Publiek – Gent

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Yes, we did it again, we ate at a restaurant just before they where assigned a Michelin star, and on their way to stardom! We were spending a night in Gent again, and looking for a new place to eat. We wanted to try one of the new promising  restaurants with young chefs trained in three Michelin star restaurants. But as usual we only booked a few days in advance and most restaurants, especially the trending ones, were already fully booked. On the website of one of them I read that they always kept some tables for late deciders (like us), which could be booked by phone on the days itself from 10 AM on. Neil took responsibility for the reservation, so around 11 AM I received a text message that he had booked a table at Publiek in Gent, yes! Publiek is run by Olly Ceulenaere in the kitchen, one of the Flemish foodies. I find it a great idea to keep some tables that can be booked on the day itself. It gives everyone the possibility to try these restaurants, as many people cannot book very far in advance, and therefore miss out on some restaurants who are always fully booked months in advance. I hope they keep this policy as a Michelin star restaurant.

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We had booked quite early in the evening, and when we arrived were told that we could take a table instead of the seats at the bar, which are I guess the seats often set aside for the late bookers. We were very happy, and sat down next to the wall adjacent the open kitchen. The restaurant, though very sober in decoration, had a very warm  and relaxed atmosphere. I think the lightning, the natural wooden touches and the open space are responsible for the ambiance. The personnel is very young and casually dressed.

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We both chose the menu made up of five dishes (55 euro). You can opt for an extra dish, but we declined. We started with a glass of of Vouvray bubbles (8 euro/glass) followed two glasses of white Croatian wine, recommended by the hostess. The wine was really very good.

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You first get some homemade bread with butter with herbs and nuts, beautifully served, and a real treat. Each dish looks really beautiful, is well balanced in its aromas, pure and honest in taste, with original sauces and a lot of fresh herbs. It is a blend of the pure authentic taste of quality ingredients and the flair of good combinations spiced up with fresh herbs.

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You can choose between two deserts or a cheese platter. We each chose a different desert. I took a carrot cake which was delicious, Neil was a bit less pleased with his granité, which seemed to miss taste. He better go for the cheese platter next time.

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It was a great dinner, worthy of the first Michelin star they received last month. Congratulations Publiek!

Publiek, Ham 39 – 9000 Gent +32 9 330 04 86

Le Jardin Bohémien – Ghent

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The best spots are stumbled upon by accident, and they give you the feeling of discovering something unique. We were looking for a coffee around the Gravensteen in Ghent. We had heard many good things about „Julie’s House”, had even tried to have breakfast there, but since it was fully booked at the time, and 11 o’clock sounded more as lunch than breakfast, we decided to keep it in mind for next time.

So this was next time. It was Saturday afternoon and when we arrived the queue for „take away” and the one for „eat in” were both too long. We had just passed a cofeehouse in de Burgstraat and decided to go back on our steps.

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Le Jardin Bohémien” has two huge windows (that go with the elevated ceilings of the beautiful old building), and when we stepped through the entrance door we immediately felt welcome. We found a table for two, just next to the glass fridge full of mouth watering, decidedly home made „gateau’s”. The place is quite big, with small as well as big tables (where you just join others), and some corners with sofas. There is a homy counter where you order and pay, and a beautiful wooden winding stairway that leads to a b&b which I am sure has to be good. The place is decorated quite eclectic, and it seems from the website there is a interior designer on the team. We chose from the menu and ultimately went for the home made ginger chai (de GingerLove you find in most places is far too sweet for my taste). We couldn’t resist the pastries, I went for the lemon meringue, Neil for the cheese cake and we made a deal to share.

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The menu serves breakfast (yes, next time for breakfast!), light lunches, coffee, tea and tarts, and healthy drinks. There is free wifi! We just came from a live jazz café performance (café „Het Onverwacht Geluk” just a bit further down the street) and the music here was in the same jazzy style, perfect. The pastries were simply delicious, homemade, and served generously. The home made ginger chai, tasted pure and natural, the sugar can be added to your own taste.

Le Jardin Bohémien” is open every day except on Tuesdays from 8:30 am to 6 pm, and on Thursdays stays open till 10 pm when they serve cocktails, while you can listen to, what I understood from the blackboard, live music.

