In my neighbourhood there is a bistro sheltering in a former umbrella shop: it’s called Le Neptune. Each week there is a five course set menu listed on a blackboard, which I ate accompanied by a bottle of Bourgogne picked, after some deliberation, from two lengthy chalked lists for the serious-sounding connoisseur. The combination of choice and no choice was intriguing. I waited. It became clear that for the diners in this 25 cover restaurant, this was to be an experience to last the whole evening. As each course arrived, it was described to us at table by one of the young staff. We listened intently, and then dutifully savoured every mouthful, identifying the flavours of all the ingredients we had been instructed were present. And it was only a few mouthfuls before our well-presented, delicate dishes were dispatched! But then we had only to wait again, nibbling on delicious bread, wondering what would come next. If we were curious, we could walk through the kitchen and see for ourselves.
When I return a few days later, chef Nicolas is in the process of gutting a tuna. He’s forgotten our appointment, so I ask my questions while he prepares his fish: this way I’m learning by watching and listening. I discover that there is no English translation for the Lake Geneva fish I ate on my visit; that Nicolas’ favourite ingredients are seasonal vegetables; we debate the colours (and English translations) of yellow courgette, marrow, pumpkin and squash; and I try to persuade him of the merits of swede. He looks at me quizzically. Even if he doesn’t know my favourite vegetable I cannot accuse him of being boring. After all I enjoyed his mystery Geneva fish (Féra) with sage, melon and dill; followed by ray poached in bergamot broth; beef cheek with root vegetables; a quince compote and a chocolate mousse. “Why five little plates?” I ask, “Surely that’s more work?” “No, it’s more fun”, he says. “And this isn’t work!”
Nicolas’ weekly changing menu is all about delicate flavours: nothing dominates. It’s about tempting your tastebuds rather than overpowering them: “I like to take my customers on a journey through several dishes”, he says. This means no butter, no cream, locally produced food and organic wines – “fins et légers”, to match his cooking. This former wine bar owner is inspired by childhood memories, markets and eating round his grandparents’ table in the Haute-Savoie. And he dislikes too much formality: customers see him at work, sneak a glance in his fridge and wander through his kitchen.
The five course tasting menu costs 39 euros a head, not including wine. A three course lunch menu costs 25 euros Book at least a week in advance.
Rue Lesbroussart 48
+32 489 303 350
Google map: bit.ly/otdZWl
* Bec is our Been there local for Brussels. You can view her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/brussels-local-rebecca.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/Becinbrussels
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