Friday, 16 January 2015

A Review of Luke's at The Heeren - Good Comfort Food at Uncomfortable Prices

In my bumbling, random way, I had managed to never set foot in one of the Luke's restaurants.  Perhaps it was the fact that they charged nine dollars per oyster, as heinous an act of highway robbery as ever occurred on Orchard Road.  Whatever it was, I finally decided to bite the bullet at Luke's Heeren outlet and see what the fuss was all about.

The View of Orchard Road from the Oyster Bar
I was out with my friend S to discuss a spot of business.  He told me that the Heeren had recently undergone a massive renovation and that Robinsons had recently moved in as the anchor tenant.  Which was all very nice but by the by to me as I had never before set foot in the Heeren either!

Australians seem to have a particular aversion to dining in shopping centres, as witnessed by the spectacular failures of the big chef-hatted names who set up in Westfield Sydney.  The search for Luke's gives me a big clue why that is.  We catch the lift up to Level 3 and step out into Robinsons.  I look around, and there is bugger-all by way of signposting.  I take the easy way out and ask one of the shop assistants, whose raison d' etre, judging from her demeanour, seems to be telling lost diners where to find Luke's.   Following her directions, I come across a sign that comes up to my stomach which reads "Luke's Chop House and Oyster Bar - this way" or words to that effect.  Now I may be taller than the average Singaporean, but I doubt many Lilliputians have made their homes in the Lion City, regardless of the Government's flexible work immigration policy.

The Non-Booth Seats
We are soon seated in a "romantic" booth.  For "romantic", read cramped - it amazes me that in a society so politically incorrect, that so many concessions have been made for our Lilliputian friends.  And for two heterosexual males in committed relationships, the booths are neither particularly practical nor comfortable.

Appetiser: Cornbread with Paprika Butter


Very good for a complimentary starter.  I actually quite enjoy its slightly gritty texture, and the smokiness of the paprika sets off the sweetness of the cornbread.

Entree: Jumbo Lump Crab Cake ($47++; half-portion pictured)


Again, very good.  The crabcake is, Lord be praised, made mostly of crab meat!  The exterior is fried a point, and the remoulade has a nice tart bite which contrasts nicely against the sweetness of the crab.  As the alcohol level in his bloodstream is getting dangerously low, S insists on topping up with a half-bottle of 2013 Fritz Haag's Mosel Riesling ($50++ for 375mL, $100++ for a full bottle), which is perfectly pleasant without being profound.  It does, however, combine that distinctly Mosel hint of off-dryness and ethereal acidity.

Main: Original "Travis" Burger ($27++, $3++ supplement for kurobuta bacon)


This is good, not much more.  I like that the meat is hand-chopped so has more texture than your typical industrial burger, and that the staff ask you how well-cooked you like your meat.  But the kurobuta bacon, like so many other products which boast the kurobuta name, has me asking "now what's really so special about that?"  The same average coleslaw which accompanied the crabcake makes an unrequested encore.

Side Dish: Creamed Spinach with Sunnyside-Up Egg ($16++)


Pause for a minute to consider, if you will, how a dish of spinach, cream and egg costs $16.  I mean, the dish is perfectly acceptable, perhaps even pleasant, even if it doesn't deserve the accolade of being delicious.  S fondly remembers a spinach dip that was on the menu the last time he was here, and proclaims that this creamed spinach dish falls short of what he expected.  I have to agree.

Conclusion

It is hard to fault Luke's on its food.  It doesn't appear to aim particularly high but it achieves what it sets out to do, which is to provide authentic, hearty American favourites.

I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy my meal at Luke's, because I did.  Insofar as grills and chop houses go, I rate Luke's well over places like Morton's the Fakehouse.  The service is above average, and I don't mind the decor, even if the cramped booth seats aren't particularly suited for the physical dimensions of the average homo sapiens sapiens.

But one issue nags at me repeatedly throughout the meal, and it is this: how does Luke's justify the prices it charges?  I paid $73 for a shared entree, one main course (lunch special price) and a shared side dish.  I could have gone to Les Amis, enjoyed a sophisticated and unrepentantly haute four-course lunch with coffee in a non-shopping centre environment, and walked out with change.  At Luke's, you would be hard-pressed to spend less than $130 nett for a three-course dinner, and that's assuming you don't go overboard on luxe options such as seafood options and steak.  A small saving grace is that Luke's offers 1-for-1 BYO, because having to pay the $75++ corkage per bottle, on top of $16++ for a vegetarian side, merely adds insult to injury.  

Frankly, however, there are so many places in Singapore offering so much more at the same (or lesser) price that I have great difficulty justifying a return visit.

LUKE'S OYSTER BAR & CHOP HOUSE
260 Orchard Road,
#03-02 The Heeren
Singapore 238855
Tel: +65 6733 4813
Email:orchardinfo@lukes.com.sg 
www.lukes.com.sg/heeren
BYO Policy: 1-for-1, or $75++ per 750mL bottle.  Please click here for a list of Singapore restaurants which allow BYO, and their corkage policies.

4 comments:

  1. Enjoy your frank commentary - refreshingly free of the cloying advertorials that pass for restaurant reviews by bloggers nowadays...

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    1. Thanks P, I aim to please ;)

      It's not a very good business model, though, as I seem to end up paying for my meals and give the restaurants free publicity!

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  2. ah Julian, well I am glad you made it to Luke's. We were at Gemmil Lane on Friday night to celebrate our anniversary (it's a tradition to go to Luke's). I entirely agree with you about the pricing, and yet there is something irresistable about the place that gets me back again and again. You really should get back and try the beef tenderloin au poivre, I could drink that sauce. And the service is way above par with so many other establishments. But yes, we did come away again looking at the bill and shaking our heads.....

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    1. Hello V, the beef tenderloin au poivre sounds great, care to subsidise my meal? ;)

      Luke's does do a lot of things right. If I decided to go out for a pricey steak, I would probably opt for Luke's over others. It does provide a very positive experience, I just wish it cost (a lot) less!

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