Tucked away in a small laneway in the historical centre of Maastricht, with an almost inconspicuous façade flanked by two townhouses attached on either side, it would have been easy to walk right by Restaurant Tout À Fait without giving it a second glance. Luckily for us we had this place on our radar and very deliberately made our way there, not quite knowing what was in store for us. One of only three restaurants graced with Michelin stars in Maastricht, the restaurant’s interior was sleek and stylish comprising three levels – a bar and lounge area and two restaurant sections – with a simple white and grey theme throughout.
We’d reserved a table for 10:00pm, so were quite surprised to find at that late hour a lively restaurant still completely full of diners. We were seated at the last available table in the upper section of the restaurant space with a view of the open kitchen, where owner-chef Bart Ausems’ team would be preparing our feast of French cuisine that evening.
Excited by the parade of waiters carrying large silver cloches to surrounding tables, we quickly placed our order. We opted for the three-course set menu, which changes daily to showcase the chef’s latest inspiration and the freshest of the day’s market produce. We listened to our waiter with anticipation of what was in store for us tonight: an entrée of steak tartare, a leg of lamb main course and banana crumble for dessert.
We were treated to a selection of tasty appetisers, with the highlight being the canelle pastry topped with a duck liver mousse. The cannelle’s tender centre and thick caramelised shell would have been a treat all on its own, but the pairing with the duck liver was just sensational. The rest of the meal was equally impressive, with a subtle combination of simplicity and innovation that left me with a strange yet satisfying feeling that I was simultaneously discovering something new and exciting while coming home to a familiar and long-missed tradition. The steak tartare was a refined work of art, served like tiny hamburger patties topped with quail egg and crudité. The leg of lamb with its pumpkin purée and gravy was perfectly cooked with loempia and broad beans adding contrast and bite. A dainty dessert of caramelised banana with crumbed nuts, caramel sauce and banana ice cream capped off the meal nicely. At just forty euros for the three-course menu, the meal was an excellent display of culinary finesse and accessible Michelin star dining.
The restaurant was conveniently located across the road from the hotel where we were staying and even though we had a very late booking the restaurant was buzzing. As we were seated at our table, ten large silver cloches were placed in front of the diners at the adjacent table. The waiters swiftly lifted the lids in unison to reveal beautifully presented dishes to a chorus of gasps of “oohs” and “aahs”.
Our choice for the night was the three-course menu which started off with steak tartare, a dish that I have always avoided whenever I’ve seen it on the menu. Raw mince has just never seemed appetising to me at all, so this dish came as a real surprise. The beef was strategically presented beneath thin slices of vegetables and tasty sauces and once I had the first bite, I wondered why I’d been avoiding this dish for so long. My aversion to raw meat instantly dissolved – the steak tartare was perfectly pleasant.
The main course was sliced segments of lamb leg, cooked perfectly as I had expected. What I hadn’t expected though was the crispy spring roll placed on top of the dish. It looked a little out of place at first, so I looked around to see if somebody else’s entrée was missing one roll. Had the chef grabbed the spring roll instead of the strip of crispy pork belly? Had they run out of garnish and hoped I wouldn’t notice? I struggled to understand the place of the spring roll, but as I finished the last mouthful, I realised that the logic of it didn’t matter. It was delicious.
The tables around us were soon empty and we were left alone in the restaurant with a desert plate topped with caramelized bananas, banana sorbet and dried sliced coconut surrounded by crunchy biscuit crumbs that added contrast and texture. The dish was a perfect ending to a wonderful meal that was full of surprises. Tout À Fait is a restaurant that definitely deserves its Michelin star.
Restaurant Tout À Fait
Sint Bernardusstraat 16-18, 6211 HL Maastricht