Conclusions: all the way for authenticity, honesty, originality and homy experience

Address: Burgstraat 19, 9000 Gent

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Coeur d’artichaut

Spring started early this year, but this was still a rather chilly Saturday in April and we had been walking for quite a while. Our Son, Yolan, had just played a rehearsal at a local jazz bar and we were looking for a place to eat. The noontime cheesecake we had savoured at the ‚Le Jardin Bohemien’ , a new discovery to add to our lists of ‘cool coffee-houses&more’ was long digested and we were longing for something hearty as to end this perfect day in beauty.

We were now close to the Vrijdagsmarkt (Friday market) and had already knocked at the door of one of our old favorites, the Marco Polo trattoria. We should have made a reservation, story of our live, indeed.

We then remembered a restaurant with a very inviting name, close to this other one, ‚Lepelblad’,  that we had visited just the week before.  ‘Coeur d’artichaut’ that was it.
A quick search on the Iphone, a quick call “yes, some people called off, so we have a table for you.” Great, give us half hour, we’re on our way.  (although intuition says: a really hot restaurant is overbooked and has a few people in a queue waiting for free tables.)

What a cozy place to enter! It is as if you are at your favorite library  and you’re offered by the librarian (in this case a friendly man with a screaming bow-tie) to put your book aside for a moment and enjoy dinner, there and then. The connection between writing and eating and writing about it, struck me again.

The wine menu offered an interesting selection, and we went for a Pinot Grigio from Friuli. We knew this very refreshing and fruity wine from our visit to Trieste. Friuli, a region with many fantastic Italian specialities, like Parma and San Daniele ham, Parmeggiano and Balsamico, the ambrosia  among the vinegars.

A little pang of warning flashed through Vera’s eyes with the arrival of the ‘amuse bouche’ offered by the house.  A scoop of French creamcheese rolled in moonseed and quartered by ‘homemade cookies’.  “Could just as well have been some Philadelphia”, Vera later muttered. “And as for ‘homemade?’” …she didn’t offer any adjectives, just the question mark. But we were still in a good mood and weren’t going to let it spoil easily.

Crab on Mango for Vera, a warm goat cheese salad for Yo and goose liver terrine for myself. I know,  I should never take goose liver, and I rarely do. As it turned out, it tasted pretty good and I just shrugged off the uninspired crumbles  of crushed peanuts strewn on the side.

The Goat cheese salad was uneventful with big wedges of onion, but the Crab was a different story altogether. Vera’s silence gave it away. “How’s the crab?” I ventured.  No reply. Aw!
And I agree, it hurts to spend 16 euros on something that tastes like canned fancy crab with mayo. The mango was hard to find and totally tasteless.

Hum. But, we still enjoyed the evening, and we were hungry, after all.
The real shock came with the main dish. Again, I was the lucky one. My codfish was, uninspired, again, but tasty. I couldn’t help but wonder if the few mussels that swam on the side had accidently fallen in or if they had been there on purpose. They were cold but tasted OK.

But my heart really sunk for the first time when I saw Vera’s asparagus plate. I didn’t count the heads, there were two or three, the rest of the trunks neatly cut in three pieces and piled into a little stack, smothered in an enormous blob of  estragon foam.

My heart sunk again when Yolan asked me to taste a bite from his lamb filet. I could hardly swallow it, I kid you not, it was completely over-salted and over-peppered, so much even that it was impossible to taste the meat.

What to do? I’m a Vet, and as a doctor I know that one needs to treat the disease, not the symptoms. Complaining and asking for another plate, that would be treating the symptoms, would lose us another half hour and probably we would receive something else that would be equally unsatisfying. So, we drank our coffee, we didn’t blink but swallowed bitterly when we coughed up the 164 euro bill and left the place, still hungry.

It had been a beautiful day in Ghent. Yolan had played wonderfully, we had strolled through this pearl of cities and we had enjoyed each other’s company. The Arti-shock experience would not take that feeling away from us. But, folks, don’t waste your money here. Move just a few doors further down the road and go to the ‘Lepelblad’ instead.

Conclusions:

Coeur d’artichaut is lacking all of the essentials to a satisfying experience: lack of honesty, originality, authenticity, inspiration and quality. They are pure bluff.

And by the way; had we consulted Tripadvisor prior to calling we would have been warned. We went by intuition and intuition failed us.

Address, if you really want to know: Onderbergen 6, B-9000 Ghent

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