My dearest friend Jerome thought it was just about time that he and I got away together again. Prior great trips included Dublin and Paris among others so a trip to nearby Maastricht – well actually a bit further, did not seem so exotic or even spectacular.
But the main reason for this trip was a visit to De Leuf, and to the kitchen of Paul van de Bunt who has just been awarded Chef of the year by Gault Millau. De Leuf and Paul holds 2 michelin stars – and with that in mind we actually hoped that the trip would be right there on top with the others we have been lucky to endulge in. We share experiences in numerous 1 star restaurants – four 2 star restaurants – and several visits to our beloved local 3 star Schloss Berg.
How can a dinner start any better than when you are picked up in a classic Bentley – with a surprice driver – Paul van de Bunt. What a nice gesture. On the drive from the hotel to the restaurant we had a chance to talk about the history of De Leuf, and we learned that Paul was a truly warm and gentle man.
The restaurant is situated in a beautiful building with nice pieces of art in the garden, I wanted to shoot it….but the warm greetings of the sommelier and a waiter, made me forget it. Next time.
I loved the open fire, where amuses and pre-dinner drinks were served, and menu and wine list handed for us to choose from.
So, yes the scene was set, the menu “Wonderment” ordered together with a prestige wine menu. De Leuf offers 4 different menus, encluding a vegetarian menu, also a la carte dining and wine menus – a standard and a prestige one. The wine list is a bit on the expensive side but Jerome being not a only my dear friend but also educated sommelier did find some better priced or even good priced numbers there.
As an aperitive we opted for a crispy Rully 1. cru from Jacqueson. Served chilly and then left out of the basket. A minor flaw happened here…we had to serve ourselves towards the end…but then – we must admit that we drink faster than your average client :-)
And then the army of amuses started to arrive:
In the front a cornet with a creme of goose liver and eel, behind a great light creme with herbs and behind chips of carrot and sweet potatoes and the bowl – also eatable – being an asian crispy “thingy”.
Presented as a variation of a pizza I think. I did not get that taste – but what I got was an explosion of taste. I closed my eyes to this one and wauw….. Onion compot, basil – blew me away.
Not a big fan of oysters – but this amuse again – was simply amazing. I do like my gin/tonic – and this was for sure a GREAT combo. Hail to the “chief”.
What a nice presentation. The kitchen surely know what they are doing we thought – and at this point we both agreed that if this level kept we were in for something special tonight. I shall not hesitate to give these 4 rounds of goodies 10p. Really impressive level. And as good as it gets in my book. Classic tastes mixed with innovative thinking and presentation.
At the table two kinds of bread was served with two kinds of butter.
I loved the room, giving an almost “barn” feeling but with a class touch. I loved the art on the walls, the visible wood. Even the tiles fitted, even if tiles are not my favourite flooring in any restaurant lol.
Jerome liked the more classic medium dark hombaked “Bauernbrot” better.
Together with the lime taste and the crushed nuts below…the texture and the taste of this dish, kept up EVERYTHING we were hoping for with the level of the greetings from the kitchen.
Yesterday, I rated it lower, but looking at the picture and description on the menu, this was in fact again brilliant 10p.
The only set-back food-wise of the evening. For different reasons. Jerome found the lobster slightly overcooked. I did not. But I was not so crazy about the foam or sauce. Maybe it was the Noilly prat. 7p But again a great presentation in this funny round dark plate.
So – a little shaky here – would the same occure as on our prior 2 star visits – would the level drop ? Rest assured we were positively surpriced.
