Le Phare Gourmet

20 Feb

Every so often I fancy a change from the usual Italian, French and Asian fare that I get stuck into on a regular basis. My friend had been raving about the Breton restaurant Le Phare Gourmet for a while and when she suggested we go, I jumped at the chance to try something a little different. Plus crepes and cider are a winning combination, n’est pas?

Even before we arrived the restaurant was very accommodating – we pushed the reservation back by half and hour and had an impromptu doggy visitor, and the staff were extremely obliging and welcoming. The place isn’t the easiest to find as it’s behind another restaurant on the Route d’Arlon, but once you’ve driven down the side ramp there’s plenty of parking.

Inside it’s vast: a lounge room in the front with sofas and a more traditional restaurant layout in the back with a classy nautical theme. There’s a plentiful drinks menu but also a well-stocked children’s play corner, striking the right tone between lively and family-friendly.

We wasted no time in ordering bottles of sweet and dry cider, which arrived in ice buckets – a nice touch. Le Phare Gourmet also serves salads, burgers and a kid’s menu, but we immediately zeroed into their plentiful list of crepes, ordering some ‘galettes bretonnes’ aka savory pancakes. We each enjoyed our orders – the wholemeal pancakes were surprisingly hearty without being too heavy, and the toppings were tasty, fresh and original. All the better when washed down with their tasty cider. The ‘international’ pancakes have suggested drink accompaniments which is a nice touch.

Of course they also offer sweet pancakes but we were too stuffed to try them; I’ll give them a go next time I visit, which I hope will be soon.

Cuisine: Bretonese, Crepes
Address: 321, route d’Arlon, L-8011 Strassen
Phone number: 26 39 41 55
Opening hours: Tuesday to Friday 12:00 to 14:30 and 18:30 to 22:30, Saturday 18:30 to 22:30 and Sunday 12:00 to 14:00.
Prices: Savory pancakes range from €8 to €23.5.
Public Transport: 28 or 222 Bus, Strassen-Geesseneck bus stop.
Delivery: No.

Restaurant Jolly

6 Feb

Is Thursday night €15 unlimited pizza and beer deal at Restaurant Jolly too good to be true? You might think the quality of the food would suffer or there’s some catch. I certainly did. So purely for your enlightenment, dear reader, the Silver Fox and I gave it a try. Certainly not because we both think pizzas are the food of the Gods and unlimited pizzas must therefore be heavenly. I dutifully booked before Thursday lunchtime and ate a tiny breakfast and lunch in anticipation.

Both outside and inside, Restaurant Jolly has the more casual decor of a cafe than a restaurant, but the staff greeted us very warmly and made us feel instantly welcome. They explained the deal: you order from a limited pizza menu, beers and soft drinks are free but other drinks are full price, and you must finish your pizza before you order another one. Challenge accepted.

We ordered the Deliziosa pizza to start with – a winning combo of spicy salami, gorgonzola, peppers and mozzarella. The topping was moreish and the crust was thin and crispy. We ate it up with gusto while the free beers just kept coming. We then ordered the Quattro Stagioni but we were put off by the olives, which tasted antiseptic.

Service was friendly and attentive throughout and the staff went out of their way to encourage a lively atmosphere. It has the feel of a family-run place, and the free soft drinks made it kid friendly. Of course the free beer helped made it parent friendly too, so there were big smiles all round.

Our verdict? For those of you who love a lot of pizza and beer but dislike Luxembourg’s often high restaurant prices, this is the deal for you. We would definitely be back again, if only for the Deliziosa pizza. And the free beer of course.

Cuisine: Italian
Address: 84 Rue de Strasbourg, L-2560 Luxembourg
Phone number: +352 48 46 97
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12:00 to 14:00 and 18:00 to 23h00, Sat: 18:00 to 23h00, closed Sunday
Prices: Thursday’s unlimited pizza, beer and soft drinks deal €15 each
Public transport: Bus number 1, 4 and 27 (or a 7 minute walk from Luxembourg Gare)
Delivery: No

Restaurant Athena

31 Jan

When a Greek colleague sung the praises of Restaurant Athena I knew I had to visit. (A Luxembourg truism: if an ex-pat recommends a restaurant of their country’s cuisine, go there.) Also we love Greek food and it’s walking distance from our place…with all of these signs aligning, how could we resist?

The restaurant is on a quiet road in the Gare district – on-street parking is limited so you might want to try one of the underground parking spots nearby. It has the look of a local cafe from the outside but the decor is warm and welcoming. Greek touches such as pillars and frescoes are tastefully featured without. Service is warm, friendly and very efficient. It must be one of the few places here where the staff prefer to speak English or German over French, which suits me fine!

