Following the hype: Gastronomica Luxembourg

In the last couple of years, I noted less and less traditional concepts open their doors in Luxembourg and left the place to hybrid forms of business, similarly to what happened already in most of the other European capital. So – not just bar, but spaces integrated with shops, not just restaurants but also library, meeting point, concert hall.

It happened also recently that there are places most of my friends have been already to and I did not feel interested to visit yet, until a certain point when their descriptions became so pressing, I decide to check in myself.

Gastronomica Luxembourg, located in the area of Hollerich, is a clear example of both cases: a shop for Italian authentic products but also a restaurant and an after-work spot. A place most people I know loves, due to its products and its prices – this is a recurring reason, indeed.

So, on Wednesday night, after a business meeting with Jenni, I propose her to give Gastronomica Luxembourg a try. Their Facebook page was sponsoring an after-work on that day, so we headed there around 7.30 pm.

The restaurant is located in the complex of “Troc”, so we parked our car outside and walked in the building. The area is not very fashionable: the restaurant is overlooking a parking space and the atmosphere is very post-industrial..

We expected to find an Italian aperitif style, indeed when we entered everybody was seated at the tables having kind of dinner. Without hi or hello, a waiter came to us, asked if we reserved and, when we say no, he pushed us on a table next to the fridge. Actually – we said, we prefer staying outside.

We move on the “terrace” and we took place on a old and dusty couch. The table in front of us was dirty but the waiter did not take care of it. We asked for two glasses of white wine and the waiter shortly came back with a half litre pitcher – he did not ask if we had preferences for the wine nor if the pitcher was fine. He then proposed us a mixed platter to accompany the wine and we accepted. The platter indeed, even if composed only by cold items (charcuterie, cheese, salads, pickles) took ages to come.

The food was very good and there was a quite good selection. Mostly cold cuts and cold salads, as well as some pieces of cheese and grilled  vegetables. The quantity was huge for two persons and was accompanied by a huge basket of Italian bread.

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During the further hour we spent outside nobody came to check on us. We got to draw  the attention of the waiter waiving to him inside. We ordered some more wine and a small cheese platter to conclude.

The wine he took to us lately was different from the first one, randomly: the waiter just told us, he decided to give you some different wine – I wonder that was just the bottle they had open at that time-.  Then, when the cheese arrived, he placed the platter on top of  the fist one, that was still unfinished and with some pieces left. I can perfectly understand the needs of not being formal, but that was a bit too much.

We finished the cheese and the wine and as the night was pretty chilli, we went inside to pay. I wanted to offer my friend the night, so I just asked the waiter how much it was in total and handle him my debit card. He said “15 euro” – no ticket and no menu with prices.. -. I found it incredibly low, but I supposed we paid only the wine and indeed everybody was describing it as very cheap place. I was leaving the room when the waiter shouted at me: “and you friend is not paying?”. Sorry – I said – I supposed it was the total, in fact I asked you “how much we pay in total”.. He told me he split it already for us – who asked? Gosh.

To sum up, what I liked about Gastronomica:

  • The only thing I liked was the food that was pretty good and definitely cheap. Unfortunately, having a small bill is not the only important thing when going to a restaurant – otherwise it would be the same buying nice products and have them at home.

What I did not like about Gastronomica:

  • Even if the place is brand new, details are left there, unattended. The worst I have seen in the restroom an unattached Ikea mirror left in front of the wc. The idea about having spare furniture to fill the “terrace” is not that bad, but still a bit of cleanness would help.
  • Service is unbelievable: table left dirty, no questions about the wine, wine randomly changed, dishes left on the dirty one, no bill……

In conclusion: I perfectly see people like Gastronomica for its good Italian food and cheap bill. At the same time, while I understand a place like this should not be formal, to me the service is an important part of the dining out experience and here was completely missing. I don’t feel I will come back any time soon.

