting. Personally speaking, I would choose not to go to a place which has decent food, if I don’t like the wine offer. At Al Grappolo, wine would be one of the first reason to have dinner for me.
  • Considering what we ate (and drank), I have found the bill quite fair compared to similar place, above all for how pleasant was our night.

What I liked a bit less about Al Grappolo:

  • Let’s be honest: the fact they don’t have a fixed menu and the choice is very limited, is ensuring that the products are always fresh and seasonal. At the same time, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea. The night we had dinner there was only one starter (pork), couple of meat pasta dishes, one fish pasta, one meat main course (the one I had) or grilled meat (for 2 people). I am very easy going in terms of food and I eat everything, so it was not an issue for me, but if you are with picky eaters, it might not be the right place.

 

In conclusion: Al Grappolo is a very cozy and warm Italian place located just off Place de Paris. It offers seasonal products and a very authentic cuisine, together with a great choice of wine. I would definitely recommend, especially for a night out with friends, when you want to be at restaurant all night and enjoy one glass more.

 

Urban City Luxembourg, a lunch in town

I usually tend to avoid writing a blog post about places which are very much known, but this time I really feel that Urban City needs a mention, as it started to fulfill recently a need it emerged I have after the lockdown. A place to have a nice, fairly priced and easy going lunch in town, but with a cool atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong: Luxembourg city center is definitely full of pleasant places for having lunch, but was missing for me a category in the middle, in-between a fancy, rather expensive lunch (Giallo, Um Plateau, to name few) as opposite at a daily lunch at the office (like at La Table du Pain).

I decided to write this review after being there couple of times, on Fridays I had off work – hence the beers 🙂

First time I had the falafel wrap – next to a classic burger for my companion of the day. Second time I had zucchini fries and avocado toast with poached eggs – while I well sold to my friend the falafel wrap I had the first time. To be honest there was a third time where I had a club sandwich, but I was too hungry to take a picture, so please use your imagination.

Here’s are the pictures of the lunch I had at Urban City, followed by my general impressions about the places and the food.

 

What I loved about having lunch at Urban City:

  • Food is to die for. The falafel wrap is to me probably the best dish they had on the menu, but having tried the burger, the sandwich and the toast, I can say that honestly everything I tried is really good, well seasoned, not greasy at all. Sauces and fries are also worth a mention.
  • Service is smiling and present – oh, what a pleasant surprise for such a crowded place! You never feel forgotten, dishes are coming quite fast and waiters/waitresses have even the time to share jokes with you – happened the last time, when we took huge time to decide what to order as I could already acknowledge everything is so good there.
  • I don’t have much to tell you more about the ambience compared to what you probably know already, but Urban City is definitely a cool place where you can go straight from the office, in your sweatpants after a walk around the city (or off your bed) or already dressed up for the night. What I want to add is that, even if so central, the price for the lunch is very fair: every time we spent around 50 Euro in two people (so 25 Eur each), including beers and coffee, euro more, euro less depending on the dishes. Probably it is not the place to have lunch every day, but it definitely well compares to other similar places.
    And don’t forget, kitchen is open non-stop, so you can enjoy your “lunch” at whatever time in the afternoon.

What I liked a bit less about having lunch at Urban City:

  • Not much honestly. Probably I recognize the fact that once it will be winter, having lunch inside will be less cool (for my taste) than being on the terrace, but still pretty good.
  • Finally, can you please cut the zucchini fries a bit smaller? Like actual fries? I think they will taste really better, but this is just a personal suggestion 🙂

In conclusion: I had to re-visit my motto of not having food where I normally have drinks. Urban City is the perfect place for a lunch in town: cool, easy going and fairly priced. Amazing and well presented dishes, including a wide choice for vegetarian. I am very much sure they are so well-known that they don’t need my blog post, still we had such nice time there recently I find impossible not to share.

Lunch at Trattoria del Circolo, Hollerich, Luxembourg

I am still working couple of days per week at home and this is giving me the opportunity to visit some restaurants in my areas also for lunch. Except business lunches, I tend to take my lunch from home as when not busy drinking like Joan Collins or eating like Adam Richman, I follow pretty strict dietary rules – unbelievable but true.

But after the almost three months lockdown, when I had lunch and dinner at home every day, and I pretty much avoided as well take-aways, I am quite keen now about having at least one lunch out per week.

Last week, I was invited by a dear friend to “Trattoria del Circolo“, the restaurant of the Italian club Circolo Curiel. To be honest, even if it is located at a walking distance from my place and I pass there in front almost every day, I have never been tempted to try it before. As I was explaining to P., in Italy usually this kind of restaurants are famous (or infamous) for the huge portions, very simple dishes and a fairly decent quality, so not exactly my target. “Trattoria del Circolo” was indeed an extremely positive surprise.

