Restaurant De Leuf, Ubachsberg, Netherlands – 3 November 2012

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.

“Driving Miss Daisy”…

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.

Pure class in my book.

Open fire, if that doesnt make you happy….

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:

Round 1

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”.

Round 2

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.

Oyster with a gin/tonic granité.

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”.

Round 4

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.

The prolongation of the lounge area – the Restaurant. Our table being in the left corner below.

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.

My favourite bread of the evening.

Jerome liked the more classic medium dark hombaked “Bauernbrot” better.

Dublin Bay prawn.

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.

Lobster

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.

Sole with fois gras

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.

A signature dish of Paul

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.

Below the “morning” fog…

Great presentation, great taste – 8.5p

Entrecote of Beef

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

The hare with red beet

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.

Say cheese pretty Claudia !

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

Jerome´s choice.

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

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

The hand of a magician – beautiful Claudia.

Chocolate, Passion fruit, Mango, Banana

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.

My conclusion:

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

Dearest Jerome, wonderful Paul and a Bentley…

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La Mirabelle, Luxembourg – 30 October 2012

Astrid and Oscar on the road, and Emil off from school, left room for a all male lunch. Gijs joined us – and was happy to hear that I had one of his favourite spots in town on my mind.

Emil and I early as always, left time for me to decide on the wine – and settled for a Condrieu – my new favourite white. The wine list is good and often you can find a wine sold at a bargain compared to other restaurants in town. Right now they had for example top Bordeaux´s – for example Clos de Marquis from 1990 to I think 100 eur. As I understood it – from now until December this special list of old Bordeaux vintages is available,

La Mirabelle offers a menu for lunch at around 45 eur I think, and many tempting starters and main courses a la carte. The room, still not my favourite – but I do like the bar and and the wall of wines behind it. The people greet you ever so friendly – off course the greetings Gijs got when he arrived 20 min later made me feel not so VIP anymore. He was.

That is what put you in the mood for good food

This is what greets you when you enter the restaurant. A beautiful arrangement – and very appropropriate to the season.

First off was a the “usual” rillette from duck and this time a mouse/paté of salmon..

Great stuff

Both were great, and with the bread provided – this is all you need for an amuse in a restaurant like this 6p

But like my first visit this year they did not leave it at that – and like last time another round was served

Not so great stuff…..

And like on that mentioned visit, the second round was also this time a set back. The soup of  – was it courgette ? – being boring and the one to the right too creamy and not up to par with the rest of the level in La Mirabelle. It does not ruin a nice lunch, I just find it silly to serve something that brings the level down instead of inspires you to crave for the next dish.

My choice of starter

Fois Gras with bread and mirabelle compot

Great dish, nothing to complain about here. The bread being baked so the individual pieces stuck together. The Fois Gras deliscious. 7p

Veal Rossini

Great veal, great reduction, great potato gratin, 7.5p – If there is anything to “complain” about – it would be that taking a look at other dishes around in the restaurant, reveals that the same vegetables are used on many different dishes. I think this was also an argument I made in January. But they are cooked well, and I guess it brings the “Brasserie” level up front in stead of the gastronomy, and maybe that is excactly what they are aiming at. But an honest dish with not much of a fuss.

The waiters are really attentive, and especially the young female one….yeah yeah….thats how I am – but especially she did a good job in being flexible and understanding in regard to setting up a dish for Emil, who opted for Turbot with mashed potatoes.

Emil was also convinced into some chocolate for dessert.

A happy chappy…

Yes, as you can see he was very happy with that. Now every single day since Tuesday, he has asked me – Daddy – when can we go back to the restaurant with the chocolate cake ? So I guess the score on this one must be a clear 10p – it was in Emil´s book for sure. You can wipe your mouth now Emil.

My conclusion:

La Mirabelle is still very popular, lot of business suits here – its still among the bests of its kind in Luxembourg. And price wise you are a step down in compare to the michelin starred restaurants in town. With most dishes they deliver honest food, with no complications. It is the Brasserie style food  “Department” – but for sure it is the high end within those in Luxembourg.

Service is good and almost flawless. We were offered a digestive – which is never wrong in my book. It is children friendly and flexible in that respect.

As for wine list, I do think they in compare to other restaurants in that league has many good drops for you to choose from, and thats including wines from the whole world. On top of that they seem able to put out gems every now and then with a certain subject – or simply older vintages.

I hope to be back soon – and so does Emil.

Food 7p (10), service 4p (5), ambience 3.5p (5), 1 Bonus point for the wine list – and chocolate cake dessert. Total Score  15.5p (20)