All posts tagged “fine dining

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Den Gyldene Freden, Stockholm

Swedish meatballs

Den Gyldene Freden is a legendary place. By some measures the oldest restaurant in the world, it’s a Swedish institution that has sheltered many famous artists and poets. Frequented by Sweden’s most famous ‘troubadour’ (singer-songwriter seems like a misnomer) Carl Michael Bellman in the 18th century, it was bought by painter Anders Zorn, famous for lavish depictions of voluptuous Dalecarlian ladies, in the early 1900s.

Aqvavit

In the 20th century it was the hang-out for legendary singers Evert Taube and Cornelis Vreesvijk. Cornelis, a brilliant lyricist but notorious drunk, wrote a beautiful song about trying to stay sober by taking antabuse in this place. I used to listen to it as a child without understanding the lyrics, but one doesn’t need to speak Swedish to hear the exhausted helplessness of the song.

Toast with bleak roe

These days, Den Gyldene Freden (= the golden peace – it was named after the Swedish peace with Russia in 1721, the ‘golden’ bit being that Sweden was allowed to keep Finland) serve gourmet food. Being a Stockholm restaurant, it’s by no means cheap, but it’s a great place to sample traditional, delicious Swedish food in a beautiful setting packed with history. The service is excellent and personable.

Baby reindeer entrecote

We had some great starters, the best one being the best bleak roe toast I’ve had in my life. Fredrik had gorgeous chanterelle ‘dumplings’ called kroppkakor, and we also sampled different types of herring. All this was of course accompanied by aqvatit, the local  spirits normally eaten with fish and traditional food.

Salmon with lobster sauce

For mains, I had an entrecote of reindeer veal (yes, one of these cute creatures) which was so gamey is almost tasted livery. It was very filling. Fredrik had a steamed fillet of salmon with lobster sauce, light and perfectly seasoned. We also tried reindeer sausage, smokey and heavy – perfect in the cold winter night. It came with pears and carrot pure, which was quite refreshing. My brother had the ultimate classic – meatballs (pictured at the top), with lingonberry, cream sauce and potatoes.

Cheese board

The French cheese selection with home-made crisp bread and jams  was the only thing that wasn’t nordic. While I would have liked to stay in the Nordic region food-wise, these were a delicious end to a thoroughly enjoyable meal.

 

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8-course luxury at La Buvette

Potted rabbit and celery

I had my first eight course dinner this week, and given my complete inexperience with these kinds of luxuries, it is possible that this review will be biased. But it was so much fun! When you eat eight little meals, it feels like you’re eating the Eurovision song contest. Each dish has its own character, and looks nothing like the previous one. Given the tiny size of the dishes, it’s more about tasting than eating – sometimes like an investigation, trying to figure out what is on the plate. Although we were left the menu at our side, we only had very vague ideas about what we were actually eating at times (and had to google some of the ingredients like sorrel and verbena).

Seaweed and trout

But aside from my excitement at the four-hour activity of eating eight little dishes in one evening, La Buvette in itself is a lovely place. It’s situated opposite its sister restaurant, the brilliant Café des Spores, but feels a bit more upmarket. When I asked for a nice red wine at Café des Spores, I was served a glass of their excellent house wine. At La Buvette you can only order by to the bottle, and if you ask for advice, the waiter goes to fetch the sommelier.

Carrot, sorrel and ricotta

La Buvette is a tiny resturant, a little bit like someone’s house – the front still looks like the old butcher’s shop it’s housed in, and the upstairs like someone’s living room. The decor is simple.  Getting lost trying to find the toilet, I ended up in someone’s artist studio at the top of the house. While the location far away from the centre, it is obvious that La Buvette doesn’t need a grand location to attract customers. The clientele seemed like local Bruxellois food lovers, not eurocrats.

Leek, plaice and potato

As soon as we were seated, we were given sourdough bread with candied sunflower kernels and truly delicious porcini butter. We ordered a bottle of red organic Merlot at the recommendation of the sommelier, which was probably the biggest disappointment of the evening – it was a bit too dry, and not very special. The first dish, however, was very exciting: sea trout, seaweed, cucumber and some kind of vinegar-y wasabi-flavoured dressing.

