Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Luxe, Smithfield Market

"It doesn’t get any better then this!" shouts TV Chef and entrepreneur John Torode on the Masterchef television show.
But is he referring to his landmark bar/restaurant - the now legendary Smiths of Smithfields (SOS) - or the relative newcomer that is the Luxe in Spitalfieds?
What was once a Grade II-listed flower market building is now The Luxe with high windows, framed in ornate wrought iron, and an exterior that is reminiscent of a Victorian era birdcage (albeit on a much grander scale). Inside, the Luxe has a bar on ground level, a restaurant on the first floor, private dining area on the top floor, and a basement bar/club area which seems to be permanently hired out for parties when I visit. Clearly not everyone was hit by the credit crunch.
The bar itself is all black, brown and grey, with a low seating space and stainless steel tables on the perimeter, and standing room around the bar itself. Come 8pm, and the '80s soundtrack is pushed aside as the now de rigeur check-shirted DJ cranks up some tunes making the place almost club-like in ambiance. (Except, of course, there is a high propensity of men in suits who seem to career between foot-tapping and stumbling.) Fun, sure, but hardly cutting edge.
The drinks menu is as extensive as everywhere nowadays, with a broad selection of fair-to-expensively priced wines, and European beers that border on the upmarket without being pretentious. They do have a decent cocktail list, but given that the bar seems relatively understaffed in proportion to the number of punters (I’m not sure that three people is ever enough in a bar of this size), you do have to wait. But the caipirinhas are certainly worth it.
I haven’t eaten at The Luxe, but two of my drinking crew swear by the weekend brunch, which apparently is a meat fest that makes a hangover worthwhile.
The staff are charming and efficient, although not exactly personable. The punters are that curious hybrid of architects and graphic designers out on the pull, and City workers trying to be venturesome (but for whom Shoreditch is a step to far). The Luxe has filled that perfect niche between the edgy pubs on the Brick Lane side of Commercial Street and the chain bars in the City, however having done that, it seems to be lacking an identity. It’s not quite as good as the sum of its parts, and is certainly not a patch on its older sister in Smithfields.
The Luxe is beautiful to look at and be in. However I think that even John Torode might admit that some places, most notably his own Smiths of Smithfields, get a little better than this.

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