So this might not seem like a perfect match. I tasted it first and said nothing. Jerome tasted it, and then made one of his funny faces. I had no idea what he was on about. Was it too weird. Did he like it ? I think his first words were something like “Oh my God”. He loved it. It was clear that this was probably a dish with a VERY high wauw factor. This was a dish to kill or die for. A medal to the guy who created this one. And can we please have another round ? 10p
Jerome then claimed….this is so good. I HAVE to tell somone. As it turned out Sandra, the wife of Paul van de Bunt just passed our table. I said – Excuse me – my friend would like to say something about this dish. She was very curious – Jerome then mumbled a bit, struggled to find the words – but in the end came out with a very nice explanation and judgement of the dish – giving it the highest praise one could imagine. And by doing this – his voice almost broke and he had tears in his eyes. It is so great when a dish can do this to you. I have tried it once at Schloss Berg. It is like if you leave this world for a moment. And see it all from out of space – a level of extasy which you normally only find with your partner doing – you know – other stuff.
So – Paul – to answer your “after dinner” question – where there any wauw factors – yes. This was THE one. There were others – I shall get back to those in my conclusion.
Sandra – our host – then presented the next dish – which was not in our normal menu, but as she said, the kitchen was so happy and inspired by the praise from Jerome that they decided we had to see and taste this one.
The presentation of course faboulous with the morning fog floating around the table to a large extent. Revealing an Oyster shell filled with good stuff.
Great presentation, great taste – 8.5p
My choice for main dish – the menu saying Hare – and the kitchen showing flexibility in my request for changing this. I loved it. Great arrangement. Great taste. Stunning potato and yummi peppers “mash”. The parmesan creme served as a side dish wonderful. 9.5p
With the sauce royal a very classic dish. The taste of the meat (which included a piece of lead from the bullet that brought it down) – amazing. The red beet out of this world. Just a red beet !!!! How can they get so much taste out of that simple root. I just dont know.
We felt priviledged in being offered a cheese “wagon” t like that one. And with beautiful waitress Claudia presenting it – what more do you need ? 10p
Loved the wooden plates, Loved the selection, maturity and taste of the cheeses. Special dried fruit bread was offered along different kinds of sweet or pickled fruits. Jeromes request for more of the same darker bread was met without a fuss.
Celary ice crem etc….different textures. I did not think I would like this one. The celary was a bit too dominant, but it worked surpricingly well. 7.5p
A perfect finish – to an almost perfect menu – 10p
We were at the end of the road. Normally coffee, sweets and etc. would follow. But not for us tonight.
What I said to Paul after the dinner when he asked us if we had any wauw factors …I said – the biggest wauw factor was in fact the constant high level of all the dishes. It was truly a 3 star experience tonight foodwise. The service and sommelier had a few flaws during the evening, but it did not prevent us from having a VERY SPECIAL evening we will treasure always. The service is in fact very laid back, like you would find it in Denmark. And that has it charm too, and maybe make it easier to live with certain short comings.
The wines in the the prestige wine menu was all drinkable, some were very good, none were amazing. I think in a wine menu – especially when you call it “Prestige” – well you need to put some prestige into it. And that we did not get tonight. Neither in presentation nor in the wines selected. But – most wines were very nice and easy pleasers. And maybe we are a bit spoiled in that respect being a sommelier and a wine merchant. We opted for an 99 Beycheville to match the level of the food and finish off an amazing evening. The wine was not available – but a higher priced similar Bordeaux was then offered at the same price. Nice touch.
Leaving the room, we got the two signed and billed books by Paul van de Bunt – Reiss naar de Sterren – which I guess translates to – “A travel to the stars”.
Our final request for a taxi to bring us home – was met – Paul had again opened the doors of his Bentley. And on the way back to the hotel, we got the opportunity to discuss the dinner and to thank him for a wonderful dining experience. And any short-comings mentioned in this review did not change our feeling of having experienced something way up there among the best. A travel to the stars.
We thank the whole team, especially Sandra and Claudia and Paul for making us feel special.
I give De Leuf my highest recommendations, and hope to be back one day.
I thank you Jerome for the invitation and for your friendship. You are my star.
Food 9.5p (10), service 4p (5), ambience 5p (5), 1 Bonus point for a wonderful warm and human experience. Total Score 19.5p (20)
I shall leave you with a shot of pure class