In Bruges

Saturday, September 06th , 2014

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Hertog Jan used to be in a quiet suburb of Bruges, but in July relocated to brand new premises next to their small farm a few miles away. The building is a mix of old and very new, and looks out over an extensive vegetable garden that supplies the restaurant with much of its raw material. As previously, the presentation of dishes was superb, with plenty of artful use of edible flowers. This time the cooking was less consistent, however, with several dishes slightly off key in some way. The new building, which reportedly cost over €4 million, needs to be paid for, and the price of the longest set menu has nearly doubled since my previous visit. The now considerable price being charged makes little slips less easy to forgive.

De Karmeliet is at the other end of the culinary trends spectrum, an old-fashioned restaurant using luxury ingredients and with scarcely an edible flower in sight. However the technique was hard to fault, and the food was not rooted entirely in the classics - a particularly successful dish involved a langoustine tail with goose liver, aubergine and a dashi stock. The wine list was very expensive but otherwise the meal was thoroughly enjoyable, with lovely ingredients and classy cooking. You would not come here looking for the latest in molecular techniques and foraged weeds on your plate, but you will get a carefully made, very enjoyable meal.

Back in London I went back to Mint Leaf, which used to be a regular haunt of mine when I worked nearby. This deceptively large basement restaurant is still very smart and seemed as popular as ever, serving Indian food that is more ambitious than the high street norm. Tandoori monkfish and venison with crisp okra give an indication of the kind of thing to expect. The food was very good, albeit this is far from cheap, though service was distinctly ropey this evening, and only the courageous would tackle the wine list, which has some really daft prices in places.