The Luxe, 109 Commercial Street, London E1

The denizens of Spitalfields in east London have been waiting a long time for The Luxe. John Torode – the Australian judge on TV's Masterchef, who closes his eyes while shouting at his fellow judge, the cockney hard-man Gregg Wallace – has been promising to open for over a year. But since he's the chap behind Smiths of Smithfield, people have been happy to wait.

Smiths was (and remains) hugely popular on several levels. Noisy City types congregated in the ground-floor bar, necking South American beer; ordinary punters ate medium-range carnivore grub at medium prices, and could look over their first-floor balcony at the howling throng below. The top floor was for "fine dining". They charged you £28 for a steak and supplied a biography of the animal it came from, emphasising its life spent gambolling across Sussex meadows. So great things are expected of Torode's new gaff.

The Luxe is on the site of the old Spitz venue, hard by Spitalfields Market which used to be extremely groovy and has become tidied-up and dispirited. It's another enterprise on three levels. The ground floor is a busy, whizzy, no-nonsense, café-plus, lazy-brunch kinda place, with cute silver-painted chairs, ketchup on the tables and a patio outside. Its cheap all-day breakfast sounds immense. Downstairs is a basement bar and dancefloor for nighthawks (they're welcome to it) while the first floor is the domain of the cuisinal talent.

It's a curious L-shaped structure: one wall is covered in hand-painted birds and trees to compensate for the fact that the tables are frankly gloomy. The other wall, at right angles, is home to the marble kitchen, where the cooks can be watched at work, prepping and slicing and mashing. A dozen dangling silver lamps make up the footlights to this very flamboyant chef's theatre. Elsewhere, exposed brickwork, wooden floors and Dutch-gabled windows, lit by the reflected kitchen fires, made the dining area a welcoming place on a rain-swept autumn day. So did the strains of Beth Rowley and Florence + the Machine on the iPod speakers.

The menu is very Anglo-Australian. It ripples with convict muscularity and rude authenticity (every other ingredient is "wood roasted"). My starter of frogs' legs and chicken shanks was a chorus line of limbs kicking across the plate in a mushroom cream sauce. They looked anaemic, as if poached rather than roasted, but tasted fine, if you like your poultry baby-soft. More interesting was the garnish of chives, chervil and flat-leaf parsley, which delivered a peremptory wallop of vinegar-tinged dressing.

My date's roast chicken broth with pelmeni (pasta parcels of chicken and garlic) was nicely seasoned and stiff with spring onions, the pasta creamily tender with plenty of crunch from bits of fennel and onion. There just wasn't very much of it. I thought of asking for more, but felt it might be too Oliver Twist for comfort.

Her main course of John Dory offered two disappointingly small fillets of tasteless white fish in a broth with cauliflower, roast garlic and parsley. Thank heavens they were accompanied by mussels and clams on the shell, which worked far more successfully on the taste buds.

I ordered the roast grouse and was told: "I think you ought to know we serve the grouse rare." This sounded like a challenge. It said: "We know – ie. Mr John Torode knows – far better than you, how grouse should be served. You will have it his way or vamoose." OK then, I thought, despite my misgivings about serving any poultry rare.

When it came, I realised why it's a controversial dish. Rare roast grouse tastes – how shall I put this? – very dark. Very earthy. Very loamy and soily and intestinal. Dark purple and livid, it tastes of death. There's a pungent whiff of the charnel house, of murdered-flesh-on-a-battlefield, about it. "I can smell the blood from here," said my companion. "Nick Cave would love it." It was a melancholy plateful; not even the cooked chestnuts and blackberry jelly could make it ingratiating or good company, though a side order of delicious champ potatoes tried its best.

For pudding we avoided the predictable poached pear and pecan pie in favour of affogato – three scoops of vanilla ice cream, over which you crumble a biscuit and up-end a cup of hot espresso. It tasted fine but won't be featuring on the Skills Display section of Masterchef any time soon.

Before leaving, I asked John Torode why he wanted his punters to eat game so rare. "I think that's how the majority of people like it," he said. I raised an eyebrow: oh yeah? "David Sexton [food critic of the London Evening Standard] was in here last week," said Torode defensively. "He said it wasn't rare enough." Jeez. What would hard-core foodies such as Torode and Sexton like – to eat a grouse that's flown into their mouths and is still alive?

The Luxe, 109 Commercial Street, London E1 (020-7101 1751)

Food 3 stars
Ambience 4 stars
Service 3 stars

About £100 for two, with wine

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side orders: Down under

Porthminster Café

Crispy Fried Squid, citrus white miso, crispy shallots and black spices (£8.95) is a typically inventive dish from the Aussie chef Michael Smith at this sensational restaurant on the beach at St Ives.

Porthminster Beach, St Ives, Cornwall, tel: 01736 795 352

The Modern Pantry

The New Zealander Anna Hansen is responsible for the exotic and accomplished fusion cooking at this City restaurant – Thai, Vietnamese and French are just some of theinfluences.

The Modern Pantry, 47-48 St John's Square, London EC1 ( 020 7250 0833)

Giaconda Dining Room

The celebrated Sydney chef Paul Merrony produces inspired dishes such as Sautéed Veal Kidneys with Bacon, Field Mushrooms & Potatoes £11.75 at this minuscule West End restaurant.

The Giaconda Dining Room, 9 Denmark Street, London WC2, tel: 020 7240 3334

News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
Sport
Sean Abbott
cricketSean Abbott is named Australia's young cricketer of the year
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Group Sales Manager - Field Based

    £21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...

    Guru Careers: Email Marketing Specialist

    £26 - 35k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Email Marketing Specialist is needed to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Day In a Page

    Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

    Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

    Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
    DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

    The inside track on France's trial of the year

    Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
    As provocative now as they ever were

    Sarah Kane season

    Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

    Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

    Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea