Restaurant Alexandre – A touch of New Nordic Cuisine in Brussels
Ok, so where do I start. I have so many impressions and feelings towards Restaurant Alexandre, which is located just on Rue du Midi that I have to be careful not to drool on my keyboard when thinking back to this outstanding lunch. Yes, outstanding. I don’t use this word too much when it comes to fine dining restaurants in Brussels, because I’ve been usually happy, sometimes disappointed, but rarely swept off my feet. This place however, deserves it: it’s outstanding.
But let’s start from the beginning. Alexandre was called after Alexandre, a young Belgian star chef, after whom the restaurant was named and who was Head Chef there. He, however, now decided to open a place himself (La Villa in the Sky), so Anca, the dynamic owner of the restaurant hired Robin Leypoldt (The Robin) as Head Chef. Robin is a very friendly and interesting character, to say the least, who, when he was 25, drove through China on his longboard, cooks since he’s a teenager, and came to Brussels for his now fiancée, where he began to work with Yannick Van Aeken at Humphrey when it was still a good address. Before that, he worked at star restaurants in his home country, Norway, and in Amsterdam. Robin worked at De Librije with chef Jonnie Boer, a 3-star restaurant, which when he was there was number 34 on the world’s best restaurants list. He also worked at the 2-star restaurant Samhoud places (now Moshik) in Amsterdam with chef Dennis Huwae. There are many more interesting and inspiring stories about him, some of which he tells you with his dishes. Of course he’s not alone, he has a talented team behind him, who give him great support in creating all these nice dinners and lunches.
When he started as Head Chef at ‘Alexandre’ and the fact that the owner is a woman, Robin decided that he wants to give the dishes a female, soft and elegant twist, while following a sustainable attitude, wasting as little food as possible and making use of each ingredient as much as he can. He’s a perfectionist and that becomes very visible when you eat his dishes; every bit is at its place, the colours match, the textures fit, well, it’s perfect. He also always tries to use what’s in the dish, on the dish too, such as shiso, violets, or wild leaves.
But let’s talk food now. First of all, it’s beautiful, almost too sad to eat the dishes, or rather artworks I’d say, but if you don’t, you’d miss an explosion of tastes, conventional and exotic ingredients, paired in an interesting and innovative way.
Our first few bites, sweetbread in jelly, and mackerel were accompanied by a glass of Bernard Robert Champagne, a cuvee from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay. It all was a true joy for the eye, and a challenge and pleasure to our taste buds all in one.
We then moved on to something beautifully symmetric: rosemary and rose pepper baked eel from the north of Holland, endive compote, geranium endive confit, seaweed macaron, Cantaloupe melon sauce and reduction of chicken broth topped with Sakura leaves and geranium flowers.
Next on our plates was smoked halibut from Norway, green peas and beans, herring caviar, fennel juice and Laos oil among others. The smoked fish along with little green Gnocchi and this perfect sauce was a pure dream.
My two favourite dishes were the following though: first, deconstructed lobster roll, inspired by Robin’s fiancée’s stay in Boston. The lobster was sautéed in garlic, served in a toast sauce (yes, made from toast), along with baked apple and tamarillo, lemon and mustard. There were some green tomatoes too, chervil and a liquid from young pines. This dish was so surprising and interesting while being very tasteful and an absolute colour bomb, intensified by the blue plate it was served on.
My other favourite was Robin’s homage dish to his mom. Dry aged milk cow with courgette puree with roasted shallot, pickled courgette, crispy courgette flowers with orange, jus de vache,and the other ingredients you can discover yourself when you go there. Milk cow tastes more intense in my opinion. It tastes like country side, like cow, and along with the delicate taste of the courgette, intensified by pickling it or mixing it with roasted shallots, this dish is just the perfect main course, releasing endorphins to the fullest. Now the finale, dessert, which can very often be a disappointment after so many incredible dishes – not here, though. First of all, this colour assemblage met all my childhood dreams: pastel colours, violet, pink, red, flowers – the whole package. Robin calls it some kind of Clafoutis, made from a f#@%ed up sponge cake, verbena, a cylinder made from dried rose and berries, filled with lemon shibust, a special kind of cream. There was also red currant, shiso vinaigrette, and frozen yoghurt with violet. DUDE, so good.
Their wine and champagne selection is a blast, too, perfectly paired with the food. The interior is nothing extraordinary I’d say but being here gives you a relaxed feeling. Sitting in comfy armchairs, looking at the art pieces in the room, while enjoying some extraordinary dishes: it’s the perfect place for a date, an evening with parents, or a night out with friends who love good food.
Good to know:
Address: Rue du Midi 164, 1000 Bruxelles
Prices: Quick lunch 28€, Lunch 40€, Grand Lunch 60€, Petit menu 70€, Grand menu 120€