Christophe Hardiquest, chef of two Michelin star restaurant Bon Bon is fulfilling his dream of opening a bistro this summer albeit for just two months.
He is opening Mon Bistro d’été by Christophe Hardiquest in the old Chez Marie restaurant in the Flagey area of Brussels. The restaurant had been closed for over two years.
“A bistro is something fun. It is a great opportunity to work with new suppliers and produce new recipes away from the constraints and expectations of a fine dining restaurant. We don’t want to raise expectations though we will use high quality products but differently. My aim is to work with new products which I am not accustomed to use at Bon Bon,” the Belgian chef told Food and Wine Gazette in an interview.
The chef has decided to open this pop-up restaurant instead of going for a two-month vacation while the restaurant kitchen of Bon Bon is completely refurbished in July and August. The new Bon Bon kitchen, which welcomed 19 chefs from across the whole of Europe for the Gelinaz! headquarters event last November will have new flooring, a new stove, an open fire and a new oven among others.
Speaking about the space he found for his pop-up restaurant, Christophe said that it reminded him of the first Bon Bon. “We wanted something small, similar to a Parisian bistro. It has 36 covers. It is small and cozy which is just what we wanted. I wanted a space that reflected my personality and something which was similar to the old Bon Bon,” he said.
Although he saw a few places, he immediately decided on Chez Marie because of its character. “The place has a certain feel to it. I wanted to choose something where people could feel the past but at the same time have a projection of the future.”
He said that he and his team were still working on the menu but the food they will be serving is a mix between modern bistro and Brussels heritage. “We will be serving a Stoemp but we will prepare it to reflect the summer season.”
He wants to be able to experiment with traditional food and new flavours. “I want to serve my idea of comfort food,” he said.
But this is only going to be temporarily. “My idea is not to have a permanent bistro. I do not want to keep it going. I know what I want for Bon Bon and I need the new equipment in the kitchen to push my cuisine even more.”
A restaurant is like an ecosystem. You should not disrupt it
“It is fun like this and there will be no obligations. I don’t want to have problems with staff in a second restaurant. I have my team at Bon Bon and it is like a family. A restaurant is like an eco-system, you should not disrupt it,” he said.
He tells me that he is at a stage in his career where he feels that his cooking is getting better and better. “For me, cooking is starting now.”
So what will you expect to find at this bistro that is open for the next two months I ask Christophe. “You will find the Belgian and Brussels classics served with a few surprises. For sure we will be serving a Bolognese because this is something people expect from this type of restaurant. We will be serving Veal Tongue with a Madeira sauce, the ‘oiseau sans tete’ or bird without a head which is a Wallonia classic with rolled meat. I want to be able to practice cooking things that I have forgotten or don’t get the opportunity to cook at Bon Bon. For example, it is not easy to prepare a Madeira sauce from start to finish but we will practice with these basic recipes which is great for me and my team,” he said.
“I am also thinking of serving a horse tagliata with old gouda and watercress, taking inspiration from Italy but using Belgian produce. Another dish that will be served is pig trotters as Gyoza. They will be stuffed with pork, pig trotters and spinach and served with ponzu. I will serve a chicken with gueze (a Belgian beer) and mustard, chicken skin with anchoiade, and a meat loaf with red peppers or mussels with snails The aim is not to cook with luxury products but with products which are not necessarily used in restaurants today.”
“For me it is extremely important to work with humble ingredients because it makes no sense to serve luxury products in a bistro and charge high prices for that,” he says.
He is also making his own hams and salamis for the restaurant and is also working to have his own pastrami.
Cooking with freedom means that the cooking is expected to be a bit “rock and roll” Christophe says. “I want to offer my guests a non-expensive experience when people can feel relaxed even coming to eat just a croque monsieur which is a fried or baked cheese and ham sandwich.”
The bistro will be open from Tuesday to Saturday for lunch and dinner. While booking is recommended for the morning and early evening service, Christophe wants people to be able to walk in and find a table from 8.30pm onwards. ”
The Belgian chef said that he is really looking forward to the experience. “I want people to come and enjoy the moment, to give me feedback. Most of all I want people to come and enjoy themselves and enjoy a good quality price ratio for their lunch or dinner,” he said.
Christophe believes that Brussels guests can be more traditional than others but things that the city is moving. “We are trying to change things slowly and starting to push boundaries. It is true that people have certain habits but Brussels is ready for the next ten years. It is time to move on.” he said.
The restaurant has opened its reservation system. You can book from Tuesday to Saturday for lunch or dinner but service after 8.30pm is on a first come first serve basis. Check out the details here.