Location, location, location is the real-estate mantra and it holds true, especially for restaurants. Sitting on the second floor of Park Lane Mall, overlooking Spring Garden, the newly opened Luxx has moved into the former home of long-time resident the Birmingham Bar and Grill. Luxx has more than location going for it—it’s co-owned by original Birmingham proprietor Victor Fienberg (Jon Alan’s) and Mike Leigh (Bitter End, Peel Pub), both experienced restaurateurs with a history of success.
Inside, Luxx is classically understated with neutral tones, wood and a long bar. Not much has changed since the Birmingham days but not much needed to since it has a timeless interior. The interesting menu features a wide range of “homey” items with contemporary twists and plenty of international influences, plus entree prices in the mid-teens.
Our first visit is for an early supper and we are one of only three tables. Our friendly server tells us the chef is working alone but, interestingly, I note at least five front-of-house staff—a bartender, two people waiting tables besides our server and somebody who appears to be a shift manager or supervisor of some sort. Despite the number of staff, we find the service wanting. We are not asked if we would like a refill of our drinks, nor are we quality checked for our second course. These are things that might be overlooked on an exceptionally busy evening, but not when there’s time for giggling and socializing at the bar. Feeling neglected, we decide a repeat visit is in order. A busy lunch offers more attentive service at all the tables I can see, so perhaps our first experience was an anomaly.
The best part about revisits is the opportunity to sample many things. The tuna tartar ($13) is a dish of raw chopped tuna with avocado, served with a dipping sauce and chopsticks. Room temperature, as it should be, and very fresh, the tuna is a delight. Crostini ($8) is also excellent: grilled bread with asparagus and proscuitto, although some of the asparagus stalks are a little tough and could stand to be trimmed a bit more.
The Thai lettuce wraps ($10) give me pause, however. Served with romaine lettuce with the rib still in, it’s very awkward to effectively roll up the sprouts, seasoned chicken and delicious peanut sauce. When eaten salad-like, it presents fewer technical problems. Large spring rolls ($7) are a bit of a disappointment. Although the wrapper is crisp and not at all greasy, the inside is blah—it needs something to make the flavour sparkle.
Farfalle pasta ($11), bow-tie shapes with mushrooms, garlic and leeks, is great with the pasta cooked al dente and plenty of garlic, though not enough to be overwhelming. The rack of lamb ($29) is also nicely done and is quite a large portion. Half racks are also available.
The dessert menu consists mainly of a range of cheesecakes, along with a couple of other things. We try the molten chocolate cake ($6.95) and the pumpkin cheesecake ($6.95). The molten chocolate cake is a little dry with not much “molten,” but the pumpkin cheesecake is outstanding: light and moist and packed with pumpkin punch. This is how cheesecake should be.
With the exception of the service misstep during the first visit, my experience with Luxx is a positive one. It’s a great restaurant to check out before a movie and in the summer the patio will no doubt be packed since it’s a great spot for people watching.
Luxx5657 Spring Garden Rd405-4060Mon-Thurs 11am-10pmFri-Sat 11am-11pmSun 5pm-10pm
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