Oliver Lucas offers seasonal casual fine dining
“When Grace is open, I’m in the house,” said UK-born chef/owner Oliver Lucas one recent Wednesday afternoon in his restaurant. It’s quite refreshing to meet a “chef” with a small “c,” a master behind the stove rather than a brand. “I make a point of serving the petits-fours myself, so that I have a chance to talk to my customers.”
With his Austrian wife Petra, Lucas offers casual fine dining in an inviting space – cushioned benches, good service and quality wines at a reasonable price.
There are three pleasing rooms with whitewashed walls, arched ceilings and the dark paneling of the Wirtshaus it once was. Today, these form a backdrop for Scandinavian-style furniture and retro tiles under the sanded wood bar with a matching wooden Kühlschrank (fridge). The wines are handpicked by the experts at Weinskandal and others, from an adventurous Manila by Burgenlander Martin Nittnaus to Jurtschitsch’s classic Grüner Veltliner from the Wachau. The small menu of eight dishes allows Lucas, as he says, to always use fresh ingredients and to change regularly, currently proposing seasonal pheasant and venison. As a trained pâtissier, don’t expect trendy desserts of parsnip or celery. “I want to keep desserts desserty,” Lucas admits. Sweet, rich and creamy.
Rave reviews in 2016 gave Grace a strong start to what is becoming a thriving business with a growing Stammkundschaft (regular clientele). They’ve bought an old school on a hilltop in Styria for a future B&B and cooking school. For now, though, the focus is on the restaurant – for which we all can count our blessings.
Lucas’s recipe for Quince Tartes
· 2-3 quinces
· 280g sugar
· 35g butter
· 60ml lemon juice
· 180g puff pastry
1. Peel, core and dice quinces in 2cm pieces. Keep pieces in water with some lemon juice against oxidizing. Save trimmings.
2. Place trimmings in a pot with 500ml water, 200g sugar and 25ml lemon juice. Boil, then simmer for 1.5 hours. Pass through a sieve.
3. Cut out four 8cm rings of puff pastry. Tear the rest into small irregular 2-3cm pieces. Bake them on baking paper at 180°C until golden brown.
4. Put 80g of sugar in a heavy pan with 40ml water over low heat, letting it turn into a golden caramel. Add the diced quince, cook for two minutes. Add the remaining lemon juice, butter and 50ml of the quince syrup. Cook until the quince is soft.
5. Take 8cm metal ring forms and layer the quince with the small pieces of pu pastry in a ratio of 2:1. Finish with the rings of pu pastry. Apply some pressure to make sure there are no spaces. Bake at 180°C for about 20 minutes until the pastry on top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool slightly, then turn upside down and remove the ring forms. Glaze with the remaining syrup.