In another chapter of our series Brussels Dining, Colin Moors heads into leafy suburbia to dine in a very special villa: La Villa Lorraine.
Located on the edge of the Bois de la Cambre in leafy suburbia, La Villa Lorraine has been an iconic name in gastronomy circles since the early 1950s – it retains its Michelin star on the basis of the excellent food and quality service.
Before launching into the food proper, a note about the service. From the warm welcome at the door to the waiter who brought the introductory Gins and Tonic, the service was pleasant and unforced yet deferred just enough to prevent it from being over-familiar. It sounds like a back-handed compliment, but many establishments overlook the importance of such a crucial part of the customer experience.
Following some delightfully light amuses gueules consisting of some light crème brûlée au fois gras on light, thin bread and some warmed, crusted boudin noir with a sharp apple confit, we settled in for the starter. There was, however, one more surprise before the main event that could easily have passed as a starter with no complaints from me. A well-contrasted tartare of sea bass with apple, earthy beetroot terrine and cucumber roll was served alongside a delicately poached quail’s egg tucked into a beetroot foam. The sommelier then introduced himself and explained that he’d be pairing the wines for us, which led to my only slight reservation about the meal.
The Oeufs en Meurette were simply delightful. Billed as ‘en blanc-manger’, the title was crafty, disguising the fact that the egg had been reconstructed, the yolk perfectly runny and surrounded with a savoury meringue. The sauce meurette was the highlight of the day for me – so much so, I asked the chef for the secret. To my surprise, he told me. The issue I had was that the sommelier had chosen a Savennières wine to bridge the starter and the fish courses, and I felt that a white didn’t do justice to the wonderfully rich meurette. It matched the fish perfectly, however. The fish was John Dory and was perfectly cooked. I was dubious at first because it was served with whole carrots – however, these were sand-grown, which meant no sinewey fibres or ‘wood’, just the sweet young carrot. I sometimes enjoy having my expectations managed.
The main course fell neatly into the category of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” with an off-menu pork and lentils combination. Pulses, beans and pork were meant to be together, and the leafy greens and buttery mashed potato were pretty much an infallible combination.
It was good to have the opportunity to chat with the chef afterwards too – he came to every table to ask how the meal was. This was when I coaxed the muerette sauce secret from him. No, I’m not going to tell you. You’ll have to go and ask him yourself.