Al Grappolo, Gare, Luxembourg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Things I liked about Al Grappolo:

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

What I liked a bit less about Al Grappolo:

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

 

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

 

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!

 

Introduction to Lebanese: Phenicia, Luxembourg

Among the guidelines for a Friday night partying, I have the rule of not having a proper dinner. It does not mean really skipping the eating part in favor of alcohol (I am too old for this shit!), but that definitely I cannot have a 4-courses meal before going out as otherwise I would rather fell asleep (age has its contribution also on this side).

So on a Friday night, Jenni and I decided to try Phenicia, a corner of Lebanon just off Place de Paris (here we are, once again!).

We decided not to book in advance as the place often looked empty from outside, but once inside we realized the tables on view on the main window are only a small part of those inside and the restaurant is pretty big – and it was pretty full!

The decorations are lovely – they create a nice, exotic atmosphere without being cheesy. We were welcomed at the entrance and accommodated to a table at the very back of the room, where most of the people were seating.

For that night, the restaurant offered a “all-you-can-eat” buffet or a la carte dinner. We opted for a la carte formula. I ordered an aperitif of the house (a mix between a sweet syrup and Lebanese cremant, pleasant and similar to our Kir Royal) while Jenni had only water.

While the menu offered various fixed price combinations and a great choice of main dishes, we decided to stay on the mezze (small dishes to share) in order, as said, to have a kind of light dinner.

We ordered Baba Ghanouj (grilled eggplants pure’, onions, tomato and pepper), Falafel(fried chickpeas nuggets), Jobneh (fried cheese) and Fatayer with Spinach (an oven-baked pastry stuffed with spinach and sumac). The mezze were accompanied by two portions of bread (and we ordered a third one later during the meal).

We drank half a bottle of enjoyable Lebanese Ksara.

We concluded with two digestif (one Baileys and one Cognac) and theoretically with a  Lebanese coffee that never came to our table.

After the pictures, you will find more about what I enjoyed of our dinner at Phenicia.

What I liked about Phenicia:

  • The restaurant has a great settings: the location, the decorations, the background music, everything contributes to create an amazing atmosphere, where, for the time of your meal, you forget about being simply in Luxembourg.
  • The food we had was amazing: I was particularly surprised by the falafel (I am a fan, I do them myself as well so I was impressed by their taste!) and by the spinach and sumac pastry (on the opposite, I am not a fan of this kind of pastry and this one was was indeed delicious). Everything tasted very fresh and home made.
  • The wine was also a positive discovery: we were a bit skeptical about trying a Lebanese wine, indeed it was good. Even if we ordered only half liter, it was taken with the full bottle at the table and opened there.
  • Service was a bit a hit-and-miss. For some aspects it was great. We were explained the dishes in details, we were suggested the aperitif and the wine and as well for the digestive we received some suggestions. Staff was really polite and accommodating toward our requests. At the same time, there were some moments we have been totally forgotten (like when I wanted to order some more bread *rolling eyes*) or our requests were ignored (coffee asked twice and never arrived) and bill took ages to get to our table.

What I liked a bit less about Phenicia:

  • Except the rolling coaster service, the only slightly negative point on my side was the bill. At the end we had only some vegetarian starters and half a bottle of wine and we ended up paying 90 Eur in total (45 Eur each). While the food was great and we had good time, I still feel we slightly overpaid for what we got. At the same time, the restaurant offers several fixed combination (starter plus main or tasting of starters) so you can keep you bill under control if you want to.

In conclusion: I liked our dinner at Phenicia. While the service might be improved, the ambience is great and the food was fresh and tasty. The place is perfect for a romantic date or an exotic business dinner, but not the restaurant to visit if you are on a budget. I will come back to try more dishes as those we had very definitely yummy!