The choice for starter was a no-brainer. I had to stop keeping taramasalata in the house because my brain thinks it’s crack, and tzatziki isn’t too far behind either, so we had the Pikilia froide – an assortment of cold Greek starters. It was heavenly.

For the main I ordered the Helena mixed grill – beef and chicken fillet, gyros, tzatziki and sautéed potatoes. The beef and chicken was cooked and spiced perfectly, especially the chicken which was tender and juicy. Unfortunately the gyros was on the salty side but the perfectly-sautéed potatoes made up for this. But the real star of the show was the Lamb Stifado – slow-cooked lamb in a shallot and tomato sauce. The meat just fell off the bone. Extremely moreish and highly recommended.

We returned to the Restaurant Athena for lunch a few weeks later. The restaurant was packed, which wasn’t surprising given the good value lunch menu. Service was still friendly while being speedy and attentive. The lunchtime mixed grill was much cheaper than the dinner version but still plentiful. The Silver Fox ordered the Lamb Stifado again which wasn’t on the lunch menu but could not be ignored – it was still delicious.

Cuisine: Greek
Address: 56 Rue Adolphe Fischer, L-1520 Luxembourg
Phone number: +352 26 48 37 51
Opening hours: Mon-Fri and Sun: 12:00 to 14:30 and to 18:00 to 23h00, Sat: 18:00 to 23h00
Prices: Starter assortment €14, Helena mixed grill €19,50, Lamb Stifado €17,50
Public transport: Multiple buses serve the Paris/Zitha bus stop, the restaurant is a 7 minute walk
Delivery: No

Cha Dim Sum

15 May

It was the Silver Fox’s birthday yesterday – we’d already had a fantastically cheesy night out with mates in the Big Beer Company on Friday, so we were craving something light like dim sum and sushi. After finding out Cha Dim Sum in Strassen does both, we headed off there.

The restaurant is actually one of three eateries that share a site under the ‘Zheng‘ umbrella; Le Zai (located in a large, whitewashed cottage) and Ginko Sushi (located underneath Cha Dim Sum). Cha Dim Sum is in an ultramodern box-and-glass structure that can be spotted from route d’Arlon by its large red lanterns hung from trees. The terrace, outside the front door, it beautifully landscaped with water features and shrubbery throughout, but I imagine that its peaceful vibe would be overrun by the traffic noise from the busy road that runs beside it.

Coming in we were immediately welcomed, brought to our table and our order taken. Their sushi chef has the day off Mondays, so the Silver Fox settled for pho and I ordered the dim sum. Unfortunately the service was sporadic from then on; we had to order our drinks several times as they had forgotten. However, it was surprisingly busy for a Monday night and they may have been taken by surprise.

The decor is very minimalist, with glossy white floors, walls and furniture, and the floor-to-ceiling windows add to the lovely lightness and brightness throughout. The only nod to its Asian menu are the retro Chinese posters on the walls.

Our meals arrived promptly – to start we were both given a complimentary, darkly-marbeled egg boiled in tea, which was very enjoyable. My selection of dim sum was savoury and light, each one with a subtle but lingering finish. The Silver Fox’s pho was sadly not as successful. The broth was under seasoned and he ended up adding copious sriracha to liven it up. The lamb, vegetables and noodles were better, however the basil was the bog-standard kind instead of Thai.

Our bill came with two complimentary mandarins, which we thought was a nice touch. The total cost was reasonable, so we felt what we had selected was good value, but other dishes on the menu were more expensive so it does depend on what you order.

Cuisine: Asian
Address: 275, route d’Arlon, L-8011 Strassen
Phone number: +352 2739 7477 87
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12:00 to 14:00 and to 19:00 to 22h00, Sat 12:00 to 14:00 and 19:00 to 22h30
Prices: Nine servings of Dim Sum €12.50, Pho €12.50, glass of organic white wine €4.00
Public transport: 222 bus (‘Europe’ stop) or 8 bus (‘Chappelle’ stop)
Delivery: No (but Ginko Sushi located underneath offers delivery)

Cafe Bei Der Giedel

7 May

An old building in the middle of the forest…built above some abandoned mines and disused railtrack…cut off from facilities that civilisation takes for granted…no, it’s not the start of a horror film but the location of the unique and charming Cafe Bei Der Giedel restaurant.

