Likoké is the name of the final chapter in Chef Piet Huysentruyt’s culinary career: a top restaurant located in Les Vans, Southern France. Likoké is an ultimate tribute to Piet’s father who was given this nickname in colonial Congo. The term refers to an intelligent fish that was hard to catch and the villagers chose this name for Piet’s father as a sign of respect. Piet’s father is a recurrent aspect in the story of Likoké and it is beautiful to see how this family story led to an amazing gastronomic restaurant.
Piet Huysentruyt is a television chef from Belgium. His career did not start with television, but with a top restaurant located in Wortegem-Petegem in Belgium. In this restaurant Piet surprised his guests 20 years ago with combinations like turbot, veal brain and black pudding – a dish that is also served in his new restaurant today. Underrated and misunderstood by many, the flamboyant chef decided to build his career in television and became one of the most successful television chefs in Belgium. After years of performing on primetime cooking shows on television; the release of almost twenty cookbooks; and the management of a bistro restaurant, Piet decided that he was ready for his final and ultimate challenge: Likoké. With this restaurant, Piet returns to his true passion and demonstrates a continuous quest for new challenges and a search for the perfect taste.
Likoké is located in the small and picturesque town of Les Vans in the Ardèche region in France – a beautiful holiday destination. It is a small three-floor restaurant and the place was remodelled recently to increase comfort. Guests can dine in the main dining area, in the open kitchen, or in a small private dining room. The interior is decorated with local, warm furnishings wood from the Camargue, stones from the Ardèche, and chairs with fabrics of local cows. The bright colours of the modern chairs and on the walls reflect Piet’s character and the restaurant boasts a small, busy open kitchen on the first floor.
The team at Likoké is extremely driven and very motivated to reach the culinary top. Most staff members left Belgium to live and work in France and this is only one example of their extreme motivation and respect for the Chef. Sous Chefs Stijn Rotthier and Anthony Stoop developed themselves the past few years into great chefs and show a high motivation for flavours and innovation. Piet’s son, Cyriel Huysentruyt, started working in the restaurant 2013 and is responsible for the general management and the wines. In just a few years Cyriel proved to be an excellent maître who has the potential to co-create one of the best restaurants in Europe. The team, young and dynamic, can already compete with top teams from all over the world.
Together with his Sous Chefs and the rest of the team, Piet creates a very special kind of cuisine, deeply rooted in the soil of Southern France and with great respect for local, home-made products; his kitchen is contemporary and creative, but very unique on its own. It incorporates exciting ingredients (pig’s head, testicles, brains, intestines,…), diverse textures, humour, dare and above all – a great taste. In Likoké taste comes first and techniques follow – a sequence that is often reversed in many modern restaurants. We are heavily impressed by the great flavours of all the dishes and the passion that was reflected in the plates. Every dish comes with a story and this makes a lunch or dinner at Likoké a unique experience. The level of creativity together with the powerful, unique flavours make this restaurant unique and world class.
The Chef Patron loves to use ingredients from his childhood combined with modern touches, and serves his tasty dishes in a five, seven or ten course tasting menu or à la carte. The menu is quite often renewed, something that is underappreciated in the high-end gastronomy sector these days. Month after month, year after year, Piet and his team develop new dishes that excel in complexity, innovation and flavour. Recent dishes like ‘Oreille’ combine a smoked oyster with a gravy of ceps, celeriac and dashi. It is served with a flan of celeriac, pig’s ear, pistachio, lemon juice with pine needles and hichiki. The ensemble is served in a real pig’s ear. Stunning.
Piet loves to entertain and there is no better example than his dessert ‘Golf Ball’: a crispy ball made from almond milk and filled with fermented garlic, marzipan cake, strawberry, nougatine and a strawberry coulis and lemon. It is served on a piece of wood with a hole in it, and the ball is put in the hole with a real golf stick at the table. One of the other desserts just blows us away in terms of taste and easily represents one of our favourite desserts ever: celeriac, vanilla ice cream with bacon and truffle, celeriac juice (celery poached in sugar syrup with lemon and vanilla), chocolate coffee crumble and date vinegar. Incredibly delicious.
Wines are presented by Piet’s son Cyriel Huysentruyt and he serves interesting pairing wines and other drinks with the menus, as well as an interesting wine list. Cyriel’s passion for drinks originated from coffee brews and he now is responsible for all beverages at Likoké. Most wines are French, coming from the Ardèche region, and prices are very correct.
Likoké is a restaurant of enjoyment, surprise and emotions. It is incredible to see how the team of chef Piet Huysentruyt accomplished to achieve such a high level of culinary perfection in a short time. The passionate chef proves himself as a master of taste, a great people manager and a very friendly host. Likoké is a true discovery in the Ardèche region and although its remote location, it is truly worth the journey.
Written by Sven, Frank & Adriaan