Starting from the location, traditional but not kitsch, warm and welcoming, with bright spaces and a very Italian feeling. There are two different menu, one for lunch and one for dinner, with some choices that are available at both meals and a good variety of products and tastes. Prices are moderate, with starters around 10 Eur, primi piatti around 16 Euro and main course from 19 Eur to 25 Eur. For lunch, there is also a daily menu available: starter, main and dessert for 13,5 Eur. You have two choices per course, so this might accommodate various palate.

We went for this option and we had as starter a seafood salad (other option was a caprese). As for main, I had spaghetti with rabbit and bell peppers, while P. had orecchiette with gorgonzola. We were not given option for the dessert, which was a cheesecake with raspberry.

Two menu, two bottles of water, two espressos, total bill read 38 Eur (19 Eur per person) that might not be a lunch for every day if you are surviving like me on lunch vouchers, but it is definitely very much competitive.

Pictures of our lunch followed by my general impressions on “Trattoria del Circolo“. (Note that the pictures of the location don’t do it justice, but it is just for you to have an idea.)

What I loved about “Trattoria del Circolo

  • Trattoria del Circolo” has been so far one of the best gastronomic highlights of this year. Not because I haven’t been out a lot, but because in its whole presentation was able to surprise me like not other places did recently.
  • Food was not only delicious, but extremely polished in its presentation, going far beyond the idea of “trattoria” as Italian I might have had. I can’t wait to come back and try the evening menu! Rabbit is usually a dish I love so much at my granma’s place that I tend to dislike everywhere else: here it was a great exception, as it was to die for.
  • The location is very cozy: honestly I immediately pictured there a date night, but it would be perfect as well for a family reunion or a dinner with friends. Bonus point: there is a terrace on the back if you want to eat outside.

What I liked a bit less about “Trattoria del Circolo

  • As for this lunch visit, everything amazed me, so there was nothing I would have changed – well, personally I would have kept the pasta in the boiling water for 1 minute less, but this is something totally personal. I will anyway give it another try for dinner and I will update the review at that time.

In conclusion:

I had a very tasty lunch at “Trattoria del Circolo” in Hollerich. The lunch set menu is a steal, the location is lovely and the food was surprisingly good and well presented. Definitely a place I want to come back.

Where to: Eat Vegetarian for Lunch in Luxembourg

If you remember, two years ago we had a series that was pretty followed on the blog that was called “Where to” and was including suggestions per areas of Luxembourg – our most read was definitely the Bonnevoie one.
This year, I have decided to create something similar, but with a different focus.

I will test restaurants in the same range and compare them. Because some kind of visits are too short to write a proper review, but it is worth of having indications about where to… We will start today with Vegetarian Lunch in Luxembourg.

Where do you have vegetarian lunch in the city?

Definitely the situation is better than when I arrived 13 years ago – I definitely know it, as at that time I was vegan and it was almost impossible to eat out. Now little by little new vegetarian spots are opening in town and, even if not fully vegetarian, restaurants offer a tasty and wide selection of no-meat no-fish dishes that are not plain salads. I have included those places in my list that does not want to be fully inclusive, therefore feel free to suggest with your favorite vegetarian lunch eatery or the one you want us to test!

(A special thanks to Sana for having been part of the test).

Flowers Kitchen

Area: Station

What I had: Super Bowl and Ginger Lemonade

What I spent: 18,20 Eur

What you have: The place is rather small, so it you better reserve in advance. They have a weekly menu, plus a super bowl, a super dish and a savory cake (“quiche”). Choice of drink is also rather various and starts from infused water to smoothies. They are a fully vegan restaurant, so don’t serve meat or fish.

What I think: I liked the food proposal, my dish was big and I was very full after. Ginger lemonade was very tasty. If you eat in, you have service at the table and it is lovely. Downside: it did not come out as very cheap and they don’t take lunch vouchers.

Side note: They have just opened a bigger restaurant in Cloche D’Or, definitely worth to try.

Ekxi

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Area: Kirchberg (but there also others in the city center and station area)

What I had: pumpkins soup, Shanti sandwich (with hummus) and Rivella Green Tea

What I spent: 9.20 Euro

What you have: You don’t have service at the table and you basically help yourself among what it is available (in Kirchberg you have to get there around 12 to be able to have full choice). The menu includes 1 soup or 1 small salad, 1 sandwich and 1 drink. You have also salads, warm dishes and dessert. They have a rather healthy food choice (indicating as well the number of calories on the product) and they serve also fish / meat. The vegetarian menu is pretty wide anyway.

What I think: I like Ekxi as I can take away really quickly at the office or bring a salad at home at the evening when I don’t feel like cooking. Menu changes seasonally. Products are a bit on the commercial side and not very appealing in the presentation, but still tasty. If you take the menu, the price is very competitive. Quite different if you start taking separate random products. Perfect if you are on a budget and in a hurry.

