Het Gebaar is the restaurant of Chef Patron Roger van Damme, located in the centre of Antwerp in Belgium. The restaurant is housed in the picturesque ‘Gingerbread House’ in the Antwerp botanical garden – a tranquil green oasis in the centre of the city. The outside of the building is medieval and fairylike and the setting in the botanical garden gives the property a touch of magic.
Het Gebaar is particularly known for its creative, innovative desserts and sweet classics like pancakes, Crème Brûlée and Dame Blanche. There are no tasting menus, but guests can choose between a selection of dishes and desserts à la carte instead. Usually one main course and one dessert are sufficient to satisfy the appetite and to get a clear picture of Roger Van Damme’s labour intensive, high-tech cuisine. The restaurant is only open for lunch, on reservation from Tuesday till Friday and without reservation on Saturday.
Chef Patron Roger van Damme is a known Belgian television-chef, but originates from Sluis in Holland. The Chef has a natural and positive charisma and is extremely passionate about good food and ‘sweet sins’. He is dynamic and shows a youthful enthusiasm when he talks about his cuisine and gastronomy. Ever since he was a child, Roger has been fascinated by baking. His great-grandfather was a baker and very soon it became clear to Roger that he wanted to be a patissier himself. After graduating at the well-known gastronomy school Ter Groene Poorte in Bruges, he established himself as a pastry chef in Antwerp where he opened Het Gebaar together with his wife Cindy in 1994. Bitten by the cooking-bug, Roger wanted to know more about trends and techniques in gastronomy and attended several trainings at El Bulli. Here, he was introduced to co-owner and pastry chef Albert Adrià, who still is a good friend of the chef today. Roger Van Damme uses the experience he learnt in Spain in the art of pastry and received several prices with his remarkable and inventive cooking art. In 2009, one of his desserts was even elected as the greatest dessert in the World. Besides cooking, Roger also hosts his own cooking show and acts in several other television-programs in Belgium. The Chef also published several cooking books, including collaboration with his good friends Peter Goossens and Sergio Herman. Roger Van Damme is also actively engaged in the optimisation of certain dishes for people with allergies or lactose problems.
Today, Roger Van Damme still creates amazing dishes and desserts for his guests at Het Gebaar. One single dish incorporates as many preparations and techniques as a starter and main course from a classic restaurant together. The waiting time between the dishes is around 50 minutes, which is very understandable when you see the detail and workload of each dish. The main courses are based on Belgian classics, prepared with the best products available, an impressive eye for detail, and a creative twist. A good example is the “Steak-Tartare”, which is made with top quality beef, chopped by hand and seasoned à la minute. It is finished with a range of micro greens, a cream of goose liver and Roger’s famous traditional Belgian fries. Every element of the dish has to be perfect and the fries, for example, were perfected with the most modern techniques.
The desserts, however, are the main stars at Het Gebaar. Most of the desserts take more than a year to create and optimise, and they are executed with extreme precision. Each dessert incorporates ten to twenty mini preparations – which often could be a dessert on themselves. The dessert “Black Jack”, for example, is described on the menu as “A combination of speculoos (caramelised biscuit) and apple between edible playing cards (printed on two sides!), with a refreshing touch of lemon”. The preparation demonstration (please see video on the right side of this page) teaches us that this incredible dessert is prepared with no less than 20 different other elements. The presentation and preparation demands utmost attention and an extreme eye for detail. These works of art almost seem too good to eat but the taste is also something that has to be experienced. Simply stunning.
Restaurant Het Gebaar is not only a must for dessert lovers (expect to experience some of the best desserts in the world), but for food-lovers in general. The perfectionism that is displayed at this restaurant is exceptional – and so will be your visit.
Written by Sven, Frank & Adriaan