In our latest Dining in Belgium we meet a chef who has a talent for flavour.
I’ll be honest – when I was told I would be eating at a restaurant specializing in plant-based meals, I was not very excited. I’m probably old-school, but this conjures images of stews packed with quinoa or rice and the only thing to excite the palate would be (not enough) chilli. Rarely happy to be proven wrong, I was entirely mistaken in the best way possible.
Kevin Perlot, the man behind the idea for Vertige, has a gift for packing in only one essential ingredient into his dishes – flavour. ‘Plant-based’ in this case means there is a heavy emphasis on vegetables and fruits in all their guises, but don’t be too surprised if some fish, or occasionally meat finds its way into a dish. Using suppliers geographically close to the restaurant means that produce is as local as it can be, that the carbon footprint of the food is minimal, and it champions our farmers. With all the ethics in place and green credentials checked – is the food any good?
It absolutely is. It may seem a trivial matter, but our lunch was the correct ratio of portion size and quality. Yes, you get cooking of a remarkably high level, but you also get enough to eat. The set lunch is €28 and I guarantee you won’t feel the need to hit the snacks later in the day. Beginning, where else, with the amuse-bouche, there were three delicately crafted items to ease us into the meal. The stand-out for me was the egg – served in the shell, the soft, silky yolk was topped with a very light and fluffy tarragon mouse, complete with small tarragon leaves and a few croutons for some welcome texture. If this doesn’t appear before you at some point during the meal, I suggest you keep going back until it does.
We had a couple more courses – one vegan, one with a lovely slippery pollack and a surprisingly acidic sauce based on lettuce. The vegan one stood out because it just tasted so good. Satin-smooth mash with young cauliflower stems, nasturtium and wild herb oil paired with a fermented radish jus. Hell, I can barely do it justice. Get down there for lunch and see for yourself.