Side note: I love their freshly made Mint Iced Tea.

Dean & David

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Area: Kirchberg (but there is also one in the city center)

What I had: Avocado Bowl (Small) and Lemonade

What I spent: 14 Euro

What you have: You get served at the counter and the order is freshly prepared. They have a quite various menu, including as well fish and meat, starting from salad, bowl, wrap and sandwich. You have at least two vegetarian items for each category. The “small” bowl was still quite big for me and was very tasty.

What I think: As products are prepared at the moment, the wait at lunch time might be quite long and to me this is the only negative point. I love the selection of products and I love the fact that portions are large enough to fill full but not to fall asleep.

Side note: during summer, in Kircherberg the terrace is small but lovely.

Oak

Area: Place de Paris / Place de Martyr

What I had: Dish of the day (Salad, Hummus, Rice Balls and Veggies), Fairy Tale Tea and a Slice of Raw Black Forest Cake

What I spent: 23 Euro

What you have: Service is at the table – very polite – and dishes are prepared in a kitchen on display. The menu is relatively small (dish of the day, dish of the week, in combo with soup and salad, two types of cakes). The place is very cozy and relaxed. I loved their tea pot.

What I think: The main dish was good but I was not extremely impressed (it was a bit too salty for me). The cake was to die for – I would definitely have another (or another 10!) slices. They have a great selection of loose tea, but on cold drink the choice is limited.

Side note: the place is perfect if you want a central location, but very quiet.

Glow

Area: Bonnevoie

What I had: Risotto and Nuts Cake, coffee

What I spent: 24 Eur

What you have: Service at the table – definitely one of the best service I had in Luxembourg, very kind and smiley, even when the place is full. Location is not big, therefore reservation is strongly recommended. They have a daily menu, salad and soup of the day. They are open all day, so you can also pop in also just for a coffee or a piece of cake.

What I think: The only downside at Glow is that you should be lucky with the daily menu. As the choice is limited, if you are not a fan of what it is proposed (but that you can check ahead online), it might not be worth it. For the rest, the place is lovely.

Side note: They organize a monthly brunch.

 

Restaurant Peppermint, Bonnevoie, Luxembourg

I don’t know about you, but my memories related to eating at Asiatic restaurants are mostly related to my university years, where with 10 euro I could get Chinese dinner for couple of days and I was not complaining about the quality of the food received nor questioning about it contents. Since then, I have always considered certain kind of Asiatic restaurants most likely to be post hangover dinner or take away food rather than a fancy dinner location. Peppermint Restaurant definitely went over and beyond my – wrong – idea.

The restaurant is located in Bonnevoie, just a short walk from the train station. It has some bright windows on the street where – surprise! – you can see the kitchen. I feel it is a great presentation, something like saying “we have nothing to hide, look before you try”. While most of the restaurants show up their main interior décor on the street, they went for a totally different solution. The entrance hallway has pastel tones and you have this relaxed feeling while the waitress is guiding you to your table to be walked through a sensorial spa more than a restaurant.

The main restaurant room kept the same pastel, relaxed tones with lovely terrarium vases hanging from empty frames. An amazing idea I would definitely copy at my place. We visited Peppermint Restaurant on a Saturday night and the restaurant was busy but not packed, still maintaining a very zen aplomb and being everything but noisy.

We went for two soups as starter, followed by Lemongrass Chicken and Peppermint Praws. My Tamarind Soup Saigon Style has been so far the most incredible culinary highlight of 2019: a plain appearance compensated by an explosion of taste and different consistencies, finally concluded by a pleasant, prolonged spicy note.

Pictures of our dinner followed by my impressions.


What I liked about Peppermint Restaurant
:

  • The menu is not extensive but offers some very interesting dishes, travelling mainly between Malaysia and Vietnam. My suggestion would definitely go for the most exotic dishes on the menu: the restaurant offers as well very traditional items like Lemongrass Chicken, that are extremely good in their execution but “already seen”, while their special dishes, like the Peppermint Prawns or the Vietnamese Black Pepper Beef, will surprise your palate.
  • The wine card is unexpectedly competent for an Asian restaurants, with several great European labels. If you want to feel more local, Vietnamese beer is still the best option to accompany their spicy dishes.
  • Finally a positive note as well as in terms of service: smiles were not added up to the bill and our waiter was really keen explaining us in details dishes we had questions about.

What I liked a bit less about Peppermint Restaurant:

  • The service has been quite relaxed – meaning we waited a lot for the main dish to come – even if the place was not packed. Not a very negative point, but keep it in mind if you are in a hurry.

 

In conclusion: Peppermint restaurant is a great example about how to be surprised by a neighbor small restaurant, which, in this specific case, offers you an unforgettable atmosphere, a kind service and, above all, an amazing exotic food proposal. Recommended for a quiet girls night out or for a first exotic date.