Sunday Lunch: Restaurant Boccon Di Vino, Esch sur Alzette, Luxembourg

Hello Monday! How was your week-end, guys?
I enjoyed finally a pretty relaxing one at home, doing spring cleanings, cooking for hubby and getting serious at the gym. After Friday and Saturday at home, we got our day off on Sunday. We already arranged with some friends for having a lunch out but we haven’t yet booked anything – weather forecast was pretty bad, so we were not in a hurry to decide.
Our problems started on Sunday, when all the places we short-listed ended up being complete or privatized. After brief consultation and as the weather was improving, we decided to check other places where we could eat in the sun. Bad luck, five out of five were already fully booked at 11 am. I started to be a bit nervous, so I took the Explorator guide and, excluded gastronomic places, I started to call all the places in the list opened on Sunday lunch. We restricted our selection to French, Luxembourgish and Italian and we excluded as well places in the North of the country, as hubby, as usual, was far away to be ready on time. Long story short, we found a place after other ten calls on the list. Again, my husband won as we were heading for an Italian, Boccon Di Vino in Esch sur Alzette. We heard a lot about this restaurant and we wanted to try since long time, but always failed to find a good occasion.

After picking up our friends, in a day that was now sunny and hot, with open car windows, we got to Esch around 1 pm.
The restaurant is located in a very central area of the town, but does not have private parking and the streets around were pretty crowed, so we took not much time to create an Italian parking just very next.

The restaurant is located on two levels, but only the first one was used during the lunch service. Very bright view, even if on the street, and stylish rustic atmosphere. We were welcomed by the only waiter, who gave us the menu, pretty in a hurry, while we ordered an aperitif.

We had very much time to check the menu as from that moment on the service took very long. We discovered there were also some daily suggestions together with the usual card as they were just lying on a board next to our table – but they were not very well presented.

We opted for two mixed Italian starter for 2, with cold cuts, cheese, marinated vegetables, jams and honey to share between the two couples, followed by a main dish of pasta each. We asked for the list of wine that arrived together with a asparagus cappuccino with truffle, – tasty.

We received the wine (Terre della Baronia 2013) after some times, again, very in a hurry. We were served it – we noted on the other guests glasses were the same whatever you were having red or white – and the bottle was put in its ice few steps from the table.

We finally got the mixed starters (5/10). The price of the platter for 2 was 34 Euro, we ordered two, so the total amount of the serving was 68 euro. We got these big platter of cold cuts and a separate platter with two mozzarella and some pickled vegetables. Was the plat bad ? No, definitely. Was the plat deluding? Yes, indeed.
First if the platter is for two and we ordered two portions, we were anticipating having at least 4 pieces of each cold cuts. How would you presume to share if one charcuterie you have 3 pieces, one 2 and one 1? Are we expected to cut each slice in a half? Fine for the mozzarella but not for the charcuterie. Second point: most of the cold cuts were salami and mortadella – the cheapest one. There was only one slice of breasaola and one of prosciutto, plus two slice of coppa. Considering the price of the platter, there could have been more balance (less choice, but one piece each, with wider range).. Lastly: if you present it as “mixed starter with cheese, cold cuts, jams and vegetables”, you cannot bring a big platter of salami and two mozzarella. Where are the cheese with the jams? Where are the marinated vegetables? Are you calling vegetables few pickled on side?

Once we finished the starter, we got to wait more than 20 minutes to see the main. We had to stand to take the wine ourselves, as the waiter was nowhere to be seen – so why not leaving the bottle just next to the table? Wouldn’t been easier?

The main were on two different levels: I had a Filei with nduja” (10/10), fresh past with hot salami from South of Italy. The portion was very big and the pasta was amazing: savoury, spicy, tasting, definitely one of the best pasta dishes I had in my life. My friends had “amatriciana” – with tomato sauce, cheek lard and pecorino cheese – and his wife fresh ravioli with mascarpone cheese, provola cheese and speck. Both of them were very happy, only the portion of ravioli was indeed very small compared to ours.
Hubby indeed chose Spaghetti alla Carbonara (2/10) and was really deluded, so much I gave him half of my dish, to avoid leaving him empty stomach. I tasted the carbonara and indeed was terrible. You could taste only the eggs, too much eggs. Some spare pieces of cheek lard were there, but giving no taste at all. Even if I was still hungry, I couldn’t really finish it.

