A coffee with… Remy Manso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pictures: Giacomo Salvemini (instagram.com/slv)

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New place: Skybar Restaurant and Bar, Bertrange, Luxembourg

Happy Monday! Another week has just started and I though it would have been a good idea, instead of fishing into my still pretty deep backlog, to inaugurate it with a brand new restaurant review. I posted some updated on my IG account during / after my visit at Skybar restaurant and bar and I received so many questions I felt very motivated to write this morning, despite a cold and unproductive week-end.

The opening of the new Skybar restaurant and bar was highly anticipated by a very mysterious social media campaign. A website was in place already couple of months ago, together with the possibility to reserve a table starting from November 15th, the day of the official opening. Pictures were very limited until the opening day, referring just to few interior design details, and they were no indications regarding the menu card or what kind of the food to expect. This was enough to make me very excited and to book my table for the day after the opening as soon as bookings were possible!

The Skybar is part of the new extension of City Concorde mall in Bertrange, not exactly in the city center, but still easily accessible by car and by bus (bus n. 6 from Gare Rocade / Hamilius taking around 15 minutes from the latest, off-peak hours).

As I really did not know what to expect, we reserved at 7:30 and, at that time, the mall shops were still opened and packed, so it was a bit awkward getting in fully dressed up. Once out of the elevator that is leading you to the second floor, the situation totally changed. The Skybar welcomed us with dark and wide windows on the floor and a crowd of curious people trying to spot what inside.
The atmosphere, there, was sophisticated and cosmopolitan, definitely reminiscing of an upscale lounge in a European bigger capital. I loved the contrast between the baroque bar at the entrance and the huge, linear kitchen on display at the end of the room. Space between the tables is more than fair and we were accommodated to one on the second row. Do not expect Heron Tower view – the issue here is not how tall the building is, but mainly that outside is very dark. The view should be amazing during the day. The space on the terrace is large almost as much as the one of the restaurant and it is already furnished with minimal, colorful design piece – we were already anticipating with Jenni long happy hours over the next summer season.

While sipping our fist glass of champagne of the night, we were studying the menu just handled to us. There is a very interesting separate drink list, with classic choices mixed with innovative cocktails’ names. Next to that, an alluring food menu: starters, mains including a wide vegetarian list of proposals and a ceviche bar, desserts, all with classic roots but contemporary mise-en-scene.

I went for salmon as starter and Jenni for scallops – but we ended up having half and half to try both. As main, I chose out of the ceviche menu – even if I was intrigued as well by most of the dishes proposed – the langoustine and pimento ceviche. Jenni had the octopus.

I concluded, ca va sans dire, with a plat of cheese, while Jenni had a matcha cheesecake. During the dinner, I had two glasses of Viognier and one glass of bio red proposed by the waiter with the cheese. We concluded with espresso and a grappa.

Total bill, including 2 starters, 2 main, 2 desserts, 2 aperitif, water, wine, coffee and digestif (we check all the boxes 🙂 ), read 170 Eur.

Pictures of our dinner and my first impressions regarding Skybar restaurant and bar to follow.


What I loved about Skybar restaurant and bar:

  • This is going to be definitely my week-end place to dine. I loved the atmosphere: sophisticated, without being excessively formal, modern, made of strident contrasts between the predominant dark colors of the interior and the colorful, bold details around the furniture. Background music (electronic/minimal): definitely an asset. Interesting crowd around: well dressed people of every age, great to see and to be seen. I talked a lot in the past reviews about places where you can have drinks & food in the mood for clubbing afterwards and this is definitely that kind of place that was missing.
  • Food was my personal highlight, as it overcame my expectations: I did not know what to await and when a place is such a show-off on the appearance side, it often ends up being boring or “already seen” on the gastronomic side. Not the case of Skybar: the food, from the amuse-bouche down to the cheese, was amazing. Every dish was complete in all its sides: difference in consistency, mix of tastes, roundness to the palate, presentation. I would definitely order again the langoustine ceviche (maybe not during a date LOL), but all the dishes we had were outstanding.
  • Couple of reviews ago I was talking about the fact that places that are just opened normally have room for improvements and it is normal to accept some small deficiencies in terms of service, as the team is still working on trial. Well, at Skybar there is nothing I could say about the service, except that it was great. Smiling, precise, on time. Our breaks between courses were never too long and we were offered cordial suggestions on our choices. Bravo.

What I liked a bit less about Skybar restaurant and bar:

  • I think if you get here, you already understood I loved the place and there is nothing to date I would change. Personally speaking, I would book again at a later slot for dinner – as said, it is a bit strange getting in through the mall with people still shopping – but this is definitely a failure on my side, as I was too curious to try it for booking later. Also – if you want to go there – booking is almost mandatory – try to make up your mind in advance, as they are now fully book for the next couple of weeks – I placed my next reservation, as soon as out, for mid-December. The online reservation system is very smart and user-friendly, so check online availabilities.

In conclusion: I believe the Skybar restaurant and bar might be the next place to be in the Luxembourg gastronomic and nightlife scene. The place is perfect to have dinner with friends or a date, before going out, for a celebration, “just because you need champagne”: it is posh, without being formal, the atmosphere is glamorous, the interior design urbane, the service young and fresh. It is definitely a place with a bold personality and an interesting menu, including vegetarian choices. Highly recommended if you fancy something different and new.