The gourmand’s guide to Flanders, Belgium’s rising gastronomic hub
The gastronomic world is slowly, but certainly, turning their hungry eyes towards Flanders, Belgium. After all, the World’s 50 Best Restaurants has recently announced that they will be making their way to the Flemish enclave which sees numerous cities within its borders.
The choice to host the esteemed awards ceremony comes as no surprise. Flanders is blessed with fecund lands and a population fiercely proud of its culinary history. Its beer culture, one that has impassioned Belgium for years, was successfully recognised by UNESCO as an ‘intangible cultural heritage’. Now, the country’s poised to shine the spotlight on other national delicacies like Belgium fries (not French fries, mind you) with the same honour.
In the midst of all this action, Flanders has produced many top-quality restaurants and renowned chefs — some of which have been honoured on both Michelin Guide and the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
If you’re planning to visit Flanders soon, find comfort in the fact that there’s good food at every price range to be found. But, if you’re up for some truly exquisite eats then be sure to bookmark these places and reserve ahead of time to avoid disappointment.
Chef Peter Goossens, dubbed the Godfather of Belgium cuisine, helms the only three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the country to date. Hof Van Cleve has been running for more than 30 years in a rustic farmhouse in East Flanders and still continues to serve up innovative and classic gastronomic creations. Dishes are both artful and indulgent, say with grilled turbot fish served with a luscious lobster bearnaise and bouillabaisse puree. Menus here are pricey, at nearly S$700 per head for a seven-course dinner. Thankfully, there’s also an a la carte menus to consider.
Hof Van Cleve
The two-Michelin-starred restaurant is housed in a picturesque 19th-century chapel with gorgeous stained glass windows and architecture. The Jane was founded by chefs Sergio Herman and Nick Bril in 2014 with the aim of making great cooking accessible through various offerings. The main fine-dining restaurant sees a menu inspired by European and Asian cuisines. It’s adjacent to The Upper Room Bar, an izakaya-inspired bar with resident DJs offering aperitifs before dinner or just small bites to get through the night.
Unlike the other restaurants mentioned here, the one-Michelin-starred Chambre Séparée comes with an expiration date. The wood-fire restaurant was founded by chef Kobe Desramaults, who had left behind fine-dining surroundings for a squeezy spot in an old, nondescript building. As the building is set to undergo major renovations soon, the 16-seater concept is left with less than a year to continue operations. There are no menus here but Desramaults will stick to 20 courses highlighting traditional Flemish food and local produce. Reservations open up every 15th of the month.
Chef Geert Van Hecke closed his three-Michelin-starred restaurant to open Zet’Joe, a smaller dining outfit in a three-storey house. Despite the change, ingredients and level of cooking are still top-notch here. Zet’Joe offers a modern take on French cuisine, focusing on local produce as well as delicious infusions and sauces. While Van Hecke stays focused on matters of the kitchen, his wife takes over the front-of-house and offers warm, amiable service.
Zet'Joe by Geert Van Hecke
If you’re on the lookout for traditional Flemish fare, consider heading to Den Dyver a luxurious bistro with rustic surroundings. This family-run restaurant offers popular classics like the vol-au-vent, Belgium fries, sweetbreads and fresh seafood. The cellars are packed with quality French and Belgian wines. But do go for the local beer pairings instead which the owners have painstakingly worked out after years of experimenting.