We concluded with coffee (extremely good) and we asked for the bill, that came as 95 Euro per couple (47,5 Euro each).

Find the pictures of our lunch followed by my impressions about Boccon Di Vino.

      
Things I liked about Boccon Di Vino:

  • The combination between menu and daily suggestion makes the choice pretty wide. On the menu, you have mainly classical dishes but the daily suggestions have special ingredients and blend.
  • The location is spacious and cosy, perfect for a relaxed meal without much formalities.
  • My pasta dish was really delicious.

Things I didn’t like about Boccon Di Vino:

  • Service was indecently slow and superficial. Clearly because the waiter was left alone to take care of the all restaurant, but we would have preferred a different attitude.
  • Mixed starter platter was, also in consideration of the price, very deluding, as well as my husband’s dish.
  • For being in Esch sur Alzette and for what we had, I had the feeling we overpaid a bit.

In conclusion, we had a lovely Sunday out with friends, and that was the most important thing. Concerning the restaurant, probably the negative sides were so many and so different, that buried the positive sides of our lunch (my delicious pasta for example). While the place is pretty good for informal lunch with friends and family gatherings, I don’t feel at the moment I would recommend it.

*** Do you want to try Boccon Di Vino or another restaurant in Esch/Alzette and you don’t have a car or you fail to find a sober driver? I used to think this was a huge issue and I was limiting my restaurant reviews to Luxembourg city until I have discovered a fabulous service – the one Drink and Drive Luxembourg is offering.

I suppose I am not the only one who happened to say “Yes, no worries – I will be driving and I will not drink” and then get involved in the celebrations and realize I am no more able to be the one behind the wheel. What to do in this case? Call a cab (already not cheap) and leave your car behind? The best solution is to call Drink and Drive. You don’t need an advance reservation, they will come, pick your car and drive you home with that. Result? You arrive at home safe and your car will be already with you the morning after – if you are not too hangover to drive again. The cost? No more than a black cab service, plus, the more away from the city you go, the cheapest it is compared to a taxi service. Check their website for more information and plan ahead your dinner date out of town with the sunny days.

Restaurant Bosso – Anniversary Party, Luxembourg

I know – I am a little behind blogging, but all my recent efforts are taken by the organization of the Barefoot in Luxembourg – Mix in Luxembourg birthday party – and I promise to be back on a full time basis sooner rather than later.

Anyway – last Saturday I was invited to the 8th anniversary party of Restaurant Bosso, in the Grund area of Luxembourg city.

I knew Restaurant Bosso already – one of our favourite terrace during summer time and a great place for eating on Sundays as the kitchen was open the full day.

I was surprised, indeed, to discover that Bosso was very much than that:

  • First of all, differently from a great part of the new Luxembourg restaurants which are owned by franchising and big groups, Bosso is a family business restaurant. You could immediately feel this intimate atmosphere during the party. I didn’t know anybody when I got there, except my partner in crime Kochi, but, after less than half an hour, we were talking with people like they were our friends. I was offered drinks when I got stuck in the queue and everybody was enjoying the night.
  • This was the second element I noted about Bosso: compared to other dining places in Luxembourg, where you feel obliged to follow a “silent” dress code, at Bosso everybody feels welcome notwithstanding your appearance. There were young men wearing suits, girls with vintage furs, old hipsters with odd hats and relaxed couples in casual clothes.
  • The terrace, who used to be one of my favourite items of the restaurant, is just going under renovation and will be in great shape for the upcoming summer. Moreover, at the back of the restaurant, there is a cosy bar area that I didn’t know to be there. It is perfect for festive spirits – you can just move there after dinner -, also considering the choices in the Grund area are limited in regards of after-parties. You can also book this area for your private event – it is separate from the rest of the house and has its own bar!
  • Food-wise, indeed, the event was not a surprise for me: I always liked Bosso kitchen for it is wide choice – healthy or junkie, vegetarian or meat-lovers, the menu has a bit of everything for everybody without forgetting about the quality of the products. A smiling service, always appreciated, and waiters generally speaking more than one language to help you through the choice.

