And so our mini-splurge on fancy restaurants while the kids are away at camp comes to an end with a return trip to an old favourite: Hof van Cleve.
As soon as we went through the door they gifted us a couple of branded hand cleanser sprays. Clients kept their masks on at all times when they got up from the table to move around (i.e. to go to the bathroom, or to leave), and only removed them when seated and eating or drinking. Staff had large fabric masks on at all times. Interestingly, the Belgian government is now advising against using the minimalist plastic mouth coverings we saw recently in L’air du temps.
Predictably, we opted for the seven course tasting menu.
But first the amuse bouches. Bouillabaisse, tomato, red pepper:
Tartlet of eel, cottage cheese, fennel:
Salty butter and a chunky knife:
Given a choice of bread I opted for two flavoured with Orval and Duvel beer:
Herring, earl grey, apple:
Beef, miso, horzeradish:
Oyster, tapioca, herbs:
And now onto the menu proper. Langoustine with sorrel, cucumber and matcha:
Langoustine with verbena and edamame:
Shrimp, watercress sauce, caviar, sour cream. The shapes around the edge are cauliflower but I don’t think they added much in terms of flavour:
Cod, leek, lovage, mussel:
All this time I had been quaffing generous amounts of wine. My wife, who was driving, had an alternative pairing of non-alcoholic drinks, which I think is becoming more common. This one is verjus with a ginger ice sphere:
At one point we jokingly asked the waiter how they kept their glasses so clean, with none of the cloudy residue we sometimes get in our dishwasher. Did they wash them by hand? No, it turns out that they use a “reverse osmosis dishwasher“.
Eel, fennel, celery, quinoa:
For the meat we were asked to pick a knife handle:
I chose one that looked like bone. I was then told that it was made from a fossilised walrus penis bone.
Holstein beef, aubergine, sucrine lettuce:
Accompanied by an intensely flavoured oxtail dumpling:
We skipped the cheese course so as to leave room for dessert, although when I saw (and more to the point smelled) the cheese trolley passing by I did have second thoughts.
Dessert started with strawberries, buckthorn, elderflower and lemon:
Mexican chocolate mousse with mango:
And then another trolley with even more sweets. I had a slice of banana pie and a small bowl of rice pudding, which is something I haven’t eaten since I was a child. I could have done with a bigger bowl.
The end. The next day they closed for the summer, although they’re only taking a week off this year, as opposed to the usual three, so as to try and make up for the months they had to stay closed during lockdown.