by Eric Ginsburg
If Lulu & Blu were a drink, it would be prosecco, or maybe, depending on its mood, limoncello. Then again, the first thing people see after entering is a towering wine rack about 10 bottles across with the restaurant’s selection that skews towards Italian and American reds.
Which is to say that the restaurant and bar near one of High Point’s main intersections brags a distinct personality, albeit one that resists being pigeonholed.
Even though Lulu & Blu hasn’t really marketed itself since opening about eight months ago, a sharp bartender named Colin said there hasn’t been a need; the venue’s reputation precedes it thanks to its association with the Third City’s other “blue” restaurants ranging from Blue Rock Pizza & Tap to Blue Water Grille.
The posh Italian restaurant might fit in better in an outlying Brooklyn neighborhood, given its ability to appeal to a group of 22 women old enough to have grandkids dining together as well as a dapper middle-aged couple. And yet the bar would be the perfect place for a pair in the early stages of dating, say late twenties or early thirties and just looking to grab a couple rounds.
Half of the eight house cocktails at Lulu & Blu contain prosecco, including the Sgroppino with vodka and lemon sorbet. Only two drinks utilize limoncello, including one of the nine house martinis and the Long Island Lulu, and the liqueur is currently on special, which isn’t surprising considering that the lemon drink is Italy’s most popular of its type. And then there’s the wine list, where many of the wines are only available by the bottle and where only two nations are represented, providing an on-theme pairing for a special occasion rather than a casual weeknight out.
Lulu & Blu currently provides six beers on draft and a few bottles in the fridge, which is to say it’s there if you really want it, but that it’s not even anyone’s secondary motivation for showing up.
From the parking lot, the restaurant appears as if it is closed, given that it’s practically impossible to see in through the windows, but after opening the door, a guest’s eyes quickly adjust to the elegant dining room split in half by a divider. Even with a relatively high early turnout on Monday, the venue remained rather quiet, making it an appealing choice for conversation rather than the somewhat more boisterous approach of Italian eateries like Quanto Basta in Winston-Salem.
The patio, with its billowing curtains blocking the view of the surrounding parking lot and nearby busy intersection, is similarly intimate.
If there’s a Mr. High Point, it’s Charles Simmons, a seasoned member of the city’s small culturati. He saddled up to the bar early Monday evening and ordered the usual: a bowl of mussels and a water.
At a table a dozen feet away, a woman took a bite of the salmon, her white wine in front of her acting as a counterpart to her partner’s glass of red. Much of the menu is seafood oriented, like the seafood bucatini pasta with shrimp, mussels, clams, crab, tomato-fennel broth and toasted bread for $24. But there are also several flatbreads — unlike some Triad restaurants, these are like crackers, a sharper and more preferable differentiation from pizza — including a worthwhile one with speck, sun-dried apricots, taleggio cheese and a little pistachio topped with arugula.
The most interesting of the drinks on the cocktail menu may be the Sgroppino, at least in name and considering the inclusion of lemon sorbet. But there’s no scoop of ice-cream-like substance in this petite drink, served in a champagne flute of sorts that narrows near the top. Instead it’s a more unassuming, mildly clumped film at the surface of the drink, which might not go down all at once were the mouth of the glass larger. With undetectable vodka, it’s a strong drink especially for $9 and its deceptively light taste and presentation.
Soon after Simmons takes his seat at the gleaming, copper-colored bar at the back, the executive chef appears to greet the thrilled group of women, who applaud the cuisine. It’s really the food that makes this place popular, Colin the bartender humbly said. But even though the party of 22 and Simmons didn’t come for the drinks, the allure of this secluded bar is too much to ignore.
Visit Lulu & Blu at 2140 North Main Street (HP) or find it on Facebook.