Library, or Lib-rary, as its website URL has it, is a private members club on St. Martin’s Lane right by Trafalgar Square and the Chandos pub. St. Luke’s Kitchen, its restaurant, has just opened up to the public, and as well as normal service, has a bunch of kitchen takeovers and guest chefs lined up over coming months. I went to the regular restaurant and was pretty impressed.
It offers an unfussy menu of regular restaurant offerings done well. Yes, you’ve eaten quail, but it’s still a delight when the skin is properly done to a crisp yet the flesh is still juicy, tender and slightly pink. Yes, you’ve eaten seared tuna—maybe you’ve even seared it yourself—but is it always four tender and mild melt-in-the-mouth tender chunks paired with just the right amount of fiery wasabi?
St. Luke’s Kitchen doesn’t offer any foods you’ve never heard of, and its only gimmick is that there was a book left at every place with the menu in it like a bookmark. It’s a dark semi-underground room with forty seats, excellent service, and beautifully-presented food that is simply very good.
The menu is short and to-the-point: four starter options (£6.50 to £8.50); five mains (£14.50 to £23.50); four sides (£4.50); and four desserts including cheese.
Perhaps the nicest touch was, surprisingly the bread, which came in javelin-form, with both a pat of unsalted butter and olive oil-submerged balsamic. Of course, I covered my own spear in all three, plus liberally applied salt. Why would anyone want unsalted butter?
Another highlight was the salted caramel ice cream with popcorn. It’s not exactly a new idea but somehow the soft, ultra-dry texture of the popcorn meshes perfectly with the sweet frigid cream, and crumbs, surprisingly, are almost always a good addition to desserts. This time they were honeycomb.
We got a side salad, which was as pointless as side salads always are. Not sure how people get away with charging nearly a fiver for about 10 calories of floppy-textured leaves. The second dessert, little cake-like slices of chocolate brownie, was also less impressive: not bad, but essentially the same as something you’d get from Pret or M&S, albeit fresher. Or maybe I just don’t have a taste for chocolate brownies.
St. Luke’s Kitchen is a nice place; the private club atmosphere adds to the experience; and the ambiance is very private and intimate. What’s more they serve no frills takes on the sorts of dishes you see on lots of restaurant menus, impressive in their consistency and quality. I can’t speak for the quality of the future guest chefs, but the standard of the regular fare makes St Luke’s worth keeping in mind.
Score: One medal (for an explanation of our scoring system, see here).