My friends and I have a tradition on the Sunday after Derby Day to go for lunch together to recover from the highs and lows of what is always a great day. Each year there is a good amount of banter on where to go, who gets to choose, and then on the day whether the current lunch is up there with the best.
It is a group lunch, often only with the guys, and normally follows the same script. We get there quite hungover, tough it out through the first drink and first taste of food, and then get back to celebrating one of the great weeks of the year anywhere in the world. Following a successful day the talk is all about the horses who won, who had the most successful bet, and the near misses.
This year we wanted to go to Stokehouse – a restaurant I am very familiar with, but my friends have not tried. However, the temporary city venue was booked for a function so in quick time we decided to try Andrew McConnell’s latest and greatest, Luxembourg. From what I had heard, Luxembourg is a reasonably priced European bistro that has honest classical dishes that are good to share, perfect for a group of close friends.
We were seated on the front left window looking in, which is a great spot to watch the world go by, and in a way, a little bit separated from the rest of the restaurant. As the seven of us settled in to our first beverage, talk turned to the meal ahead. I’d heard the roast chicken was amazing so that was locked in, and the waitperson described the roast t-bone as one of the feature dishes which would be our main. Pigs ear scratchings, beef carpaccio, whole prawns, oysters and some salad and chips to go with the steak were all ordered too. We were excited!
We also ordered a very reasonably priced Soave to go with the seafood, and a 2010 Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley to go with the steak which was opened immediately. The bread was excellent like you expect from a good bistro, especially one overseen by Andrew McConnell. The oysters were all beautiful; Sydney Rock and Pacific oysters are all incredible at the moment. The beef carpaccio was a bit too generously sliced for my taste, but was good nonetheless.
Next came the whole prawns which were more the size of langoustines. Really juicy meat still sweet and flavoursome – easily one of the highlights of the meal. On the other hand, the squid salad, whilst cooked perfectly, lacked flavour. The tentacles were nicely chargrilled and had good seasoning, but the main tube of the squid had almost no flavour. The end of the entree was my favourite dish of the day. The half roast chicken is immaculate. You will not taste better roast chicken. Glistening crisp skin giving way for juicy, just-cooked meat, touched by an angel.
To finish the savoury courses, the dry aged O’Connor T-bone is a classic bistro dish. Beautifully cooked steak, smothered in béarnaise (I have a heavy hand when it comes to béarnaise), golden onion rings and frites, some leafy salad on the side. Seven of us shared two of them and were very fulfilled. There is a Tuesday night BYO policy and I have it on my list to bring a good bottle of red and just order the steak and a couple of sides for an indulgent midweek meal!
The service had been good throughout, though I think by the end our group was pretty boisterous and were left to our own devices a bit. It is noteworthy that the restaurant was not very busy, which may have been because of the extended long weekend for Melbourne Cup Day. We ordered dessert and most either had the mille-feuille with cultured cream and strawberries, or the chocolate tart baked to order with creme Chantilly.
The mille-feuille was delightful. It is a technically challenging dessert that looks simple on the plate, but was nicely executed and packed with freshness. The chocolate tart was delicious, the creme Chantilly really adding some balance to the richness. Oozing chocolate is always a good look and that softness on top of a perfectly baked tart never gets old. Another winner for the weekend!
We’ve had some great lunches to recover. The old Circa comes to mind, Cafe Di Stasio, The Graham, The Grand Hotel have all been terrific, but this was definitely up there challenging the best of them.