The Silver Fox and I are lucky to have befriended a couple who live in Differdange, so when they offered us a night in the ‘Deep South‘ we jumped at it. Torrential rain had made way to sunshine as we slowly made our way through the forest, shrouding the fields and trees in a spooky mist. The restaurant is in large clearing; below, the well-preserved mine entrances are still exposed, and the rail track that once transported men and materials is still operational during festival season as part of the Fond de Gras museum. The effect is of time slowing to a near stop.

We were warmly welcomed by the owner even before we went inside, and were well looked after throughout the night. Entering the restaurant, you are immediately struck by the great age of the building. Our guides explained that the site was originally a mining tavern, and its low ceiling, thick bowed walls and antique furnishings immediately transport you back in time. Its listed status means that there is poor mobile and web reception, therefore credit cards are not accepted.

The menu is small but varied, offering light meals like tartines and salads, but we were advised to try their steaks (both beef and horse) that come with a choice of sauces. We took their advice and we were not disappointed – the meat was melt in the mouth, barely needing a knife to cut, the sauces rich and delicious. Easily one of the best steaks I have eaten in a long time. The sides of fat chips and salad were also tasty and plentiful. Definitely worth the €23 price. The restaurant also does a plat du jour, the cheapest option being a main course and coffee for €9.50 (but as the restaurant is not hooked up to the sanitation system, it is advised to skip certain sections of the terrace when the hot sun heats up the septic tank!)

Along with the meat-feast, the restaurant’s specialities are raclette and fondue. I spotted several tables with raclettes served the traditional way: a large tranch of raclette cheese is hung in the middle of a cast iron frame and placed on the table. Hot grills underneath the frame melt both sides of the cheese gradually, which is then scraped off by the diners and eaten with potatoes, bread, charcuterie and salad.

Too full for desserts after their very generous portions and sides, we were sent on our way by the smiling and joking staff. After a short drive we were back to civilisation again, headed for the bright lights and blaring music of a local funfair, another clichéd horror film location…but also the best of both worlds, only five minutes drive from one another.

Cuisine: Luxembourgish / Swiss
Address: Fond de Gras, L-4576 Niedercorn, Luxembourg/Esch
Phone number: +352 58 05 83
Opening hours: Mon-Sun 11h00 to 24h00
Prices: Goats cheese salad: €12.50, Filet steak: €23.80
Public transport: car only, unless there is special transport put on for festivals held there
Delivery: No


28 Apr

When the Silver Fox and I moved to Luxembourg City from inner-city Dublin, we had criteria to help us pick the perfect area: walking distance to the city centre and our respective workplaces, good bus routes…and at least one decent local pub. During a week-long apartment search around the Belair/Merl area, we sought succour in Pacha several times, pleasantly surprised by the incredibly friendly welcome, English-speaking staff and occasional English and Irish indie song (they were playing a James album when we wandered in the first time, which amazed us).

We’ve been in the area for a while now and Pacha is still a home away from home for us. Even though we only visit once a month on average, the staff always welcome us very warmly and remember our usual drink. You can settle down in one of the booths by the window, where you can be guaranteed friendly and attentive table service. Drink prices are cheaper than the average prices in city centre pubs. There’s a big screen around the corner where they put on different sporting events, and a games room with a pool table, darts, video games and a pinball machine.

The music is mainly 80s and 90s, with a DJ on Friday nights with a very limited music collection – I should know, as I’ve been up to request so many songs in my terrible Luxembourgish that he always roars laughing when he spots me. Apparently when they opened around 30 years ago, a large percentage of their customers were English and Irish, which goes to explain why the staff speak good English and they’ll occasionally play a song from an obscure band (for example Aslan, a band hardly known outside of their native Ireland).

It’s definitely a local pub – inside the decor could do with an update, as the furniture doesn’t look like it’s changed since the 90s, the bar is badly lit, and the walls and fittings are dreary and need freshening up. It’s also very, very smoky, even when there are only a few customers. There’s absolutely nothing fashionable about it, but that’s why we love it. Sometimes you’re not looking for a wine bar or a club; you’re looking for a scoop or two in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, and Pacha offers this in spades.

Address: 156 Avenue du 10 Septembre (on the corner of Rue D’Oradour), L-2550 Luxembourg-Belair
Phone: +352447998
Sports: one large screen, two small
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10am to 1am, Saturday 5pm to 1am, closed Sundays
Prices: Bofferding mini (30ml): €2.40, pint (50ml) €3.80
Public transport: Bus nos 6 or 7, Place de France bus stop.

