The last few months we’ve had quite a few delicious meals at some restaurants and I thought I’d share some of my thoughts on them with you.
Let’s go back to January when we went to Restaurant Horseele (*) This restaurant is located in Ghent’s soccer stadium/temple (It’s my hometown, cut me some slack), Ghelamco Arena. The chef isn’t a new kid on the block, but his restaurant at this unique location is fairly recent, it opened in 2013.
Having dinner in the stadium, watching over the pitch (no games during dinner though) is quite spectacular. The interior is modern but not too industrial or cool. It’s very nicely decorated.
We ordered the 8 course menu and I also got a mocktail which was delightful, I can’t remember the exact ingredients, but it involved some violet. I don’t drink champagne or wine, and when I don’t feel like drinking gin and tonic as aperitif I’m always happy when I don’t have to resort to freshly squeezed orange juice, again. A good mocktail is a great start for my dining experience.
The appetizers were delicious and I had high expectations for the rest of the evening. The following courses (I forgot what they exactly were, I didn’t think I’d blog about it, to be honest) were nice but not as good as the appetizers had been.
I am a sweet tooth, desserts are my weakness and the highlight of any meal, so my verdict doesn’t become final until I’ve had my sweets!
The dessert was cauliflower ice cream with white chocolate. I was far from put off by this description, chefs come up with the weirdest combinations and they make it work (Heston’s vanilla mayonnaise!) and we’ve had stranger things put in front of us (Heston’s snail porridge…) so I had an open mind and a need for sweet when they brought us dessert.
It was not good, it didn’t have a hint of cauliflower, it was straight up cauliflower ice cream, with a tiny hint of white chocolate. There was bit of crumble that made an effort to mask the strong flavour a bit, unfortunately it failed.
There are always dishes that you like better than others, but this was the most disappointing dish I had ever had. It didn’t completely ruin the experience but dessert is the final meal, so it kind of dominates your memory of the whole menu.
Overall, I’d recommend it if you want to have dinner at a unique location. For this price (8 courses without wine: €125,00) I expected more (quality, not quantity) and would recommend other places.
At the end of January we spent a day (more or less, it was less than 24 hours) in Antwerp because we went to A Passion for Science and Reason, an evening with Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss organised by Het Denkgelag, at Stadsschouwburg. We both had a day off to take so we stayed in Antwerp, at the Ibis hotel that’s located on the same square, convenient!
Breakfast wasn’t included so we headed to Coffeelabs (thanks for the tip, Katia!) for a modest yet tasty start of the day. We weren’t looking for huge breakfast or brunch because we had exciting lunch plans!
I had the home-made granola and an orange/kiwi/banana juice, it was divine. My husband had the salty breakfast and a speculate, both approved by both of us (I just have to taste everything).
We strolled around Antwerp, had the shops to ourselves, some Tom Ford Lips and Boys action may have happened at Parfuma and by noon it was time for the main food event: lunch at Het Gebaar (*).
This has to be the cutest restaurant I’ve ever set foot in, it’s like you walk straight into a fairytale. It’s a small, beautiful house in the Botanical Garden.
Chef Roger Van Damme is mostly known for his amazing dessert skills he showcases on Njam but it isn’t only about sweets here.
You get a small (still very hard to choose from!) selection of classic dishes and some daily specials. There’s no “prix fixe” menu, this is a lunch restaurant (Tuesday-Saturday from 11h00-18h00, no reservations on Saturday: good luck with that!) but that doesn’t mean it’s fast food.
We finally managed to choose: the suckling pig dish for me (pork is so underestimated!) and Roger’s version of “stoverij” (beef stew). You also have to choose your dessert when you order your main, when you get them you’ll understand why, they take some time to make! Dessert is what the chef’s known for and he offers a variety of options: The classics and his own creations. I have no doubt that his versions of Crème Brûlée or Dame Blanche are anything short of perfection, but his own creations, that’s where it’s at.
In the end I went for Botanique and my husband chose Black Jack.
But before tucking into those we were treated to our main dishes, which might be classics but the presentation is far from that. My choice of suckling pig was a great one: beautiful crispy pork with leeks, apples and glazed pork cheeks. Nice one, Roger!
My husband was also chuffed with his choice: a modern version of stoverij with veal, truffle (yum!) and delicious fries.
The meal was already a success in my book, but it was time for those famous desserts. When you get your dessert you’re taken aback for a split second because you don’t want to ruin what they created for you. But please, do enjoy it! Never waste a good dessert, people.
My Botanique was a heavenly plate of milk chocolate and hazelnut (always a great combo) with mango, lime and passionfruit to perfectly balance this great dessert. It’s like a scavenger hunt for amazing flavours, every bite you take gives you a new sensation, every layer is different in texture and taste.
