After four years of renovation, the new Hertog Jan opened in July 2014. The restaurant is now located in the small town of Zedelgem, just a few kilometres from Bruges. The old restaurant serves as a second project, ‘Bistro Biss’, a Spanish oriented bistro restaurant. Chef Patron Gert De Mangeleer and Restaurant Manager and Head Sommelier Joachim Boudens are still managing both restaurants together and remain the proof of how a strong friendship can result in one of the best restaurants in the world.
The new restaurant is located at the historical farm where the restaurant owners previously organically produced many herbs, vegetables and flowers. Today they also have a second, walled garden which gives them the ability to produce and harvest unique types of ingredients. In these gardens they produce around ninety-five percent of the herbs, vegetables and fruits that are used in the kitchen. The domain of the new Hertog Jan is impressive and soothing at the same time. Upon entering, guests are welcomed by the garden, the new building where the dining room of the restaurant is located, and two authentic preserved buildings from the old homestead. The kitchen and dining room are beautifully restored and no expenses were spared. Large glass windows give a spacious feeling and a beautiful view of the garden. Automatic glass doors provide openness, but caution is recommended when moving through the spaces. A beautiful solid wooden floor adorns the dining room, while the decoration remains sober with black chairs, white tables and a single flower. The rest of the table is covered during the meal. Even the restrooms are impressive and give a soothing spa feeling with large spaces, luxury toiletries and beautiful fittings. Sustainability is also high on the agenda of the new Hertog Jan and the ecological footprint is minimised where possible.
The kitchen of the restaurant is established in the old barn and got a serious upgrade. It is very spacious, with several kitchen islands and separate areas for preparations. Sous Chefs Pieter Lefevere and Jef Poppe assist Chef Patron Gert De Mangeleer in the kitchen, together with a team of ten, up to fourteen kitchen members. Calmness is also extended to the kitchen and the team works in utmost concentration. As opposed to many other kitchens of this level, stress, screaming and fuss are rarely observed. The orders are transmitted through speakers in order to make everyone involved in the cooking.
Chef Patron Gert De Mangeleer is still cooking on a high-tech level with a strong focus on spices, vegetables and fruits. Every dish starts from a spice or vegetable from the garden and expands to a complex creation, in which vegetables or spices usually play the leading role. Dishes like the ‘collection of tomatoes summer 2014’ excel in simplicity, taste and natural flavours. It is beautiful to see how a chef can create such a stunning dish using mainly home-grown tomatoes. Another starter combines red beet, liquorice, red fruits and foie gras. A daring but successful combination that brings a perfect balance between spicy, sweet and salty. The tasting menus are very well balanced, but one could argue that the use of more quality and luxurious meat, fish or sea fruits could have an added value. Perception is in the eye of the beholder and many people expect a good balance between fresh, natural produce, and luxurious, unusual ingredients at this top level of dining. The price setting ensures very high expectations and the future will tell if guests want to pay this price for a more natural, but very delicious and labour intensive kitchen.
Co-manager Joachim Boudens is in charge of the wines and the dining rooms and welcomes guests with a natural flair and elegance. As one of the best sommeliers of the Benelux, Joachim knows exactly which bottle of wine or beer will complete Gert his dishes. To reduce complexity and enhance calmness in the dining rooms, a pairing wine option is no longer available. However, upon request Joachim and his assistant sommelier Dries are happy to serve you some excellent wines by the glass. The team of Hertog Jan exists out of 30 people in total (twelve to fourteen in the kitchen, eight to nine in the dining room) and the restaurant is open for 10 services per week (Tuesday – Saturday).
Gert and Joachim continue to build their gastronomic empire and demand respect for what they achieved at such a young age. Hertog Jan is a great world-class restaurant in many aspects, and the move to the new location surely enhances the potential to become one of the world’s best.
Written by Andy, Sven & Adriaan