Peter Morrell visits this recently opened and highly anticipated concept restaurant and is impressed with the food and the atmosphere
The eagerly awaited St Luke’s Kitchen restaurant is now open, it’s located on the lower level of the private member’s club, Library in St Martin’s Lane and non-members are welcome. As the name suggests the club has a distinctly literary theme and this has been carried through to the dining experience.
At the helm is Head Chef Gavin Lambert (of ME Hotel and Elk In The Woods fame), who will be working alongside guest chefs that are on the point of launching their own cookbook. The first guest slot, starting on 29th April for a 3 day residency, is Chetna Makan of BBC1’s The Great British Bake Off and it will coincide with the launch of her new book, The Cardamom Trail.
I visited St Luke’s Kitchen recently before any of the guest slots had started to sample the food cooked by Chef Gavin who will be the foundation stone of all the culinary activities.
On the way down to the restaurant from reception I passed a stained glass panel of Saint Luke, who is aptly patron saint of artists, bookbinders, brewers, butchers and stained glass makers. He sets the scene for the atmosphere which is intimate and relaxed and reminded me of a library in a country house. There are both chairs and banquettes and the serried rows of books in cases made it feel cosy and comfortable.
My wife and I took our seats and the menu was tucked in a book on the table, a nice touch. We nibbled on warm home-baked seeded bread that we dipped in olive oil and balsamic as we took a look at the drinks menu. There was a good range of cocktails and premium spirits but our preprandial drink was a Curious Brew beer made by the renown Chapel Down, the Kentish sparkling wine makers.
The food menu was quite short, always a good sign, it offered small plates to start, large plates for mains, and desserts. The dishes looked very interesting, my wife was tempted by the seared tuna loin with pickled mooli, cucumber and radish and I was on the point of ordering burrata with butternut squash and pine nuts to start. In the end I chose quail and my wife opted for the beetroot.
They were both good choices, very well presented they were an intriguing mix of tastes and textures. My wife’s beetroot was served with chicory, a soft boiled egg and a chive and mustard cress salad. She liked the slight bitterness of the chicory counterbalancing the sweetness of the beet. My quail three ways featured different parts of the bird, like leg and breast and it worked well with the slice of crispy bacon and onion confit.
The mains on offer catered for every preference, veggie or carnivore, fish lover or meat eater. The non meat or fish options included chargrilled aubergine with goat’s cheese and chestnut, mushroom and spinach parcels. My wife was torn between the tiger prawn salad or the sea bass, she chose the latter. My dilemma was the difficult decision of choosing the chargrilled ribeye or the pork tenderloin, the pig won.
Again Chef Gavin had obviously put a lot of thought into the texture and flavour combinations of these dishes. My wife’s fish was pan-fried with chard and a speck and lentil dressing. My roasted tenderloin had lots of flavour and was accompanied by crispy parma ham, apple puree and a very moreish blue cheese croquette. Like the starters these dishes were both very satisfying.
The wine list was interesting, for both red and white it listed one representative example from each wine growing country like Spain, Italy and Chile. Our match for the evening was a relative rare sight, a Torrontes from Argentina. This was from the Finca La Florencia and was a good example of why it is so prized. It was bright yellow in colour and had aromatic aromas of tropical fruits and violets in the bouquet. On the palate it was fresh, well balanced and had grape notes of currants and raisins,and the finish was long and persistent.
Although very attractive the sticky toffee pudding and warm chocolate cake on the dessert menu were beyond us so we shared popcorn ice cream with salted caramel and honey comb which tasted just as intriguing as it sounded. To finish, my insomniac wife was pleased that decaf coffee was available.
This had been an enjoyable dining experience, the food made with fresh and seasonal ingredients had been used inventively and were well cooked, the room was relaxing and the staff were all very attentive and knowledgeable. It was also remarkably good value given the quality of the food and the surroundings, expect to pay around £50 a head for three courses and drinks.
St Luke’s Kitchen
112 St. Martin’s Lane
London, WC2N 4BD