Love, integrity and respect are three words that suit Geert Van Hecke perfectly, the chef who has held three stars in the Benelux for the longest period of time. He is one of the remaining few to have trained in classic French style, and for him, this means Alain Chapel. Yet Geert typically combines the strictness of French cooking with a softly-spoken character and beautiful products from this region around Bruges. Traditional? No, that is not the right word for his style. It is closer to a combined respect for technique and ingredients. However, whilst open minded and welcoming to outside influences, with a particular preference for Asian cuisines, this chef never loses sight of the French classics. This makes it one of those restaurants where you are quite likely to see veal kidneys on the menu, prepared in a beautiful layer of fat. At the adjacent Brasserie De Refter, you will also see several different types of veal on the menu like brains, tongue or a good blanquette de veau. This is because Geert loves offal. According to him, there is little that beats the gelatinous parts of the leg, or the brains, fried in sizzling butter. Geert simply adores veal! “It’s no different from pork. You can use literally every part of the animal. Veal is great for stand-alone dishes, but also combines very well with other foods.”
Bring the vegetable bouillon to the boil, add the veal tongue and leave to simmer for 2 hours, then cool in the liquid. For the tartlet, roll the puff pastry thinly and cut into rectangles. Prick with a fork and sprinkle with parsley. Cut the penny bun mushrooms into thin slices and overlap on the pastry like fish scales. Drizzle generously with clarified butter and bake in the oven until golden brown at 200°C/390°F. Wash and trim the artichokes. Boil with lemon juice, pepper, salt and crushed coriander seeds until al dente. To make a gravy, reduce part of the vegetable bouillon used to poach the tongue, add the green herbs and bring to the boil briefly. Process everything in a food processor and add a knob of butter to make it nice and creamy. Cut the tongue lengthways into slices, arrange on a plate and dress with quail’s eggs, black chanterelles and tomato confit. Position the warm tart next to the tongue and finish off with a green herb sauce.
1 veal tongue, 3l vegetable bouillon, 4 poivrade artichokes, juice of 1 lemon, 3 coriander seeds, 4 hard-boiled quail’s eggs, 8 dstspn tomato confit, stewed black chanterelles, capers, butter, green herbs (parsley, tarragon, spinach, basil, sage), afilla cress.
For the tart
500g penny bun mushrooms, 2 dstspn Parmesan cheese (cut into thin squares), chopped parsley, 200g puff pastry, 100g clarified butter.
Arrange thin slices of bacon in a rectangle on a piece of plastic food wrap. Wash the brains and divide them over the bacon. Roll it in food wrap like a sausage, and poach for 15 minutes in bouillon at 90°C/195°F and leave to cool in the liquid. Remove the food wrap and cut into slices. Dip the freshly cut sides into the green herbs and fry à la minute in sizzling butter. Wash the leek, cut it into pieces and blanch in salted water until al dente. Mix the tomato coulis with the vinegar and olive oil, and the leeks. Sauté the chanterelles in sizzling butter until nicely golden brown and season with salt and pepper. Dress it on the plate in perfect harmony.
Wash the sweetbreads, blanch them in salted water and then cool in ice water. Dab dry and cut into cubes. Season with salt and pepper and fry à la minute in clarified butter until golden brown. Wash half of the chicory, cut it lengthwise and stew in the oven with butter, pinch of salt and lemon juice for 20 minutes. Mix the ingredients for the vinaigrette and add salt and pepper to taste. Julienne the rest of the chicory and green apple, add to the vinaigrette along with some finely-chopped chives. For the beignet, mix the flour with the beer, egg yolk, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Beat the egg whites until fluffy and spoon through the mixture. Cut the cheese into 1 cm cubes, batter them and fry in hot oil until golden brown. Dress the sweetbreads and the chicory on a plate with some salad leaves, place some slices of truffle and the beignets in between, and finish with chervil, dried apple chips, the chanterelles and some of the fond brun.
500g sweetbreads, clarified butter, 500g chicory, 60g truffle (of the season), 1 green apple, 1 dstspn truffle puree, 100ml fond brun, finely-chopped chives, juice of 1/2 lemon, 4 slices of dried green apple, freshly picked chervil, stewed chanterelles.
For the vinaigrette
4 dstspn olive oil, 2 dstspn white wine vinegar, 1/2 dstspn mustard, 2 dstspn truffle juice.
For the beignets
50g flour, 200g mature cheese, 1 bottle Rodenbach beer, 1 egg, nutmeg.