Featured Restaurant: Lussmanns

31st August 2018

Waxhouse Gate • High Street • St Albans • 01727 851941

Reviewed by Jill Glenn

There are three floors to Lussmanns St Albans. Its official entrance is via Waxhouse Gate, but we come in from the Heritage Close side, drawing back a heavy curtain over the door with a sense of theatre, to reveal a contemporary space, with lamps hanging low, and a buzzing atmosphere.

We begin with a Strawberry House Collins… a pleasing concoction of mint and gin and strawberries that captures summer (a season with which we’re still familiar at the time of drinking) to perfection. It comes with a paper straw: evidence of the ethical policy that underpins the Lussmanns brand: ‘the fundamental belief that it’s possible to be ethical and profitable’. There’s sustainable sourcing and 100% recycling; there are Marine Stewardship Council awards, and Community Support Programmes. Most of all, there’s a fresh vibrant menu, with some very nice food on it.

For my first course I choose the Roasted beetroot and Wobbly Bottom goat’s cheese salad, with lovage pesto, hazelnut and slow-braised red onion. It’s a real texturefest. With its clever interplay of ingredients, from the perfectly cooked beetroot and the soft cheese, to the cool slippery onion and the smoothness of the lovage pesto (so much more subtle than the usual basil version) it’s an excellent example of thoughtful preparation and assembly.

My companion is equally impressed by South Coast mackerel with Cornish new potatoes, apple and spring onion salad, English mustard and crème fraîche. ‘I could eat this all day,’ she tells me. The fish, which is warm, has a beautifully clean taste, and the mustard cuts through the oiliness to give good balance overall. The apple in the salad makes it fresh and lively.

These are flavours to savour – and service is pleasantly paced, allowing time to do so… and to enjoy the last few sips of the Strawberry Collins before moving on to a very splendid Spanish Viognier, with grapes biodynamically planted and harvested by night.

Lussmanns is known for its fish, and I’m delighted to find one of my absolute faves on the menu: sea bream – specifically Wild South Coast sea bream with cherry tomato, olive and anchovy broth. This is a delicate, clever dish, with the fish balanced above the liquor so that the skin remains crispy and all the flavours get their own moment in the limelight. The tomatoes are so sweet, and fall apart gently, appealingly; when appetite begins to fail me, these are what I finish. Alongside, there’s a side dish of Cornish new potatoes, and another of Cornish samphire: cooked al dente, it tastes as green as it looks. Perfect. The potatoes are a revelation: I don’t really like potatoes, but I am won over by these: savoury, not too salty, glossy with oil or butter or both, and soft-but-not-soft. Going, going, gone.

Opposite me, my guest is won over by a Sussex woodland-reared pork schnitzel, with caper, chilli and shallot linguine. It’s a huge portion, but she pays it proper respect, for its bursting flavours are too good to leave. The linguine has an excellent chilli kick; the meat is tender and well-seasoned, and the quality of the ingredients shines through.

Dessert – one, and two spoons, as always – is an utter triumph: Single origin dark chocolate mousse and honeycomb crumb, reminiscent of the cinder toffee I loved as a child, but in a different league altogether. The mousse itself is light as air, rich, not cloying, not sweet. Its presentation is simple: a bluegreen dish on a white plate: unadorned, unapologetic, just right. It’s a perfect example of what Lussmanns is all about.

STARTERS: £5.50-£8.50 • MAINS: £13.50-£27.95
DESSERTS: £5.50-£6.30 • HOUSE WINE: £17.90

Find Your Local