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!

 

Kay, the new restaurant of Casino Luxembourg, City Centre

As promised on Monday, we got another “new place” on the radar which we tried this week. Kay, the new restaurant of the Casino Luxembourg, open its door last Thursday. The idea, this time, compared to the previous catering experiences at Casino, is to have a “real” restaurant, which is kind of independent from the museum – hence the entrance on Boulevard Roosevelt which allowed the access also in the evening.

The restaurant, from the press communication, proposes a creative Peruvian cuisine about natural ingredients. Ca va sans dire, I was very curious to try it and I booked a table with A. for Monday night.

The welcome was extremely kind. It was Monday and the weather was everything but nice, so the restaurant looks pretty empty. The décor has not significantly changed compared to before – at least for what I can remember – and table are left pretty minimal and naked. This completes a bright look of the main room, with the huge windows on the bridge, which should definitely give a suggestive view during less rainy evenings.

Our jackets and umbrellas were taken to the wardrobe and we were accommodated to our table.
First of all, we were given the cocktail list, which is pretty original – starting from cocktails’ names – and has alcoholic and non-alcoholic choices. We decided to go classic and ordered a pisco sour.

Together with two slices of tasty bread, we were given and presented the menu card: 6 choices for cold starters and around the same number for hot starters (meat, fish and vegan). Three choices for main: burger (beef or vegetarian), T-Bone and duck. We were explained in details the concept behind the dishes and the accent on natural elements – fermentation, probiotics, tastes.

We ordered 4 starters to share, 2 cold and 2 hot: the marinated nikkei, the “surprise dish” (osez! was the description), the vegan tiradito and roast-beef/peanuts butter potatoes balls. Three dishes out of the starter menu were not available (including octopus and razor clams), so we were offered a mini portion of clams to try.

We concluded with dessert: I had the Pan Comido (bread ice cream, honey, coffee, dates cake and tomatoes) while Angela had Ying and Yang, with chocolate and ginger sorbet.

The total bill reads 101 Euro which included: two cocktails, 4 starters to share, 1 bottle of water and 2 dessert (50 Euro each roughly). Pictures of the dinner followed by my impressions of Kay Restaurant.

What I liked about Kay Restaurant:

  • The concept behind and the idea of cuisine, for what we tried, is very interesting: in particular, I liked very much the marinated Nikkei and both desserts were surprisingly innovative and tasty.
  • The explanation of the dishes is made in details and the lady who is taking main care of the service is extremely sweet and polite.
  • I like the idea of having dinner in a museum and I am sure during sunny days the view would be amazing as well.

What I liked a bit less about Kay Restaurant:

  • Not all the dishes convinced us: the razor clams we tasted missed something and the vegan ceviche was a dish to forget. What confused me most, was the menu: while the starter section is well assorted, the mains look totally out of the contest and are very limited regarding choice – only one vegetarian dish, not even one fish one. The Pisco as well was not memorable.
  • While the main lady was very professional, the rest of the service was a bit shy and not very attentive. The restaurant was empty so small mistakes were immediately corrected, but we had the impression if the restaurant was full, the issues would have been more.
  • Finally: we felt we slightly overpaid for our dinner and this is my main blocking point to come back. It was Monday night, so a cocktail was fine for us and we were feeling sharing, so we had only two starters. But we made a quick calculation that with a main course (30 – 38 Eur) and a bottle of wine, the bill would have been scandalously higher for the feeling we had about the dinner.

In conclusion: the new Kay restaurant proposes a creative Peruvian kitchen in a very special atmosphere, the one of the Casino Luxembourg museum, in the city center. The restaurant has recently opened, so has definitely room for improvement service wise and in regards to the variety of the choices of the menu. I would definitely recommend it for a night out dinner or an after-shopping lunch with your girlfriends. Be careful: it might not be the place for you if you are on a budget.