Confit lamb and red cabbage

The second dish was delicious, and perhaps the most visually appealing – potted rabbit with celeriac and lemon creme. The crunch of the celeriac against the tender, savoury rabbit was lovely. Fredrik, who opted for the vegetarian menu, was was served beetroot with blue cheese and celeriac, and wasn’t the biggest fan of the composition. However, the rest of the evening, I was impressed by how well they catered for a non meat-eater. The third dish was pretty: a colourful salad of sorrel, carrot, red onion, squash and ricotta cheese. Although we were delighted by the sorrel, which we used to eat wild in Sweden as kids, I thought the ricotta was too heavy, and there was not enough salty tangyness to the dish. It felt like a dessert-salad.

Vervier sorbet

The fourth dish was one of our favourites: plaice with hay potato in a buckwheat broth. The fish was perfect: crispy brown on the outside, but falling apart into tender flakes, and soaking up the flavoursome broth perfectly. This was followed by the second main, which was confit lamb with aubergine cream and red cabbage. This was absolutely delicious, and I savoured every little bit of it. Fredrik’s option was also very tasty: Peeled, fried aubergine in some kind of soy vinaigrette. We were both very pleased with our mains, and I began to feel a little full.

Rice pudding

The first dessert was absolutely perfect: white chocolate ice cream, meringue, blackberries and verbena sorbet. I think it was one of the nicest desserts I’ve ever tried. The fresh verbena sorbet unlocked a whole forest of flavours, which contrasted beautifully with the blackberry and the crispy meringue. The second dessert was a rice pudding with buckthorn sauce and salted caramelised almonds. This was also nice, but the least special dessert for me. The final dish was incredibly heavy, so it was lucky it was so small: dark chcolate tart with salty hazelnut praline. It was a grand finish of the evening, with very heavy flavours.

Dark chocolate tart,  salty hazelnut praline

We were then served a small acidic coffee each, which was best combined with some sugar – somehow very apt for the kind of meal we’d had. While the eight course dinner in itself is not entirely unaffordable given the high quality of the food (45 euros), the wine, water and coffee upped the bill quite a lot. But for a very special treat, I would completely recommend La Buvette – great service, beautiful food, and actually quite exciting entertainment for a couple of hours.

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Mushroom orgy at Café des Spores

Tomato, watermelon and mushroom salad

Last week my best friend and I discovered a little gem in Saint Gilles called Cafe des Spores. It’s a restaurant specialising entirely in mushrooms. We thought it sounded quirky, as well as brilliant, as we are both mushroom lovers. But we didn’t expect it to be exquisite gourmet food.

Truffle soup

The meal began with three little dishes: truffle soup, fried mushroom dumplings and stuffed champignons. The truffle soup was delicious, and as expected with truffle, the smell was divine. The dumplings were nice, but probably my least favourite part of the meal – tasty, but rather simple.

Ginger and mince stuffed champignons

However, the stuffed champignons were spectacular, on many levels. First of all, they arrived sprinkled in some sort of dried fish flakes, which fluttered like butterflies in the heat for several minutes. Marianne and I were so freaked out that we asked the waitress if part of the food was alive. She just giggled at us. Having overcome our fear, we dug in and were shocked by the taste explosion. Tangy ginger, umami-fishy flakes, rich meaty stuffing and mellow mushroom mixing wildly. Perhaps that sounds weird, and it was, but it was also absolutely delicious.

Mushroom gnocchi

For starters we had a salad of watermelon, tomato and mushroom (pictured at the top of the post). It was very refreshing as the sweet and sour flavours came together with the dense mushrooms rather unexpectedly. But it was very tasteful, and we scooped everything off the plate rather quickly. We also has mushroom gnocchi, which was mellow and autumnal, tasting of porcini (although, as can be seen from the picture, it was some other sort of mushroom – I’d never tried it before). It wasn’t as sensational as the salad, and the gnocchi were a bit too soft, but it was still nice.

Duck with girolles

For mains there were two choices: duck with girolles and a salmon dish. As salmon is more staple than chicken in Sweden, we both opted for the duck, especially as it was accompanied by our favourite mushroom. The duck was perfectly pink inside, and the girolles packed with flavour. While it looks like a rather small main, it was just the perfect size at this point.

Truffle pecorino

Since neither of us are dessert people, we opted for the cheese with cherries instead of mushroom-infused sweet stuff. The truffle pecorino was very strong, and tangy to the point where it almost hurt our mouths. It was again something of a taste sensation, and a perfect finish to the meal.

Le café des spores

These unexpected taste trips coupled with high-quality house wine, friendly service and nice atmosphere meant it was a lovely food experience, perhaps the best I’ve had in Brussels so far. The bill, which came at 71 euros, felt perfectly reasonable given the high quality of the food. I will definitely be going here again.