Mon bistro d’été by Christophe Hardiquest, chef of two Michelin starred Brussels based restaurant Bon Bon could easily be defined as the chef’s playground.
Although this is not necessarily his element given that he is used to cooking in his fine dining restaurant, it is evident that the chef and his team are enjoying themselves in the new pop-up restaurant that has taken the Brussels scene by storm and is indeed one of the most talked about places in the Belgian capital city this summer.
Housed in the old Chez Marie restaurant in the Flagey area of Brussels, the restaurant may have been closed for over two years but you would not notice from the vibes and the atmosphere that fills the place.
But that is to be expected given the fact that the reservations never stopped the minute they opened and by the time the restaurant had opened earlier this month, 4,500 reservations had been made for the two-month pop-up restaurant.
If you do not have a booking, don’t despair. The restaurant takes walk-ins after 8.30pm so you could be in luck. And at the time of writing, there are still a few lunch spots available but these are also selling out very quickly. The restaurant is open till 2 September.
A visit to Mon Bistro d’été is likely to put you in a major dilemma as we discovered when we visited. The menu has depth and makes the choice very difficult unless you have a clear idea of what you would like to eat.
Christophe is present, serving the dishes, taking orders, recommending what dishes to choose and also getting feedback from his customers (though he will take a few days of deserved holidays in the coming days). It is a more laid back atmosphere to his restaurant Bon Bon and he is clearly having fun though it is just as intensive if not more than Bon Bon as he has discovered.
Opening a bistro has been his dream though this will only be temporary as his kitchen at Bon Bon is undergoing a complete upgrade. “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.
“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 said.
And that was pretty much in evidence. If you are in a group, you can try the cold cuts or else share some nibbles like the chicken skin with anchoiade or the rillettes of sardine with whiskey.
For starters we tried the crispy rice with a tartare of spiced mackerel which is exceptional. The crispy rice is an Asian twist and the spiced mackerel has such a depth of flavour that the aftertaste of the dish lingers on till you get the next dish.
The cargolade of snails from Namur served with fontina cheese was comfort food at its best. The hints of liquorice worked to perfection. For main course, we ate the fresh haddock from the North Sea (after all Christophe Hardiquest forms part of the North Sea Chefs collective) cooked with a smoked haddock sauce and served with endives and artichokes. Another excellent dish.
Although the staff stressed that this is completely different to what they serve at Bon Bon, as you would expect, this was still cooking at its best bringing the best in terms of flavour even out of what one might consider humble ingredients. If you are in Brussels in the coming weeks, try to find a way to visit.
Mon bistro d’été: Rue Alphonse De Witte 40, Brussels, Open for lunch from Tuesday to Saturday.