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Apr 12, 2011 02:59 PM

In de Wulf, Dranouter, Belgium

I’m one of those people who think there’s no such thing as the perfect restaurant experience. So, let me get the negatives about In de Wulf out of the way early on.

Well, the seats in the bar area aren’t very comfortable.

And that’s it.

As for the rest, it was all bang-on. We liked the room; service was perfect with front-of-house taking care of cutlery, crockery and drinks, while chefs bring the food and explain what’s what about it (in English – which is just as well as our Dutch is just about non-existent).

There’s only a tasting menu offered – the full menu at €120 and a slightly shorter version at €100. Of course, we went with the full monty. That starts with an array of canapés. The chefs start bringing them while you’re in the bar and they continue once you’re at the table. A beetroot crisp enclosing an intense beetroot cream; an onion beignet that was a masterclass in onion beignet making; pork scratching with mustard cream; a little biscuit topped with Jerusalem artichoke mouse and a slice of artichoke and, finally, cockles with a little scattering of herb.

Then onto the main “land and sea” menu.

Escabeche of sea bass, crab and celery – lovely flavours in themselves but with an added dimension of intense cold of a frosting created by nitrogen.

Oysters were poached in a sauce made from local whey, enriched with mustard seeds. There was a slight strangeness to the creaminess of the sauce but it worked surprisingly well with the still salty oyster.

Dover sole provided the basis for possibly the only dish which didn’t totally hit the mark. The fish, beautifully sweet, was a tad overcooked. It came with leaves of swiss chard which encased a “porridge” of millet, topped with a scattering crunchy millet.

Back on form with lobster and potato. The spud adding interesting texture in that it was a very thin slice of potato, still retaining a little bite, rolled to encase a small amount of potato mousse. A little sauce and a sprinkling of foraged wood sorrel completed the plate.

Cooked and raw hopshoots were an entirely new experience for us. They came with an intense bay cream , reminiscent in texture and depth of flavour of an Indonesian peanut satay sauce – but with the bay providing a really big kick of flavour.

Next up, a celeriac dish was explained before being served. A whole root is wrapped in hay and then a thick salt crust before being cooked on the BBQ for four hours. Left to cool, it’s then thinly sliced and served with a very fresh local goats curd. Absolute stunner of a dish.

Pencil thin leeks, sweet in themselves, were roasted and served with a honey vinaigrette, along with some parsley to cut through the sweetness and some fatty veal marrow to do the same. Perfectly tender lamb neck came with ramsons and red onions – pretty much spring on plate to my mind.

And then onto desserts:

- goats yoghurt served with malt and a think crispy yoghurt “meringue” set with liquid nitrogen.

- chocolate ganache topped with, and perfectly complemented by, a beetroot and rosehip cream, encased in a beetroot “meringue”. This looked wonderfull and tasted none too shabby.

- and to finish, a simple plate of fresh pear, pear sorbet and sorrel. Clean, crisp and refreshing.

There was excellent coffee and a selection of chocolate petit fours.

Throughout, flavours whilst skilfully complex, had retained a cleanness which allowed all the individual elements to be recognised. There was not a single jarring note of incompatible tastes.

We visit Flanders most years to follow an interest in the Great War. That will still be the reason for future trips but now we know there’s an extra-special place to eat only a few minutes from Ieper, where we stay.

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  1. Can't agree more with your review! A magical place it is. I strongly recommend you stay there once too. It adds so much more to the experience and is quite simply fascinating!

    You forget one thing that isn't that great: The wine list. But, they are currently working on it, so even that might be a problem of the past now.

    Special place indeed that's worth a trip from pretty much anywhere!

    4 Replies
    1. re: FelixH

      Hi Felix

      I'd spotted your recent posts on the UK board and assumed that you were who I thought you were (if you see what I mean). I'd read your reviews of In de Wulf on the blog and egullet.

      Wine is always a difficulty for us with menus like this. Partly this is because whilst my partner drinks alcohol, I don't. But the other issue is in trying to match wines to courses without drinking too much - sometimes she doesnt want to have each course paired with the restaurant offering. In this case, she did take the pairings and was very happy.

      I think we would now both regard this as our new "favourite" place, just supplanting the Sportsman.


      1. re: Harters

        Hi John,

        Thanks for reading my blog! Apart from the interest in food, we have the same interest in military history. In fact did you see the film beneath hill 60? An Aussie production about the miners who built the mines that blew up the Messines Ridge, a few miles from In de Wulf.

        I very well understand that problem! In that case I usually just get either a bottle of white or so as they usually rip you off on pairings. But it's true, they recently have introduced a lot of much more interesting things on the list and the pairing. have to go back soon!

        Of course, its a very different place than the Sportsman. But what it has is the same kind of unique charm. Love both places!


        1. re: FelixH

          Havnt seen the film but do know of it. Funnily enough, on our next trip (probably next year), we're going to focus on the area around Messines and Ploegsteert.

          I reckon the Sportsman has the same interest in local/seasonal produce as Wulf. Very different cooking, of course. In my own neck of the woods (north west England), I'm still trying to get back to L'Enclume as Simon Rogan seems to have gone down a similar route these days.

          1. re: Harters

            If you can find it, watch it. It's quite well made.

            I'd also love to go to those, but haven't had the chance really yet.