Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Ergon (rue du Parnasse)

Greek finances are never really out of the news at the moment, but there's not a lot that your average Belgium-based food blogger can do about them, apart from drink a brand of (very good) beer from Santorini sold to reduce the Greek national debt. The relationship of Ergon, a small chain of restaurant-delicatessens, to its parent country's economic situation is less clear, but if one of the aims of its newish Brussels branch is to bolster Greece's reputation in a city that has recently hosted some tense negotiations, in most respects it's not doing too badly.

It's immediately clear that this isn't an identikit taverna abroad. Style-wise it's an understated modern dining room, complete with window into the kitchen - not a drop of blue or white paint in sight. The menu, too, avoids most clichés in favour of offerings from all over Greece - I was especially drawn to the idea of Gruyère from Naxos and mustard from Thessaloniki. There is a good selection of meze - mainly cheese based - alongside salads, meat, seafood and pasta main courses. We shared a Greek tomato salad (10E), minus the feta so that my dairy-allergic mother could join in: essentially a standard Greek salad, it was enlivened by high-quality olive oil, capers, and a plant that we couldn't identify but was almost seaweed-like in its tanginess.
Main courses were less heavy on the vegetables. My mother's beef stifado (15E) was impressively tender, with the flavoursome, cinnamon-infused meat falling apart at the touch of a fork, but what were billed as 'crunchy potatoes' turned out to be unseasoned and rather unexciting chips. Meanwhile, shrimps (king prawns, really) with fava bean purée (14E) were large and juicy, and their Vinsanto wine glaze an interesting and subtle addition - the blandness of the beans was a effective counterpart. My father went for moussaka (12E) - it came in its own dish, rather more decorously than the oozing slice you normally get, and was hearty, although the smoked aubergine and truffle oil it contained were not especially dominant.
I was faced with an agonising choice between two pastry-based desserts - galaktoboureko with salted caramel and baklavas (sic) with dark chocolate. In the end I went for the latter (7E), and a reimagining of a traditional baklava arrived: thin, brittle layers of pastry between which huge dollops of chocolatey, chestnutty cream were sandwiched, with honey and pistachios drizzled over the towering creation. My reaction to this was what yours would (probably) have been, but after a while the intense richness and sweetness proved overpowering and I found myself thinking I would have preferred a more understated version. We came to a similar conclusion about a Greek yoghurt mousse with caramelised quinces and pomegranate syrup (7E): delicious ingredients, prepared with skill, but in this form just a bit too much (and not easy to share, either).
I wanted to love Ergon, but in the end I merely liked it. We enjoyed some excellent food but were also left with a few niggles: aside from what I've already mentioned, the hot main courses would have been well served by heated plates, and said main courses didn't arrive together. That said, service was fast and friendly (although I would like to make the slightly niche observation that if you're going to start by interacting with non-native Francophones in French - not a problem in itself - it would help to give them a French menu to order from); the drinks menu offers an interesting selection of mainly Greek options, including the aforementioned public-spirited beer. Ergon is clearly a promising concept executed well, but not quite as well as it could be - geopolitical metaphor not intended.

rue du Parnasse 1
1050 Brussels


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