Lily’s restaurant & club

Lily's restaurant and club

A year after it opened its doors Catherine Feore visits a restaurant with a lot of swagger

When the news hit the street that the Litvine Society had taken over Callen’s Café, we knew that transformation was in store. Lily’s, which opened in November 2022, is part of the family’s ever growing empire of  restaurants including Villa Lorraine (**), La Villa in the Sky (*), Da Mimmo, Odette en Ville, Lola, Le Variétés and Voltaire. The project to reinvigorate the space was achieved under the gaze of the Litvine children: Vladimir, Tatiana and Sasha. While the group came up with the concept of a restaurant and club, they worked with the ‘of-the-moment’ Israeli designer Saar Zafrir to help realize their vision.

Together went to explore for lunch, which is served in the pergola. It’s hard to imagine in November, but in summer the roof can open so you can enjoy the glory (fingers crossed) of the Belgian summer. For autumn, we looked out on the Jardins de l’Abbaye de la Cambre where the foliage was in full transformation. It’s nice to eat in natural light at lunchtime, the space is comfortable and stylish. With a quick – and hopefully unobtrusive – glance I took in the lunchtime clientele, it was a mixture of quiet business huddles and also (adult) family groups. Yes, Lily’s is explicitly catering for the grown-ups and can we just say ‘hurrah!’ to that.

I spoke to one of the chefs who explained the approach to the menu, it is both classic and open to the world. Among more traditional dishes, there is a confit lamb served with za’atar, tzatziki, smoked aubergine caviar and salsa verde; korean lamb bao; and, ceviche of sea bass and tiger prawns with passion fruit, citrus, mango, avocado and red onions. When I asked if the clientele liked this more adventurous menu, I was told that the ceviche has become one of their “incontournables” – essentials.

For the starter I had the Saint Jacques with pumpkin and truffle (potimarron, jus corsé, émulsion truffe). The challenge here is the balance, the Saint Jacques must be just cooked and the truffle needs to be there, but not overpowering; I ordered it with a certain amount of trepidation knowing that this is the equivalent of the circus tightrope act. It was perfection. My companion chose an ‘apéro’ of calamar frits, which passed his critical test of being tender without having the slightest hint of rubberiness. For the main course we shared the Cote à l’Os Holstein, served with confits cherry tomatoes and Lily’s fries. This was truly grandiose in style and flavour. We ordered glasses of wine, a nice Bordeaux; but the wine list is impressive, with Italian wines being particularly well represented. 

Where Zafrir’s touch is most present is in the inside, set aside for the evening; it feels like one is on the set of Mad Men, with bucket chairs and closely set tables, it is plush, has a bit of swagger and oodles of style. This is a place to see and to be seen. As one would expect there is a fantastic list of cocktails and you can continue the evening behind a secret door into the Speakeasy. Scorsese would love it!

Finally, the staff at every point are professional; from the entrance to the exit, there is a seamless and relaxed atmosphere.