We first discovered Christophe Hardiquest’s new address
Check out the small round tables, comfortable beige fabric seats and metal globe pendants. Neutral tones gave way to bright green velvet high chairs. All grouped around an organic bar. We no longer eat at the table according to the classic formula, but like in Japan, we arrange around a large counter that takes up the entire room. In the middle of the restaurant stands a wooden tree with branches stretching along the ceiling. It is very beautiful, Belgian and signed by Anne-Catherine Lalmand architecture studio.
“I needed a change”
Yes, Bon Bon is no more. A year ago, in full glory, Christophe Hardiquest announced the closure of his iconic two-star restaurant rated 19.5 by Gault&Millau at the end of June 2022. It’s certainly a turning page, but above all, it’s a new story that begins. “I no longer fit in with who I was. With the pandemic and divorce playing an inevitable role, I no longer felt fit.”Christophe Hardiquest admits. “I needed a change”. The acclaimed chef first developed internationally, notably as chef at the emblematic Michelin-starred restaurant La Mère Germaine in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the south of France, as well as chef for the hotel brasserie Chetzeron in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. “When it comes to products, I’m very pro-European, but my roots are Belgian. I had a hard time separating myself from the energy of this house, I wanted to continue its story, but in a different way. I needed something new. New ways to push myself, surprise and apply my profession. to find”.
An existential and professional crisis that often seems like a return to basics. The quest for authenticity is undergoing its first major change: 44 locations at Bon Bon have been cut in half. Now there is a counter with 22 seats and a private table for 8 people. The goal? Creating a more intimate, connected and transparent space. And above all, to reconcile Nature and Man. For this, guests will be able to admire the food being prepared, as the plates are placed directly in front of them. Millimetric culinary show, in addition to the show, also shows the teamwork of the brigade at work.
fire, water, earth, air
Fire, water, earth, air are the four elements that guide Mensa’s new map. Through them, the chef tries to create another idea of a more natural, healthier food. Not just following the trend, but still staying true to your convictions. “Man will have everything to gain by reconnecting with nature. Stronger than we are, we must learn how to observe it and listen to it to understand what it wants us to understand.”, declares the chef who never misses an opportunity to recharge his batteries in the middle of the forest. It is no coincidence that his Maison des Saveurs is located on the edge of the forest of Soignes. Every vegetable, herb or herb calls for a return to basics on the plate. The picker will also go to the forest twice a week to supply the restaurant with this valuable local flora.
Respecting the plant as well as the animal involves working on each part so as not to abandon or neglect all that nature has to offer us. “Pig’s tail, lamb’s kidney… I want to show that it is possible to use everything that others do not use, to eat without bias”The chief postulates. “I want to take advantage of the whole animal. It’s easy to cook meat these days, but diaphragm or beef requires more thought.”. If local is important, Hardiquest undertakes to anchor its products in Europe not only to acquire. “the best source from anywhere in the world”as well as for “leave more freedom”.
A chef on the go
Christophe Hardiquest assures him that he will be at his new restaurant three weeks a month. He will spend the remaining seven days abroad. “It’s the freedom I allow myself to be more creative”quoting chef Paul Bocuse explains: “- Who cooks when you’re not there? – As if I was there!”. A testament to the importance of channeling young talent into its own pool that it doesn’t want to be international or anything. “We are the capital of Europe. I would like to have different nationalities and be inspired by cultures from all over the world. We can go completely global by working with local products.”. Proof? Its Brussels sprouts. Ultimately, Chef wants to create an academy to train people for professional retraining or refugees.
In the menu
But what you’re most interested in is the menu, right? We warn you right away, the price is slightly higher than Bon Bon. Estimate €250 for a 5-course menu and €300 for a 7-course menu. But the promise of discovering new products through the “culinary laboratory” method is well kept by the chef. To taste an exceptional lunch, we mention the super-refreshing cold soup of red cabbage and aronia, Thierentein ice cream and smoked lard, served in a porcelain fig with a design that immediately brings us to the topic. A mosaic of remoulade eel with rosemary tobacco and black radish in old-farm rum makes for a striking plate image.
In the midst of the energy crisis, the chef bet on raw cuisine (the program will include Zeeland mussel ceviche or marrow sushi), but also on wood fire to replace gas in the kitchen. We were able to taste teriyaki made from wood-fired Brussels sprouts, creamy mashed potatoes with sauerkraut, and green juice served directly on the barbecue skewer. Black lemon charred almost veal, Uzetienne chickpea ragout, ginger aioli followed. Special mention goes to the delicious beeswax ice cream, followed by the second dessert, the toffee, “Sweet of India”: Vacherin, citrus curry ice cream and ginger ice cream, blood orange vinaigrette and curry leaf oil.
To the stars?
And when the all-over chef is asked if he wants his two stars back, he simply replies: “I have lived my passion for 20 years. I work for myself, not for guides and stars. I thank the guides and journalists who allowed me to climb the pedestal. But I am 47 years old and I want to enjoy the next 15 years with entertainment, keep creating without stopping”. Before adding: “We must preserve creative freedom, otherwise we will not move the kitchen forward. What is important to me today is to break the codes, leave my comfort zone and create additional value for tomorrow. If they give me them, I will accept them with great pleasure, we must not hide our faces, we must protect my freedom”.
Where? 453, avenue de Tervueren, Brussels
When ? From February 7. Mensa will be open Tuesday through Saturday and Friday afternoon.
How much ? 5-course menu (250 euros), 7-course menu (300 euros)
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