The weekend of 14th February marked one year since Merv’s arrival in Brussels. Since we would be spending the weekend in Lille, considered to be the gastronomic capital of Northern France, we thought it was only fitting to mark the occasion with a celebratory dinner.
My search led me to the discovery of two restaurants headed by French Top Chef finalists – Florent Ladeyn’s Le Bloempot, and Steven Ramon’s Rouge Barre. Based on similar concepts, both fine dining restaurants offer set three- and five-course menu options that change weekly according to what’s in season. A fully booked Le Bloempot saved us from the difficulty of having to decide between the two. Since it also happened to be Valentine’s Day weekend, Rouge Barre was replacing its usual offering with a special six-course menu which made for an extra special treat. We opted for the matching wine option too – it was a double celebration after all!
We requested a table in the cosier rear dining room, which provided a view of the open kitchen and the chance to watch celebrity chef Ramon in action. We watched as he gave each plate its finishing touches at the pass before sending them out to our table. Each dish looked beautiful. To start we were served an an exquisite roasted cauliflower entrée followed by a delicate lobster and celery dish with a champagne foam. The mains consisted of a pasta wrapped pork with capers and parmesan, and veal with shaved asparagus and a balsamic reduction.
To finish, our dainty desserts of apple and jasmine, and lime and ginger cream were paired with pear cider, a refreshing alternative to dessert wine and a lovely finish to an enjoyable meal.
Valentine’s Day dinner can be a hit or miss affair where restaurants have set menus, higher prices and generally rushed or poor service because of the number of diners booked for the evening. And even though it technically wasn’t Valentine’s Day yet, Rouge Barre was pulling out all the stops this Valentine’s Day eve.
With mainly couples surrounding us in the dimly lit dining room, the table of four guys that were seated beside us were a welcome distraction. Perhaps, like us, they hadn’t received the memo that the standard menus would not be available tonight and we would all be served a single extravagant menu designed to mark the day of romance.
From our candlelit table I had a great view of the action in the kitchen. With lots of premium ingredients such as truffle and lobster on the menu I was excited for the dishes to arrive at the table. While we waited for the first course we nibbled on some dainty appetisers before the waiter brought us a dome of smoked butter with the bread. “It’s very good”, he warned us, “but try not to eat it all at once or you won’t get through the meal”. We had six courses to get through tonight, so I tried my hardest not to finish all the butter on my first piece of bread!
For me, the menu featured highs and lows, but the highlight would have to be the first course of roasted cauliflower with hazelnut cream and shaved truffle. The familiar flavours were really brought to life in this dish. After such a great start, the following dishes didn’t seem to have the same punch or depth of flavour, although they were still very elegant and tasty dishes. Things were brought up a notch again with the arrival of dessert. The first dessert course of apple with aniseed and meringue followed by a delicious lime, ginger and vanilla cream beneath a mint foam were a perfect way to end the night on a high note.
50 Rue de la Halle, 59800 Lille