Luxe Calme Volupté at Luca London
Is it possible that Luca got everything right?
The pistachio leather banquette. The blush pink plaster walls. The marble counter. The pleated lamp shades. The brass and wrought iron. The linen.
This decor isn't cutting edge but it is thrilling in its attention to detail. It is the embodiment of Luxe calme et volupté -a line from a Baudelaire poem which translates as luxury, peace and pleasure. And that is exactly what Luca delivers.
At the table the charming waitress is smiling and solicitous. Hot on her heels comes a man with something "perfect". His words. It is bread and olive oil. He may have exaggerated slightly, but not much. He spends about ten seconds rearranging our glassware and cutlery so that everything is just so. This is more than slightly OCD but restaurant dining should be theatre and this is. On to the next act.
The sommelier arrives who is very serious- as all the best sommeliers should be. Later in the lunch a faint glimmer of a smile plays on her lips but it may have been a trick of the beautifully diffused light. This is in no way a criticism of her performance. She expertly selects and serves the wines and succinctly explains what's so good about them (a sparkler from Lombardy is particularly delicious- after that it all goes a bit blurry).
Parma ham so delicate and creamy that even the fat is nice to eat.
Raw artichoke salad with celery and pecorino all crunchy and woody and health-giving.
Turnip tops and bottarga (smoked cod's roe)- is a dish which elevates comfort food to whole new heights.
There is spaghetti vongole on the menu so I have to order it. That is the law. It is in bianco (no tomatoes) which purists always prefer. Departing from tradition the chef has added some kind of creamy element- a mysterious twist on the classic. This actually works brilliantly with the plump Cornish clams.
Did I mention the apple crostata? Not too sweet, not too sharp, not too soft, not too crunchy. No embarassing addition of sultanas. Just perfection.
I'm sorry but I have to take a moment to tell you about the loos. The toilets smell completely divine. Not a sentence I ever thought I'd write. (And sorry mum I know you always told me to say lavatories but I just can't do it).
This lunch took 4 hours. Not because the service was slow. It was impeccable. We were allowed to enjoy every element of this exquisitely crafted endeavour. Of course you don't have to take 4 hours over your lunch, but then you just won't have as much fun as we did.
Luca is at 88 St John Street, London http://luca.restaurant/