What we appreciated it is also the event had a great second purpose, to collect money for a women shelter located in Esch/Alzette. It was a great idea and you could leave anonymously your contribution in the small pigs around the terrace to support single mothers in Luxembourg.

I perfectly enjoyed the night at Restaurant Bosso and I cannot wait to be back there. They just launched a new website where you can check the menu and reserve your table quickly.

Here you can enjoy some pictures of the party by Kochi.


  
  

Young and Cool: Café des Capucins

Finding out a place you passed in front hundreds of time but you never tried is a very cool one is the best feeling ever for me. It is like they open a new trendy restaurant just next door. And this was the feeling I had when I went out from Café des Capucins on Tuesday night.

You know, I visited the bar some times ago for the Red Cross event. It was a pleasant evening and I enjoyed it, but I didn’t know Café des Capucins is also a very fancy place to dine.
I discovered it randomly on the new Explorator guide and I booked it for my Tuesday night date with hubby.
The place was full but not packed and customers were divided between those enjoying their after-works and those dining.

We started with a Ginger Martini from their amazing cocktails lists (forget about Campari soda, they have real cocktails here!) and we accompanied it with some tapas: shrimps sautéed in limoncello sauce and canard with peppers and ginger.
The small pots were full of taste: the shrimps were more delicate, mildly sweet but intense, while the canard a bit spicy with this nostalgic taste of peppers like those my Granny prepares.
We moved then to the starter, a very kind and competent waitress suggested us to share a pastry with apples, goat cheese and figs. A bit skeptical we accepted and were pleasantly surprised. The dish took both myself and hubby out of our comfort zones: hubby, you know, it is a very traditional eater and I am not that much into veggie plats. This dish was surprisingly good – talking about WOW factor, here it is – and more surprisingly the pastry was clearly home-made.
We moved then to the main course, which we accompanied respectively with a glass of Primitivo and one of Chardonnay from Veneto, Italy. I went indeed for tuna tataki with peppers and potatoes while hubby chose lamb loin with seasonal vegetables.
Both dishes were outstanding: on my tuna dish, the sweet taste was prevailing, but the single elements were all well-coordinated, starting from the potatoes cooked with the skin to the small herbs “decorating” the plat.
The lamb, I tried it, was very tasty and intense, the thyme pesto was giving a strong imprint to the dish, vegetables were cooked al dente and everything was splashed with meat sauce.
We were really full but we decided to share anyway a delicious Tarte Tatin – actually hubby had the cake, home-made and well cooked, soft to the spoon and not too sweet, while I enjoyed the vanilla ice cream on the top.

After the pictures of our dinner, you can find my final considerations about Café des Capucins.

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Things I loved about Café des Capucins:
Outstanding cuisine – traditional dishes are given a fusion oriented direction, tastes are very defined and there is a great attention to the presentation.
Amazing service, really – the waitress who served us was able to explain perfectly everything both in English and French. Before taking the order we were asked if we had any allergies and during the dinner we were recommended great dishes – but never felt forced to go in one sense or another. We took our time without being bothered and everything was served with a bright smile. Well done.
Young and cool environment – music was there, but not too loud, amiable terrace for a ciggie break in a very classy location (Place du Theatre), professional customers, attention to details.
Extremely fair prices – wine glasses around 6/7 euros for great quality wines, fish main around 25 euro.

Things I liked a bit less:
– Everything was perfect, but if I have to find something, I would say portions were a bit too big for my appetite, but it was indeed our fault to order both the tapas and the starter. Strongly recommended to got between one of the two if you are heading to the main course.

To sum up,  we had a fabulous evening at Café des Capucins and we will indeed come back soon. This is the perfect place if you are looking for a restaurant after couple of drinks in town and you don’t want to go for something too traditional or expensive. Outstanding food, young ambience and great service are already making it one of my top place for friend’s evenings.