Big Beer Company

14 Apr

When the Silver Fox’s primarily-male office wanted to go out as a group and let off some steam, the dream was a place that offered the trinity – great beer brewed on the premises, a rotisseried animal leg, and, of course, free shots. And then the Big Beer Company opened in the Rives de Clausen.

The first thing you notice is the vastness of the place; no surprise as it’s located in an old brewery, the guts of which they’ve lovingly restored, polished to a high shine and displayed throughout. Clever lighting gives it a nightclub feel as the evening wears on, with mainly standing tables at the bar on the ground floor, and a traditional beer hall set up on the restaurant mezzanine.

The food is Oktoberfest: pork knuckle, rotisserie chicken, charcuterie, and some Luxembourgish specialities like Judd mat Gaardebounen (pork collar with broad beans). Portions are vast, including sides like sautéed potatoes and bacon that just keep coming. And it’s all excellent: we’ve been many times, and the meat is consistently juicy and delicious. The service is friendly, on the ball and often good fun.

When the freshly brewed beer (also available unfiltered) arrives in one-litre steins that you slosh together, the Oktoberfest spirit just takes over, aided by the cheesy music…and then you’re shovelling the food and beer in like there’s no tomorrow, everyone at your table is groaning and smiling at the soundtrack, and when you look around at the other tables everyone else is smiling and toasting each other with steins too. Then when your shirt buttons are about to ping off, they take you downstairs for a free shot. And just like that you’re ready to go again.

You can have a meal as a couple or family there too of course, and you’ll enjoy it like in any other restaurant, especially if you get there early. But the Big Beer Company really shines as an Oktoberfest-lite experience.

Cuisine: German/Luxembourgish
WebsiteBig Beer Company
Address: 12 Rives de Clausen, L-2165 Luxembourg (Clausen)
Phone number: +352 26 20 10 17
Opening hours: Mon-Sat from 17:00, Sun from 12:00
Prices: Salade Paysanne €12.50, pork knuckle €21.50, pork schnitzel €16.50, one-litre stein of beer €9
Public transport: bus nos 9, 19, night bus CN1: ‘Clausener Breck’ stop, or no 14 bus ‘Tour Jacob’ stop. There is also a free ‘navette’ bus Wed-Sat from 19:30 to 04:00 to the Glacis car park.
Delivery: No

Fonzie’s Diner

13 Apr

On paper, it couldn’t be in a better area – Limpertsberg, home of a multitude of secondary schools, a university campus, and young families that seemingly wouldn’t get enough of a 50s-style diner with a cheap and varied burger n’ chips menu. However, I’ve heard whispers that Fonzie’s Diner has been a little slow to get off the ground. So, when recently in Limpertsberg after a harrowing grocery shop the day before Easter Sunday (the humanity!) the Silver Fox, the Fhionn and I decided to give it some love and eat there for lunch.

Located on a street corner with floor to ceiling windows, the decor is laid out like a canvas from the pavement: the black and white chequered floor, chrome tables, and turquoise-and-white leather chairs and booths. The menu is, errm, burgers (with a wide range of sauces to choose from), chips, chicken nuggets  and milkshakes.

Heading immediately for the booths, which still manage to incite the same level of excitement as I had for them as a kid, the Fhionn and I ordered a San Diego burger (cheese) with the ‘americaine‘ sauce, a mixture of mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard, while the Silver Fox ordered a Los Angeles burger (cheese & bacon) with the spicy ‘samourai‘ sauce. We took advantage of the €8.50 burger, small fries and drink deal, and then lounged in the booth like hard-nosed 50’s delinquents (but in actual fact because we were aching from sparing with crazy-eyed shoppers wielding trolleys like weapons.)

Service was not the friendliest, but it was efficient. Not before long we were tucking into our burgers, which we all agreed were very good; juicy and flavourful. The chips were a little thin for my taste but I was overruled by the others’ approval. In no time at all we were done and out the door, happy and sated, ready to fight another day at Cactus.

With burger prices ranging from €3-5 and fresh, quality ingredients, it’s hard to beat Fonzie’s good value. Its setup is more suited for a quick bite than a long evening, but sometimes, in a country that still takes pride in the two-hour restaurant meal, a quickie is all you’re after.

Cuisine: Fast food/diner
Address: 139 Avenue des Bois, L-1250 Luxembourg (Limpertsberg)
Phone number: +352 621 239 494
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11:30 to 14:30 and 17:30 to 22:30, Sat-Sun 11:30 to 22:30
Prices: Plain burger €3, small chips €3, Coke €1.50 (no alcohol served)
Public transport: No 2 and No 4 buses, ‘Am Wassertuerm’ bus stop is just outside. Parking can be tricky as it is a residential area
Delivery: No, but they offer takeaway service

Alfa Bar

12 Apr

My search for non-smoking bars in Luxembourg city started from the first morning that I woke up with hair and clothes choked with smoke. Not a pleasant discovery at the best of times but with a hangover it’s enough to give you the dry heaves. The quest only intensified when a friend became pregnant, and had to dart off as soon as the ashtrays appeared on a night out.