 

This article has been adapted and published on Editus.lu.

Tasto: an Italian experience at your door

Couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to be invited by Giovanni at the launch party of Tasto, a website who promises to delivery Italian products at your door.

I did not know what to expect: while on one side I am a voracious online shopping user when it comes to clothing and kitchen appliances – that actually represents 80% of my purchases out of alcohol and food every month -, I have only been deceived in the past by grocery shopping experiences. In the specific, concerning what it is available in Luxembourg, Luxcaddy has unjustified sky-high prices while at Auchan-drive I have always been provided by products extremely close to their due date – last time, I picked up my delivery at 7 pm and I had some diary products which expiry date was the following day.

I also didn’t know what to expect because in the press release of the event it was mentioned a show cooking and a tasting session – so definitely something different from what I have been seeing so far.

Indeed, what I attended, at the end, was more a pleasant evening at friends’ place and not a formal press event.

Giovanni welcomed us in a lovely, secret location and seated around the kitchen, with a bubbles glass in one hand – as there is something to drink in all the great stories – and the mobile for taking pictures in the other, we were explained the background of Tasto.

Tasto is born from the passion for Italian products and decades of experience within the food distribution of his founder. The name, Tasto, that is symbolically represented in the website logo, is an instrument coming from a horse bone used to pinch a ham and check its maturity.

On Tasto, you can find products that might be available in some supermarkets in Luxembourg but also niche specialties for different Italian regions.

Giovanni used several products available for purchase on Tasto to prepare us a delicious dinner. As appetizers, we had linen seeds grissini rolled in Coppa, Parmigiano cheese with almonds and bell peppers cream –  my favorite -, tarallini, mozzarella cheese with truffle honey. This was followed by Bresaola with oregano and olive oil and a pizza prepared with a ready to go base, ham and artichokes.

As main, we had a typical dish from Apulia, orecchiette prepared with cime di rapa (a South Italian variety of broccoli), anchovies and crumbs of taralli. Finally, we concluded our dinner with a cheesecake in a glass. I chose the one with hazelnut.

The entire dinner was amazing and you could definitely not tell that was prepared “out of a box”.

My personal highlights were definitely:

The base for pizza: while you cannot definitely compared it to the pizza you have at the restaurant, this to me is an extremely valid alternative to frozen pizza – you wake up drunk on Sunday morning, this is very easy to prepare, request the minimum effort and it is ready in 5 minutes. I can confirm because I did it the Sunday after the event 🙂 Also, it is perfect to keep in the fridge when you have unexpected guests and you want to prepare something quick to accompany a drink but not totally industrial.

The cherry tomato sauce: this is the product where mostly I noted the difference with the commercial correspondent product. You can taste Italy and sun in this sauce and it is a product I would be really happy to pay the surplus compared to the supermarket.

The olive oil: this is another product which is slightly different in price compared to what you can find in store but you can feel (smell and taste) the difference. I would definitely keep a jar at home to be used “raw” and give dishes a very different touch.

The ricotta cheesecake: I am not very much into sweets, you know, and above all I am not into industrial ones. A jar of Nutella can get totally untouched to the expiry date in my flat, but this cheesecake was to die for. Creamy, tasty, intense. This is a product that I would definitely recommend you to buy but I will not buy myself, as still want to fit my clothes 🙂

So: why should you order on Tasto instead of buying Italian products at the supermarket?

  • Tasto is at your door (at home or at the office) within 72 hours from your order. The package is eco friendly and includes for fresh products a specific packaging with dry ice that keeps your products cool up to 5 days.
  • Tasto ensures your ordered product to have at least 12 days till the expiration for fresh products and 3 months for dry products (so, no products due the day after delivery 🙂 ). The invoice will include the detailed expiration dates of your order.
  • Delivery is free over 25 Eur order (in Luxembourg, Germany, France, Belgium, UK, The Netherlands and Italy). So you can even send your pasta stock to your holiday rental home on the Belgian coast where you don’t have big supermarket.
  • On your first order, 50% is off. Off everything. Isn’t this already a good reason at least to try?
  • There is a specific category called “Take away” where you have products you can take to the office for lunch and just warm up in a microwave. The average price is 5 Eur, that is a huge saving compared to the spent you have buying sandwiches or eating out for lunch in Luxembourg city.
  • And if you are vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, Tasto has a specific category for you as well.

Tasto aims to be not only a website where you buy occasionally, but the one you can buy most of the products you need in the day to day life. You can stock up pasta and tomato sauce for example, what is more convenient than have it delivered at your door instead of loading and unloading your car?

Let me know if you will use Tasto and how do you find it. And have a spoon of ricotta cheesecake for me as well please 🙂