Lurra lurra love. Or, what a cow.
Many years ago, when I was younger and had more energy, I used to swim every morning before work, at the public baths in Seymour Place. My daily companions were a group of elderly women who gathered there every morning, rain or shine, daily swim followed by daily gossip.
I’ve been thinking about reinstating that habit, as my daily 10,000 steps aren’t quite enough to counteract the damage I do to my waistline on that other part of Seymour Place, the one with all the restaurants.
And as if it wasn’t enough to have to take a detour to avoid that chicken at The Lockhart, there’s now that steak at Lurra.
Lurra means “land” in Basque and it’s the sister restaurant to Donostia, the tapas/pintxos restaurant right across the road. It seems odd at first, opening your second restaurant bang on the doorstep of your first, but although not dissimilar in appearance, this feels like a very different proposition. Slightly more formal, with a more conventional restaurant menu, Lurra specialises in the use of charcoal grills known as Erretegias and is, for me, the more comfortable of the two.
There are two levels at Lurra and we sit on the ground floor at the back, overlooking the tiny courtyard herb garden.. You can see the grill action from the back, as there is an open kitchen and if you wanted to get up really close and personal (and hot), you could sit at one of the few stools at the bar.
It’s a fairly short menu of Basque dishes, split between starters priced between £6 and £20 (the £20 being for Jamon Ibèrico) and meat and fish dishes priced between £9 and £14. You really want to be going for the main event though, the daily sharing plates, of which there are generally three. Almost a no-choice menu.
Before the big business of the plates it is imperative that you order the sourdough and bone marrow and I don’t care if you are doing the low carb thing, give it a break for a day. they deliver a brown, deeply crusted bread, good enough to do service as a course on its own. Four thick slices, a teaspoon is provided so that you can scoop the rich, fatty, marrow jelly out of a hunk of bone and onto the warm bread, where it simply melts.
Had I not been with T on this occasion I may have settled for the boring butter option and been none the wiser, as I’m not a massive fan of gelatinous goo in bones, it’s a bit on the Fred Flintstone spectrum for my taste. But T brooks no argument and naturally she was right.
We try the hake cheeks, with their garlicky sauce and frankly they are a little meh after the miracle of the marrow but our disappointment is offset by some truly wonderful blistered Gernika peppers, like the ubiquitous Padròn, but with a thinner skin.
The brandade-stuffed courgette flowers eaten on another visit are not as lovely as I expect. Brandade is an emulsion of salt cod and olive oil, here slightly dry and it didn’t work well with the sweetness of the honey drizzled over the dish.
The monkfish tail, served in a warm garlicky oil was plump and delicious, but so small that it caused T to voice concerns about sustainability, as monkfish are long-lived and late to mature and one is advised to source them at or above 70cm. Had T carried in her bag a tape measure, it would have been used.
I am not an expert on sustainable fish or rather I wasn’t, until I downloaded an excellent little app, The Good Fish Guide, from the Marine Conservation Society. It has a traffic light system, with Green for Eat, Yellow for Think and Red for Avoid. You may already know this, but in addition to that bluefin tuna, you really shouldn’t be eating Seabass caught at sea, European Eel, Wild Halibut, Grey Mullet or any sort of Skate. The app makes sobering reading and I recommend that you take a look at it. Lecture over.
Fortunately you only have to “Think” about turbot, one of the two sharing plates and I have to think about it too, as I haven’t yet ordered it. That’s because I can’t get past the steak. I am not, it must be said, entirely beloved of the bovine and whilst I do like a good steak on occasion, it’s not on my desert island dish list. So for me to order this twice in a row is a surprise, even to me.
It’s a thing though, the steak. Remember all that fuss over the steak at Kitty Fishers? It was the 10-14 year old Galician cow that did it, a cow supplied by Txuleta, owned by the same people as Lurra. And what a cow! Here it’s two years older, and priced at about £68 per kilo. You’ll pay around that for a portion for two.
Served simply seared, on a hotplate, it has a thick crust, sprinkled with sea salt. They cut it up for you and you share. The meat is juicy, buttery, salty and creamy. Skeins of meat separate in part, under the thick blackened exterior and the fatty bits around the edges add yet more flavour. Faultless, I have craved it on numerous occasions since.
Paprika-coated chips with aioli are unnecessary but serviceable without being so good you need to finish them.
I’ve never managed dessert.
Summing up: Lurra is a great addition to the Marylebone dining scene and works as well for a business lunch as it does for a casual dinner. The service is friendly and professional and the quality of the food top notch. If you like steak it’s worth a detour and whilst they aren’t the only people serving an old cow for lunch, this old cow thinks that that old cow is one of the best.