More Barbarella than Barbizon

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Together’s Catherine Feore visits the iconic Overisje restaurant

While the location and name might suggest a rural idyll, this address has received a complete makeover, becoming a bit more Barbarella than Barbizon. My dining companion was knocked sideways by the transformation, knowing it from its more staid past.

The Barbizon was described as “a real institution in the region” and was a stronghold of gastronomy for many years. Master Chef Alain Deluc hung up his toque in 2018, after many years at the helm. The new style is more luxury brasserie than gourmet restaurant. That said, the new menu is still strong on tradition, but it’s delivered with a new verve and swagger, in a more club-like ambiance. It’s difficult to describe, but imagine if the Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room was lifted and moved to the edge of Forêt de Soignes.

Imagine if the Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room was lifted and moved to the edge of Forêt de Soignes”

Like the Rainbow Room there is an excellent cocktail bar. My companion ordered a mocktail and I went for a traditional Margarita. For a little more show and if you like the bitter edge of a Negroni, try the Smoked Negroni. 

There is a magnificent Oyster Bar and écaillerie, which has a perfect selection of oysters, as well as a rich array of crustaceans. If you are the sort of person who gets misty-eyed at the loss of the wonderful seafood bar at the recently closed Belga Queen, you will be pleasantly surprised to learn that Barbizon poached their écailler. 

There is also a wonderful selection of matured meats cooked on the bone. We wavered for some time over the different options, eventually narrowing our choice to either the “Rubia Galega”, which “seduces lovers of good meat with its spicy and slightly iodized taste” and the “Black Baltic Pearl”, which was more marbled with notes of cashew. We plumped for the Black Baltic Pearl and were not disappointed. 

The menu has been deliberately limited, in order to give the chef the freedom to change it with the seasons and inspiration. There’s also a touch of fusion. For my starter I enjoyed a lobster, pea and mango salad in a pineapple vinaigrette infused with citrus and vanilla; there were a lot of flavours, but they were at a volume that didn’t overpower the delicate lobster flesh.

The new Barbizon is the sort of place you would go for a night out, rather than just a dinner. Once the dining is done you can go to the majestic-scale bar or cigar bar, which has the feel of a gentleman’s club, or to other zones to continue your evening. As the nights lengthen and the evenings warm up, you can also enjoy the bucolic garden.  

www.barbizon.be