My husband’s dessert, Black Jack, was less about chocolate but still a good choice: speculaas (spiced biscuit, also known as Biscoff around the world) with apple and some citrus. It had edible playing cards that reminded us of our meal at The Fat Duck.
Some tea and more sweets later we left the restaurant, knowing we would be back soon, I have my mind set on the Steak Tartare and all the desserts. We’ll back, chef Van Damme, for another memorable lunch. Or pancakes. Or both.
In February we went to Hofke Van Bazel (*), in the picturesque centre of Bazel (as the name suggests).
Most restaurants with one or more Michelin stars are small and don’t have that many tables, but this restaurant is huge, I have no idea how they manage to run this place so smoothly!
A five course menu would have been perfectly fine, but they suggested langoustine as an extra dish and we couldn’t refuse.
From start to finish this was an excellent meal. We discovered some new, Belgian, gin (Buss 509 Raspberry was excellent) and were not disappointed by the langoustine dish.
Of course, I mostly remember the dessert and it was delicious dish! It was rice pudding with golden spoons and it sure was divine. The golden spoon was a gold dusted white chocolate spoon, very nicely done.
If you want to you can even sleep here, they have 3 suites, I can only imagine how good their breakfast must be…
And last but most definitely not least we went back to Vrijmoed (*) for the 3rd time. Yes, that is once a year since it opened in 2013.
After our first visit in March, mere weeks after the opening, we instantly knew that a Michelin star would soon be awarded to this young and promising chef. And we were proven right sooner than expected (but rightly so) in November that same year.
The restaurant is located is our beautiful Ghent, next to Joost Arijs, his former co-worker at Hof Van Cleve and amazing patissier, in a gorgeous old house with many original features to admire.
Everything here is perfection, the food, the staff, the atmosphere. It’s not stuffy but not too casual either, you still feel like you’re having a special evening.
We’d had the 6 course menu both times we had been here because we always get sucked in by the added dishes. However, this time they weren’t really calling our name and this was a perfect opportunity to add some cheese to the menu. After 5 or 6 courses I can never add a cheese course, it’s just too much, but because we were going for the 4 course meal we finally seized the moment and added the cheese course.
I skipped the gin tonic this time, asked for a non alcoholic drink and was very happy with the mocktail they made me.
As usual, the amuse-bouches were great and set the bar high for the rest of the meal.
The first dish was centered around scallop, it was so fresh and pure, a real delight.
The next course was a carrot course, which sounds quite boring and unappealing, but it was so so so good. Carrot and curry, a great duo.
As a teaser for the main course we got an oxtail consommé that left us wanting more.
And boy, did we get more. The main course was a bowl of slowly, perfectly, braised beef cheeks with onions and potatoes, in the form of crisps and a creamy puree. A real winner.
Our cheese course was next and it was nice, I’m not the most adventurous cheese person, so I was happy that the selection wasn’t too extravagant.
Time for dessert, but what is it? Did you say cauliflower? Seriously? Again?
Alright, open mind again, this time for cauliflower ice cream with a touch of arabica, a gianduja sauce and some crumble. The ice cream alone tasted similar to what we’d had at Restaurant Horseele, however, the coffee taste did cut nicely through the cauliflower flavour.
But we all know the real magic happens when you add all the elements of a dish onto your spoon and the crumble and warm gianduja sauce made all the difference. The cauliflower was just one of several flavours here and it blended seamlessly with the chocolate and hazelnut. So cauliflower ice cream? It can be done!
We had some tea and were brought some more treats: a mini pineapple tart with some coconut, a macaron, the fluffiest and lightest marshmallow I’ve ever had, and a piece of brownie with salted caramel.
A six course menu (without wine) will set you back €89,00 here and it is 100% worth it!
The icing on the cake was the chef’s visit to our table, which was a first for us at Vrijmoed, we complimented him on the wonderful meal, especially the braised beef cheeks, and he very modestly credited his team’s efforts for this dish. Now that is a great chef! He did learn from a great master, I’m confident he will go far and we’re happy we got to witness it from the very start.
No doubt, we will go back to Vrijmoed again and again, it’s one of the best restaurants we’ve been to and the fact that it’s in the centre of Ghent is a great bonus. The endless supply of exquisite bread is difficult to refuse though, I always have to remind myself we’re having more than just bread. But it’s so damn good!
So 3 great meals and one slight disappointment, not a bad final score.
Have you been to any of these restaurants, or do you have any other recommendations?
P.S.: Check out my instagram (@evabblogt) for some pictures of the food and drinks. Be warned, you will get hungry.