To celebrate my birthday, we went to the Hof van Cleve. Hof van Cleve is voted the #1 Best Restaurant in the World. To ensure you have a table, you have to book at least 6 months in advance. Located in the southern part of East Flanders in Belgium in a place called Kruishoutem, Hof van Cleve is only accessible by car.
You get what you pay for: being the best restaurant in the world, its menu changes every single day.
First of all, let me say something about the service. We were warmly welcomed by the spouse of the chef Mrs Peter Goossens herself. She brought us to our comfy table which overlooked the scenic Flemish countryside. Apart from her, all staff members were polite, professional and incredibly friendly. You would expect the place to be filled with snobbish waiters who judge those who might give them the fattest tips, but fortunately such is not the waitering culture in Belgium.
The food itself was exquisite. There being so many gourmet restaurants sprouting up makes it hard for one to stand out. I am very familiar with East Asian ingredients, so I often detected familiar elements here and there in the courses. Nowadays, chefs could try too hard to innovate, often mixing a plethora of uncommon ingredients together to impress. The reason why Chef Goossens successfully remain at the top, is because it takes very sensitive taste-buds and decades of culinary experience to find the perfect match of tastes to create an almost cinematic experience on your tongue.
What were my unforgettable tastes from Hof van Cleve? The ‘Noordzee’ cod was exquisitely paired with girolle, cauliflower and a variety of herbs. The ‘Anjou’ dove, served in two dishes, was so well-executed that it melted in my mouth and the black cep served with it was brilliantly savoury. Last but not least, the ‘chickpea’ fries was a brilliant idea!
I have to make a special mention of the sommelier: she was great. She knew not only about the origins of the grapes and the vineyards – which most sommeliers do – she also exhibited an extensive knowledge of the history of the bottles. There are some things that books cannot teach you, and a good sommelier explains a wine through the heart.