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 🙂

 

Frida Cantina Mexicana, Luxembourg City

I have started 2019 with the resolution to try as much as new restaurants I can. Finally I got the first chance yesterday night and, even if I have still quite a backlog of reviews to publish, I decided to write about Frida Cantina Mexicana immediately today, instead of waiting any further.

So if you follow my stories on Instagram, you might have seen I planned to go to Tom Odell concert with Federica at den Atelier yesterday night. As the weather was incredibly cold, we decided to have a quick dinner in a place nearby den Atelier and unfortunately options on a Monday night are quite limited. So, as Frida Cantina Mexicana was already on my “to try” list and it is just few steps away from den Atelier and from where I live, we decided to go straight there – without reservation, but, again, being a Monday night, we supposed it would have not been an issue.

We arrived at the door at 7 pm, with the restaurant busy but not particularly packed. We waited good 5 minutes on the door, with the two waiters in front of us at the bar totally ignoring the world outside, until the chef, from the kitchen window, noted us and called them. Not a good kick off, but after that we were seated.

The atmosphere was nice, colorful and informal, even if not particularly distinctive. We were handled the menu and made quickly our choice. We ordered one margarita and one beer, with a Mexican mix as starter to share, followed for me by an enchiladas with roja sauce (marked as extra spicy) and a chilaquiles for Federica.

From that moment on, it started be more a nightmare than a proper dinner. As said, we got in at 7 pm and got our food ordered by 7.15. While Federica’s beer and water were taken at the table after fair 10 minutes, my margarita took more than 20 to arrive. Finally, at 8.10, so almost one hour after we ordered, we got our starter to share: a basic dish of commercial tortilla chips, guacamole, pico de gallo and re-fried beans. The dish was cold – as it should have been – with beans probably just out of the can (I can suggest you also the brand, as I buy the same at home). Would this kind of dish need one hour to be prepared in a restaurant not full? I doubt. As we were starving, we finished it in less than 5 minutes. I ordered a second drink – that again, took 15 minutes to be ready – and we waited for our main course, starting feeling pretty nervous about the time, as concert was supposed to start at 9 pm. We also were very surprised to discover that the table next to us, arrived when our starter was out, were served cocktails and main courses in less than 5 minutes. At that point, very nervous, we called the waiter to cancel the order and he promised us that the main course would have arrived in 2 minutes. So finally, after 1 hour 40 minutes in the restaurant, while served only a commercial dish of tortilla chips, we got our dinner.

I said to Federica: I would have easily forgotten about the wait, if food was worth it – you can clearly remember from some recent reviews. Unfortunately my dish was probably one of the most disgusting thing I have ever had in Luxembourg. This soggy wrap – where you cannot even taste the chicken – totally covered up with this that was far being a homemade roja sauce, but was more a mild-spicy watery ketchup. I got to half of the dish only because I really needed some food, but in other circumstances and without a gig to attend, I would have left the dish and have gone somewhere else to have proper food.

Total bill for 2 margarita, 1 beer, 2 half-liter bottles of water, 1 starter, 2 main read 75 Euro (37 Euro each).

Pictures of my dinner followed by my final impressions.


What I liked about Frida Cantina Mexicana:

  • This is probably the first review were I can honestly say: nothing at all. It was one of worst dinner I had in my life. I might have said that the margarita was pretty good, but if I have wait 20 minutes every time I rather have something else to drink.

What I didn’t like about Frida Cantina Mexicana:

  • Service was horrible. It was not only a question of wait, 1 hour and 40 minutes to have a dish is already a great support to this evaluation, but also the attitude of the waiters was awful. They were both walking with their chins down, avoid the eye contact with the clients… how are you supposed to ask for another drink or whatever? Not to mention, when clients were leaving, dirty dishes were remaining on the table forever, basically until the next clients would have been seated.
  • Food was horrible. 12 euro to have a dish “to share” composed by a bunch of commercial tortilla chips, guacamole and pico de gallo (plain ones) and beans out of a can. Main course was something I want to forget as soon as I can: watery sauce and a soggy wrap that you cannot even understand what you were eating. I am not a fan of franchising, but I honestly can say that at the Tex-Mex in Place d’Armes food is way better (while still on the bad side) of the one I had at Frida.

In conclusion: my experience at Frida Cantina Mexicana was personally bad. While I can tell you that on the service side they might have been understaffed and having hired (very) inexperienced servers, on the food side there was nothing I would say it can be saved or improved. This is definitely on my list of places I would not go back even if it was the only restaurant open in town.

Luckily Tom Odell concert was amazing, so our night was not totally ruined.

Trattoria da Gino, Luxembourg City

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

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

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

I could have not been more wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ukelele, Clausen, Luxembourg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I liked about Ukelele:

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

What I liked a bit less about Ukelele:

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

 

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

Alterego Restaurant, Luxembourg City

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find the pictures of our dinner followed by my comments.


What I liked about Alterego:

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

What I liked a bit less about Alterego:

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

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

Barefoot in Luxembourg meets people: Andrea

2018 is starting with a new chapter of the Barefoot in Luxembourg meets people column. If you follow my IG stories, you have already realized probably that one of my favourite place during winter has been La Briscola, this cozy Italian wine bar and restaurant off the station where I can relax after some very long days at work, in front of a lovely glass of Italian red wine. As it helped me so much taking the stress away in these last weeks that have been, for a reason or another, so tough, I decided starting the 2018 of our series from here, having a chat with the guys behind this concept.

