Thursday, 1 March 2007

family lunch

For her 80th birthday, my granny organised a big party at a local restaurant and invited her extended family and close friends. That day, she got a tiny bit tipsy on champagne and we made her promise to have another birthday party the following year, just for the close family. And ever since then it has become a bit of a tradition to have a birthday lunch with her. She always tries to get out of it, claiming she needs to save her money for when ‘she’ll be old’, but of course we won’t let her. Her birthday was last weekend and, after that little shopping excursion in Antwerp on Saturday, we had her birthday lunch on Sunday (‘we’ is my granny, my aunt & cousin, my parents & my brother, and S & myself).

Both these images are from the restaurant's website (

The restaurant we always go to, De Jachthoorn, is located in a picturesque old farmhouse, set in a large garden with playground. It has a function room, caters lots of weddings and other parties and is very popular with local people – at weekends it is always packed to the rafters. The food they serve is traditional Belgian fare (a bit like French, but simpler) – not Michelin star worthy, but on the whole quite decent. Apart from their market menu, which changes weekly, the restaurant’s menu never ever changes. And I really mean never: in the four years that we have been celebrating my granny’s birthday there, the menu has remained exactly the same. Not very imaginative, but the owners probably adhere to the mantra ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’. And why should they, the place is always full, so they must be doing something right.

I think we caught them on a particularly bad ‘off-day’ last Sunday though, as a lot seemed to have gone wrong. Personally, I find their food a bit too salty for my taste and, although their dishes sound really good on paper, there is always seems to be ‘something’ that doesn’t work as well as it should. Having said that, I have to admit I’m not that easy to please. And, based on my past experiences there, I know they can do better than what they served us last Sunday, so I won’t be too harsh. Like I said, on the whole their food is quite decent. Here goes.

Granny insisted we all have the ‘market menu’, which changes weekly, and which sounded really nice:

aperitif (sparkling wine)
goat’s cheese wrapped in bacon with walnut and pear salad
salmon tartar with sour cream and potato crisp

leek and shiitake soup
cod with herb crust and celeriac mash
entrecote with chicory and red wine reduction


goat's cheese parcel

salmon tartar

The amuse-bouche I forgot to photograph and none of us were sure what it was, but we think was sliced (smoked? carpaccio?) duck breast with shredded red cabbage and orange. I had the goat’s cheese starter, which was faultless and absolutely delectable: the soft, mild, tangy cheese contrasted nicely with the salty bacon and sweetness of the pear. I didn’t taste the other starter, but it got the thumbs up all around.

The soup, I’m sorry to say, was so salty I couldn’t eat it. It was an attack on my taste buds, I couldn’t even taste what vegetable the soup was made with, all I could feel in my mouth was the salt overload. ‘Too salty’ was the general consensus at our table, but everyone except me ate theirs. My dad, who loves his salt, liked it, but even he had to admit it was rather salty.

After the soup came a sorbet. I think it was raspberry, which I found a strange choice. As a dessert, this would have been perfect, but as a palate cleanser I found it too sweet. I would have chosen something more fresh and tart – lemon or even apple perhaps?


herb encrusted cod -or how I discovered how difficult it is to take a decent photograph of food in a restaurant with strange lighting

My main course was the entrecote, which came as a delicious slab of ‘saignant’ perfection, with some cress and tomato. The chicory was a bit on the salty side (I told you they like their salt there) but I absolutely LOVE chicory so I happily gobbled it all up. S’s portion of chicory also found its way into my tummy, as he’s not a big fan. There was some sort of grated potato cake on the plate as well, which must have ended up there because of a space-time continuum rupture or something like that. Not only was it completely dried out, it also had a fishy taste. Literally. The thing tasted of fish. Maybe someone didn’t clean the pans very well? The other main course was good (again, I didn’t taste it) but apparently the sauce (hollandaise?) was too sour and overwhelming.

Dessert was a little plate with cake, ice cream and fruit. The cake was some sort of sponge with vanilla cream (at least, that’s what I think it was), which was kind of heavy and so cloyingly sweet I could feel myself sinking away into a complete sugar coma after one bite. Luckily the fruit and coffee ice cream saved the day.

The verdict: not too great, almost every dish seemed to have something or other wrong with it. There are better restaurants out there in the same price category serving similar food. But, at the end of the day, we had a nice family get-together, my granny likes this restaurant very much and was really pleased to have her entire family around her, she was radiating happiness and enjoying every single moment of it. And I think that’s what’s really important…

No comments: