ANTWERP: Almost three years after closing Hertog Jan in Zedelgem on the outskirts of Bruges, Gert de Mangeleer and Joachim Boudens have announced their return to fine dining with “Hertog Jan at Botanic Antwerp”. The new concept will be a ‘cosy’ 12 seat restaurant that will be open two weeks every month.
The restaurant will be housed in the site of Botanic Sanctuary Antwerp, a 5 star superior hotel with wellness and meeting facilities that will open its doors in the historic centre of Antwerp in June 2021. (Interview with Marc Alofs here).
They have also announced the addition of a second Bar Bulot in Antwerp, their Flemish French bistro that has been so successful in Bruges.
When Gert and Joachim announced the closure of their three Michelin star restaurant in Zedelgem they said they wanted to create space for new ideas and businesses. The Hertog Jan Restaurant Group opened L.E.S.S. Eatery in Bruges. Chef Ruige Vermeire managed to clinch a Michelin star for the restaurant after just over 6 months.
This summer, L.E.S.S. Eatery temporarily moved from the centre of Bruges to the former Hertog Jan farm in Zedelgem because of COVID-19 where under the name L.E.S.S. Summer Eatery, it managed to welcome many guests outdoors.
Their other restaurant Bar Bulot is run by chef Pieter Lefevere and host Maxime Depreitere focuses on a classic cuisine was opened last year in the former location of the original Hertog Jan.
But the lure of fine dining has been too strong to resist. After agreeing to open Bar Bulot, the management of the hotel convinced Gert de Mangeleer to return to the stoves and recreate a new chapter for Hertog Jan. “I got excited immediately but Joachim was not convinced at the start,” Gert told Food and Wine Gazette.
“We will open for just two weeks in a month. Probably it will be the first two weeks of the month but we are not sure yet. During those two weeks we will be open for lunch and dinner from Tuesday to Saturday. It will be a very cosy restaurant 12 seats only,” he said.
Joachim Boudens said this is a new chapter for Hertog Jan. “It is not going a copy paste of our old restaurant in Zedelgem. It was good that we could reflect for two years. I believe now is the time to be more intimate and more human. When a restaurant is too big you lose the human connection. It is totally different to have to pay attention to just 12 guests,” he said.
In addition to the gastronomic Hertog Jan, the team of Gert and Joachim will also open a second branch of Bar Bulot, their à la carte brasserie, on the same site. Who will be at the helm at Bar Bulot in Antwerp is still unclear at the moment. Gert and Joachim are still looking for the perfect team.
Back in 2005, Gert and Joachim, an award-winning sommelier, acquired the Hertog Jan brasserie. Building on their experience at Belgium’s top restaurants, they transformed the traditional establishment into a thriving hub of innovative gastronomy. Within two years they were awarded their first Michelin star. A second star came in 2009 and was followed by a third in 2012 – a rarity in Belgium. By then, Gert and Joachim had already spent two years renovating a listed barn purchased in 2010 and working on the extensive herb and vegetable garden that would be supplying their kitchen. 2014 was a busy year:
Gert became European Chef of the Year in Madrid and Joachim was awarded Three Star Status by The Sustainable Restaurant Association. They reopened their gourmet restaurant in the restored barn and launched the L.E.S.S. sharing concept – now represented at the L.E.S.S. Eatery in downtown Bruges. Four years later, in the autumn of 2018, they closed their three-star restaurant to give themselves more business freedom. In 2019, they set up the Hertog Jan Restaurant Group. One of their projects, Bar Bulot, started life as a seafood-only pop-up but is now a fully-fledged restaurant in Bruges serving traditional Belgian and French cuisine.
Full interview with Gert de Mangeleer and Joachim Boudens: Small is beautiful: What we learned after closing Hertog Jan and how we plan to start again