If there really was one bad moment to open a top restaurant in Luxembourg, it was this one. On March 9th, 2020 husband and wife team, Julien Lucas and Camille Tardif, signed the contract with their landlord for their new restaurant. On March 16th, Luxembourg went into COVID-19 lockdown. “We redoubled our efforts and ideas in order to find solutions. If we survive the whole thing, we will be stronger than ever,” says Julien Lucas.
During its first twelve months, the “Villa de Camille et Julien” in the Rue de Pulvermühl was open for just about five and a half months. “We entered into all of our obligations before the lockdown – naturally without knowing what was to come,” says Camille Tardif. They did not receive anything from the first batch of lockdown aids because the restaurant had not existed long enough. Later, when the Luxembourgish government provided aid, it came with month-long delays.
Opening a restaurant always means a lot of work on the horizon. But the going really gets tough when you can’t be very visible in a city that does not know you yet. Yet, the gastronomy couple from France brings the very best requirements with them. Julien Lucas (35), a fourth generation cook from Forbach near Saarbrücken, learnt from the legendary Joël Robuchon following his hotel management education in Sarreguemines, and also worked for him in Paris. “After the first week with Robuchon I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do.” He cooked for Alain Ducasse in London and in the Eiffel tower. He achieved his first Michelin star as the Chef of the Jeu de Paume in Chantilly.
And now Luxembourg. A large dining room, spacious, modern but still comfy and decorated in an almost familiar style, now awaits its guests. This is Camille Tardif’s work whose training and career path have been in the hotel industry, between the luxurious Four Seasons group and the emblematic Relais & Châteaux chain. Luxembourg is an attempt to be closer to their parents after years of moving around, and to create a home for their daughter. “It is time to find some more stability,” Julien Lucas says.
For the couple, “the challenge is great. This establishment has a long history. “It is up to us to write a new page. It is now our house and we try every day to make it a little more like who we are,” says the young chef. “We want people to come to meet us. They should have the feeling of eating at home.” The French art of living in a relaxed manner is the particularity that he wishes to highlight. On the first floor there is a Fumoir. “The terrace on three levels houses a vegetable garden at the foot of the rock, then the 1st and 2nd terraces are available for aperitifs and digestifs. The meal is served inside. The idea is to offer different settings to customers.
“We want people to come to meet us. They should have the feeling of eating at home.”
When they were finally able to open, on June 9th, 2020, everything started out in a promising way. The kitchen team, that had accompanied the couple, could finally make a start on dishes such as lobster with sorrel, rabbit à la Robuchon, or Coquilles St. Jacques with Williams pears in wild ginger. Julien Lucas talks of a “kitchen with French savoir-faire. French lifestyle is our identity.”
Similar to what the entire gastronomy experienced, things went well until the beginning of the second lockdown. “We have been forced to close our restaurant, with no visibility of reopening, which is difficult to accept,” he explains with a mixture of sadness, anxiousness and anger. “But we are fighting for not being forgotten”.
But Camille and Julien can’t afford to and don’t want to give up. “This closure was forced on us. But we will see if something good will not also come of this.” The containment showed that takeaway is not just for pizzerias and sushi bars. It has also developed a great sense of solidarity between chefs. Thus, Chef Julien Lucas, surrounded by Chefs Ilario Mosconi, Arnaud Magnier and Cyril Molard, proposed a starred takeaway box in which each dish was prepared by one of them.
“The restaurant remains our priority, but we will have to reinvent ourselves once this second confinement is over”, Julien continues. The couple agree that a new way of consuming has emerged from these repeated confinements, and are thinking of offering a box for weekends, even after the confinement has ended. Why shouldn’t a couple who can’t find a babysitter simply order food? Why should someone who is stuck at home with flu have to give up a good meal? What’s more, a bottle of champagne can be opened at home in a bathrobe to accompany the meal. “We have never done this before, but now we know how to do it.
VILLA DE CAMILLE ET JULIEN
5, Rue de Pulvermühl — L-2356 Luxembourg
Tel. +352 / 28 99 39 93