Lemonnier

A slightly shorter version of this review has been published on Belgian foodie blog Tasting and Living.

Visiting grandparents once again provided us with the opportunity recently to sneak away for the night for a child-free gastro-jaunt. We even managed to leave one-year-old Number Three for the first time ever, affording us the luxury of a lie-in. Our choice for the evening’s escape was the Lemonnier restaurant (one Michelin star, 16/20 in the Gault Millau guide) and hotel situated in the cente of the village of Lavaux-Ste-Anne, just west of Rochefort, about an hour’s drive south of Brussels.

We started our evening with an apéritif in the lounge and a small selection of amuse-bouches. A couple of these were a little bland and watery, but the cubed beetroot topped with goat cheese mousse made up for it. The family on the table next to us had a small boy with them (around three years old, I’d guess) who was watching a DVD on a laptop. A reminder of what we’d left behind…

We moved through to the main dining room where the restaurant offers, in addition to à la carte choices, two tasting menus. We opted for the slightly longer one, called “Compositions en dégustation”, with wines. Note that the bread had been bound so as to prevent its escape.

First up was a starter of sautéed mushrooms with cream of salsify.

…followed by small strips of lobster served in a “cup” made from an artichoke heart and topped with an olive. I’m not the world’s biggest artichoke fan, but the interesting flavour combination won me over. Love the plate too.

The same could be said of the following dish which contained oyster. The oyster itself (hidden under a pile of potato purée and langoustine) didn’t change my mind, but the oyster mousse (somewhat similar to one we tried during a cookery course earlier this year) sitting in the shell was smooth and tasty. Texture is a key element of a dish for me, so if it’s been modified or treated in some way I can enjoy the flavour of something I might not eat in its natural state.

Next came the main fish dish, and the first triumph of the evening. A fillet of rouget barbet (which in English goes under the slightly less appetising name of goatfish) surrounded by spots of pepper, sweet onion, aubergine and oxtail. The waitress informed us that the chef advised to eat this dish in a certain order so as not to mix the flavours too much, and this was absolutely the right approach. Each of the individually strong, characterful flavours stood out and maintained both their own identity and the overall balance of the dish.

The meat course was almost, but not quite, as successful. The young wild boar meat was tender, succulent and beautifully seasoned, but I’m not quite sure what the dry, sawdusty pile of “terre de famenne” was supposed to add, so I left most of it on the side.

The wines served with the meal were mostly crisp, fruity whites, with the highlight for me being the Fleur de Chardonnay, Côtes du Jura 2008. A duo of contrasting desserts arrived: a glass bowl of almond ice cream, fennel, melon and grape juice was wonderfully refreshing, and the chocolate ball with a thin speculoos biscuit was rich and smooth without being cloying or heavy. A good end to the meal.

Or so we thought. We were suprised to receive no small sweets with our coffee, so we headed up to our room, but as we reached the stairs the waitress came running after us embarrassed that she had forgotten to serve us the plateful of petits fours with our coffee, so she brought them up to our room for us.

No matter. One small slip in service didn’t spoil what was an otherwise very pleasant evening’s dining.

Oh, and the lie-in? Out of habit I woke at 6:30 but turned over and snoozed until 9.