This week veteran restaurateur Luke Mangan opened Luke’s Kitchen in Waterloo, a suburb he believes could use a casual local eatery. The refurbished restaurant is taking over Mojo, the tapas bar he’s run on Danks Street. (Mangan will be moving Mojo uptown, with plans to open in the CBD later this year.)

“Mojo was great, it was here for three years, but we decided to review what we were doing and come up with a concept that was about giving people a local.”

Mangan describes Luke’s Kitchen as “unpretentious” and suited to Waterloo. “With all the apartments, it’s one of the most highly populated areas in Australia,” he says. “It’s a young demographic, and Luke’s is about having a bit of something for everyone.”

That means weekend brunch with scrambled eggs and cured salmon, or perhaps poached eggs with a bottle of Bollinger for special occasions. Lunch and dinner menus are short and feature large plates to share.

“There’s no formality about dining here. I think there will always be a place for fine dining, but Luke’s is relaxed and casual. It’s honest food. We’re not trying to be trendy, doing things like foams or gels,” he says.

Casual doesn’t mean overly simple or artless. The menu incorporates organic produce predominantly from the Blue Mountains region, and well-balanced flavour combinations. There’s the Tasmanian ocean-trout sashimi served with coconut yogurt and nam jim (Thai dipping sauce that incorporates a balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy); and slow-roasted lamb finished with a balsamic glaze and served with carrots.

“It’s comfort food, modernised,” he says.

Mangan is a self-described gin and tonic man and says The Australian is his favourite cocktail. It’s gin with Cointreau, kaffir, a little sugar syrup, and lime and cranberry juice – a drink that’s tart and not overly sweet.

The design plays on the space’s warehouse origins; the ductwork and pipes in the ceiling have been left exposed, but there’s also the use of a floral screen and painted wainscoting to create a sense of intimacy. The colour palette is shades of sage and pale pink, and mismatched Bentwood chairs surround dark timber tables.

Mangan’s portfolio includes the now 14-year-old Glass in the Hilton; Salt Grill & Sky Bar in Singapore; and the fried-chicken chain Chicken Confidential. On a scale of takeaway shop to fine-dining, Luke’s Kitchen falls somewhere in the middle. “I think it suits Waterloo,” he says. “It’s all about having something for everyone and focusing on making real food in a space that’s intimate and relaxed.”

Luke’s Kitchen
8 Danks Street, Waterloo
Opens February 15.

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