Veteran restaurateur Luke Mangan opened Luke’s Kitchen in Waterloo because he wanted the suburb to have a casual local eatery. And the refurbished restaurant took over his Danks Street tapas bar, Mojo, after three years.
Luke’s Kitchen is unpretentious and all 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.
Casual doesn’t mean overly simple or artless, though. 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.
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.”