We’re huge fans of Smiths of Smithfield, Torode’s headline restaurant, but comparing the two, The Luxe fails badly. Sure it’s cheaper than the top floor at Smiths, but not that much cheaper, but at its price point, The Luxe should be better, a lot better.
Starting with Dorset Crab on Toast, the crab was without flavour whatsoever leading Mrs CC to wonder whether it was in fact pasteurised rather than fresh. The toast was barely toasted leading the whole texture of the dish to be somewhat soggy instead of contrasting; rather than be sorry to come to the end of the plate, we felt the same relief as we might feel in stepping out of a bath tub full of baked beans that we’d been sat in for 24 hours on a charity gig. I can hear Gregg now “first I get soggy bread, then comes the excessive olive oil, then.......NOTHING”.
The puree of white beans had a glue like texture that led me to believe it took a few too many spins in the cusineart. Where was the seasoning? The kitchen is an open one which I enjoy but would hate to work in. I saw a big (and bored looking cook) shove a piece of something in his mouth that didn’t quite fit. I love to see cooks tasting and that’s all I ever heard from my exec chefs, TASTE TASTE TASTE but not like this, and you could tell they didn’t taste a bit of the crab or the lamb. But perhaps they’ve had it before and didn’t want to taste it again.
As for the rib steak, it possessed a decent char on the outside, and admittedly (or confusingly) it was not part of the fine meat list (making me wonder a little what I was actually eating if it didn’t qualify for fine meat) but the steak itself lacked a meaty juicy taste. Overcooked in part too, it completed a trio of disappointing plates. Something here is going wrong.
With its location on the edge of the City, a famous patron chef and a price point a little below fine dining (though arguably not far enough below), The Luxe will get footfall, though for a Friday lunch, too many tables did seem empty. But essentially, this is a restaurant that is classically ‘stuck in the middle’ being neither cheap and cheerful nor top end food. If John Torode values his reputation, he and Gregg should be hoofing it down to Spitalfields and making some changes because sadly, if the food placed in front of us today were prepared by a Masterchef contestant, (s)he would surely not make it through to the next round.