I met Andrea, one of the owners, at my usual table, in front, ca va sans dire, of a glass of red wine.

foto per articolo

Good evening Andrea and welcome to Barefoot in Luxembourg. Can you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about how you and your partners met?

Good evening! As you already unveiled, we are four Italian guys who met through a common passion, the one for wine and Italian authentic food. We come from different experiences – three of us are working in a bank, while I am the manager of the restaurant and I have a hospitality background – and come from different places – two of us are from Lombardia, while the other two are from Friuli region. We had all since long time this dream about opening an Italian restaurant, while enjoying it, and with “La Briscola” we finally managed to do it and we are very excited to celebrate our first year of activity this Saturday (ED: more information here).

What are you enjoying about La Briscola and why people should come here?

“Briscola”, in Italy, is a famous card game. The name indeed is not random: we wanted to have a place where to enjoy ourselves, like during a card game, and to put ourselves in action, not just as owners or managers, but as active players. Our La Briscola is not only a restaurant, the place where you eat and leave, but, also and above all, a place where you feel home, that welcomes you when you have an argument with your partner and needs a glass of wine, when you want to relax with your friends or celebrate a great day at work, when you want to discover more about wines and take a bottle home for your sweet half or your parents.

Why La Briscola should be different from tons of Italian restaurant we have already in town?

La Briscola is different, firstly, because it is not only a restaurant, it is a place to meet. That means that our customers are welcome for lunch or dinner, but as well for after-work, a night-cap drink, to discuss about wines and to discover our products.

Under the pure “food” point of view, then, we are proud to say that we have an offer that is completely different from the other Italian restaurants in Luxembourg: we have a seasonal, very short menu that changes every two months, including some forte that you can always find – for example: tartares. We do not propose the usual classic you might find elsewhere – the infamous carbonara or similar,  – but unique, designed dishes, with a strong regional orientation. In particular, while we try to cover the cuisine from North to South of Italy, we are very keen of being almost the first in Luxembourg to present as well several dishes from Northern Italy – while the major part of our “competitors” have speciality from Apulia or Sicily. We are glad to say that probabily 90% of the products and wines you are having at La Briscola cannot be found elsewhere in Luxembourg as well as offering them at very fair prices.

So La Briscola is organizing also getting together. What are the upcoming events of La Briscola?

As said in the beginning, this Saturday La Briscola will celebrate its first birthday. An occasion for us to thank our customers. We are having a special dinner menu and an all-night-long after-party with DJ set.

Moreover, we started already from some time the concept of Briscolino, an after-work evening once per month where our clients enjoy a cocktail or a glass of wine, taste for free our dishes at the appetizers buffet and dance with a DJ – set. Briscolino is different from the other after-works in town because we are not changing our style for the event, but we are proud to present our same, usual products we import from Italy, from Gorgonzola on the spoon to Breasola to home-made pasta dishes. Briscolino is not an evento to fill up the restaurant for one night, but for having more people trying our cuisine and come back as regular clients.

Another great event we repeat on a regular basis are the Wine Talks: again, it is not just an occasion to taste and learn more about some great Italian wines, from a professional perspective, but above all an occasion to meet other wine lovers and discuss also with them about wine – a monthly “wine club”, if we want to define it so, that make clearer our idea about being not only a restaurant, but as well a reference for people passionate about wines. In fact, for example, during our Wine Talks, you have a chance to buy our wines – that are on sale normally at the restaurant anyway – for a discounted price.

So one year passed already, where do you see La Briscola in 1 year?

Our first year was basically to get known, that might not be easy considering that we are not in a fashionable area of the city. We want to continue to propose our Briscolino and Wine Talks and we have great surprises coming – for example the Italian Sunday Brunch and the kitchen open all Sunday afternoon for Italian football matches – or, if you don’t like football, just if you are too lazy to wake up on time for the brunch on Sundays.

Coming back to your Luxembourg background, how long have you been in Luxembourg?

I came to Luxembourg one year and a half ago for opening La Briscola. I was convinced by my other three partners in crime, who have been here for more than three years and know I was getting myself into real trouble moving here (laughing).

What is the place that has the most special memory in the city for you?

The bridge on the Alzette in Grund…one of the first places I saw in Luxembourg and still my favourite one.

Out of interest, and taken La Briscola out of the candidates :), what is your favorite restaurant in town?

I recently went to Tomo, a sushi place in Merl and tried their special menu with marinated sushi at the bar in front of the chef. In my opinion the best sushi in town!

What about your favourite night-life spot?

Being a pub-lover, Steiler is definitely the place I go on the weekends to enjoy a good atmosphere and good music.

What do you like about living in Luxembourg?

What I enjoy the most about Luxembourg is its international environment, which is something you can experience in very few cities in Europe. Lots of people are moving here from all over the world and are very open to make friendship. Going from bar to bar at night, you can easily spend the entire time with people you met on the spot, which is something that rarely happened to me in other cities I lived in before.

What do you miss most about living in Luxembourg and would change about the life in Luxembourg?

As Italian, the only thing I really miss is a better, sunny weather! Seriously, I hope the city will continue to grow and to increase the offer for entertainment, which is definitely needed, considering the relatively young age in average of people that have been moving to the city in the last years.

And finally, to conclude, what are the best three adjectives that describe better Luxembourg for you

International, cosy and forward looking!

Thank you very much Andrea and See you at La Briscola!