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.
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