For Belgian people, the city of Tienen is mainly known for the production of sugar, which has been a very important industry in the region for almost two hundred years. It is on the market square of Tienen, in a building which dates back to the sixteenth century, that Chef Gilles Melchior has opened a restaurant that he named after himself.
Already at a very young age, Gilles knew that he wanted to become a chef. His grandfather was a butcher, and every time he visited him, they ate wonderful food together. This triggered his interest in cooking. At the age of fourteen, Melchior decided to go to culinary school. His parents supported his decision but wanted to make sure that he was aware of what kind of tough job he was choosing. So next to school, they made him work in a restaurant during the weekends in order to get exposed to the real life in the food and beverage industry. Melchior got the opportunity to work in the front of house of Michelin starred restaurant Arenberg during the weekends. Once he graduated from culinary school, Gilles started to work full time in restaurant Arenberg, but this time in the kitchen. This was the start of a culinary career that brought him in the kitchens of several Belgian restaurants, of which three Michelin starred Hof Van Cleve of Chef Peter Goossens might have been the most influential one for him. Gilles always knew that he wanted to start his own restaurant one day and he also had a very clear idea of how that restaurant should be. With the opening of Melchior in Tienen, the chef realized that ambition.
It is hard to find a general description for the cooking style of Melchior. The snacks and appetizers are generally very contemporary, light, acidic, inspired by Asian flavours and the use of modern cooking techniques is obvious. However, once the main dish is served, you discover the love of the chef for the classic gastronomy with strong focus on traditional preparation techniques that are perfectly executed and where the sauces play a central role in the taste experience of a dish. It is also in those creations that you clearly see the influence of his time in the kitchen of Hof Van Cleve. Chef Melchior is also strongly focussed on the products that he uses and for which he never compromises on the quality. That this means that he needs to import those products from other parts of the world, is no issue for the chef. During a visit to Melchior, guests can choose to discover the cooking style of the chef by experiencing a menu of several courses. However, what is quite interesting is that apart from that, it is also possible to eat brasserie style dishes such as a steak a la carte in the restaurant. An approach that helps Melchior to cater for his very loyal customers that visit the restaurant more often than that the menu changes. A new menu is presented every two months and new dishes are strongly influenced by the seasons.
Once you walk into the restaurant, you immediately notice the counter, around which people can sit to eat. At the back of the restaurant, there are tables available from where you look into the open kitchen where chef Gilles and his team of three create the dishes. The interior design is warm, with attention for decoration that creates a cosy atmosphere and which gets new accents regularly depending on the time of the year. So, do not expect a traditional fine dining experience with white table cloths and stiff service. The focus here is on offering guests a pleasant dining experience by creating a lively ambiance.
The service team is managed by Floris Vanhoof, who joined Melchior from the start. Service is attentive, correct, spontaneous, rather casual, and works perfectly in the concept of Melchior. The wine list is created by the chef himself. It consists of more than two hundred labels of which the majority are European. Due to the Asian influences that can be found in the cooking style of Melchior, the chef also has eight sakes on the wine list, that pair perfectly with the amuses and appetizers. Melchior does not offer wine pairing.
Chef Melchior aims at making sure that his guests eat well and have a great and cosy experience when they visit his restaurant, and he succeeds very well in doing that. The combination of modern appetizers with classic main dishes works well for us and the dishes that we tried during our several visits tasted great. The ambiance in the restaurant adds up to that and makes Melchior a restaurant that is worth discovering.
Written by Johan & Kim