Unfortunately these bars remain a little thin on the ground, and (at time of posting) the much-hailed smoking ban is nowhere to be seen. So when a mate spotted that the Alfa bar was non-smoking, we and our pregnant friend decided to give it a gander.

With its mahogany fittings, curved marble-topped bar and suited-and-booted barman, the bar attempts harks back to an older age; if they replaced the tatty carpet, the illusion would be more successful. Even so I wished I had dressed a little smarter, decked out as I was in an oversized hoodie that screamed GAP! (Don’t judge me, it was raining.) Making ourselves comfortable after a long workday, we soon got our second wind when we realised that 5:30pm to 7:30pm every day is happy hour at the bar – and we were smack in the middle of it. Not bad at all when a glass of Rivaner is only €2.50 normally. Prost!

Service was attentive and extremely friendly. The atmosphere was typically hotel bar: polite, quiet and transient, with no music. Which suited us fine as it was a gab-fest of a night rather than a dance-around-our-handbags one. A large flat-screen tv in the corner was tuned into an American sports channel, and posters around the bar informed us of regular Champions League showings.

There’s a restaurant tucked around a corner at the back of the room, but food is also served at the bar. Unfortunately the food prices were not as welcoming, with salads starting at 15 euros.

When we left, bouyed by our small drinks tab and very attentive service, we promised to come back soon; even if only for a pre-dinner drink.

Address: 16, Place de la gare, L-1616 Luxembourg
Phone: +352 49 00 111
Sports: One large flatscreen
Opening hours: Open until 1am every day
Prices: Glass of Rivaner €2.50
Public transport: Any bus or train that stops at Luxembourg Gare


15 Dec

Non-smoking readers used to smoking bans may not realise they’ve become accustomed to waking without coughing up a lung and having to sterilise their smoggy hair and clothes. Having happened to me far too many times since returning to this otherwise freshly laundered land, I was very excited to learn of a non-smoking bar called Crossfire.

Located on Rue Dicks, one of the more unfortunate but also memorable street names in Lux, Crossfire is a small Scandinavian bar whose wooden ceiling beams and benches, and blue/red colour scheme conjures up a cosy Nordic feel. They serve Scandinavian food at lunchtime and in the evenings until nine o’clock. Despite its small size there are large screens throughout showing European football and other sports.

We stood at the bar for a few minutes but it wasn’t staffed – there was a man deep in conversation in the stock room whose wobbly stance and loud gesticulation made us despair we’d ever be served – but five minutes after we settled on a bench we were visited by a very friendly bar woman. They didn’t stock the wine I usually drink however their suggested alternative was very nice. All our orders were taken at our table and often before we caught her eye which we appreciated.

It had all the hallmarks of a great pub and an enjoyable night; a small but perfectly formed pub, friendly and attentive staff, reasonable prices and, don’t forget, no haze of smokeno streaming eyes and no choked conversation. However, the music was just too awful to ignore. It lurched from Eurovision entries, to barbershop tunes, to a medley of The Beach Boys cover songs, to (I assume) Swedish techno, and back to more ear-maiming Eurovision.  The sheer absurdity and cacophony of the playlist suggested that it was put together by tipsy stock room man. We tried to drown it out by frantically prattling about anything that entered our heads, but the volume was too loud; eventually all we could do was sit and stare at the tv, our minds ransacked by the din. We eventually left to seek out better pastures.

I’m determined to go back again in case the music was an aberration, but until then the night is a perfect example of why the atmosphere in a pub is as important as the quality of its drink and food. If more bars in Luxembourg took the time to select better playlists, instead of putting eight CDs on random or sticking on the radio, it might give them an edge when the smoking ban is eventually brought in here.

Website: www.crossfire.lu
Address: 15, rue Dicks, 1417 Luxembourg
Phone: +352 49 84 31
Sports: Four screens. Check website for fixtures and events
Opening hours: Open until 1 am on Friday and Saturday, otherwise varies day to day, check the website for detailed hours
Prices: Diekirch 50cl €3.70, Diekirch 30cl €2.20, glass of white wine €3.50
Buses: Any that stop on the Avenue de la Liberté