It’s a Saturday night in Covent Garden and we’re midway through our starters at St Luke’s Kitchen when I feel the crunch of a passion fruit seed in between my teeth. I can’t decide whether this belongs on a plate of grilled tiger prawns and baby squid. But I like chefs who do something different – including those who mix tropical fruit with a cauliflower and truffle oil velouté. It works, I think, and the seafood surpasses all expectations I’d had before I arrived at Library – a private member’s club in central London.
The seared scallops on the other plate are surprisingly good too (I’m sampling mine and my friend’s starter). They have a springy middle, yet there’s a smoky nduja crust that ignites the taste buds. And it’s all married up with a cauliflower and truffle oil veloutè. All in all, these are delicious plates of food that are bold and colourful too.
We were invited to review the menu at St Luke’s Kitchen after it launched in April, where chef Alessio Piras is at the helm. The restaurant is located in the basement of Library on St Martins Lane. And to be honest, unless you’re a member, you would probably never know this restaurant is here.
The entrance has a very traditional aesthetic of wooden beams that makes you feel like you’re in an art gallery or er, library (funny that), rather than a swanky members’ club. So it almost feels like we’re in the wrong place. But I like its quirkiness.
We check in with a lovely lady at reception who gives us some directions to the subterranean restaurant. It all feels very mysterious as we walk down the stairs.
The stained glass window of Saint Luke (the patron saint of artists and bookbinders) also adds to the mystery. At the bottom, there’s a door ahead of us. We still feel like we’re lost, until a man appears behind us to confirm we are in fact, in the right place. In we go to a tiny low-lit space that is St Luke’s Kitchen.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover (excuse the pun), but seeing right into the kitchen door on our arrival is a little off-putting. That said, the restaurant has a very intimate feel and the staff couldn’t be more accommodating. Soon, they take us to our table and make sure we have drinks to enjoy as we check out the menus – which are whimsically, placed inside books.
The cocktail menu at St Luke’s Kitchen is great – it’s divided into ‘invigorating’, ‘resolute’, ‘flourishing’ and ‘abstinent’ and they’re named after famous authors. So yes, you can drink a Roald Dahl or an Oscar Wilde if you so wish.
My friend goes for the ‘John Byrne’ (Passion fruit, cranberry, tea, lemon, honey) and it’s delicious. I stick to the wine and the waiter brings me a carafe of Saxton Bridge Sauvignon Blanc, which he has chosen for me. I question how he knows my taste – it’s dry, mineral-like and fragrant, just how I like it.
I’ve told you about the starters because to be honest, they (and the very quaffable wine) were the stars of the show for us. For mains, my friend has the pan-fried sea bass while I have the monkfish wrapped in Parma Ham. The sea bass seems like it’s overcooked and my friend isn’t keen on the chunks of chorizo or mushroom velouté which doesn’t quite marry up the flavours or counteract the bland polenta on the side.
Similarly, I find the monkfish is a little bit overcooked and the ham is thick and salty. Again however, it’s presented in a very artistic way and the mixed peppers and samphire are tasty. The waiters here at St Luke’s Kitchen are very attentive and helpful, without being obtrusive, and there’s a very relaxed vibe.
When we tuck into a fantastic Semifreddo Limoncello with pistachios, meringue and blueberries, our edible story ends on a sweet high.
We end the evening with a nosey around the upstairs bar and mezzanine lounge where by day, members hold meetings, tap away on their laptops and enjoy this cool and vibrant space.
By night it’s a trendy spot for music and cocktails.
Think shelves and nooks packed with books, old wooden furniture and bold-printed armchairs with a Kit Kemp-esque style.
Word on the street (or rather, in the latest press release) is that the head chef Alessio Piras at St Luke’s Kitchen will be working on a ‘rotating menu’ in the coming months. They will draw on the cookbooks of various acclaimed chefs to inspire their menu. And while I believe Chetna Makan (of The Great British Bake Off) and Gavin Lambert (of Elk in the Woods and ME Hotel) have already been involved, it’s hush hush on who’s up next.
I guess we’ll have to wait until the next chapter to find out.
Until next time x
Oh So London was a guest of St Luke’s Kitchen – all views here are my own.