Saturday, 7 November 2015

Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (rue des Deux Eglises)

The main reason we decided to go to Déjeuner sur l'Herbe was that it seemed to be a highly popular establishment. A scouting expedition at lunchtime had shown its somewhat Belle Epoque-style, all fresh gilding and mirrors (and random tropical fish tank) dining room to be full. There are plenty of reviews online praising its quality, good value and friendliness. So it was with some trepidation that in the evening we poked our heads in, hoping that there might be a free table for three somewhere in a corner, only to find an empty restaurant and a waitress who was more than happy to seat us by the window. I realise that the edge of the Eurobubble, the hinterland between the rue de la Loi and St-Josse, is not exactly Brussels' hottest ticket on a Friday night, but although our experience was broadly good, atmosphere was not one of its highlights.

The menu is a mixture of French (magret de canard), generic modern European (lamb shank, prawns), and 'Asian' (salmon teriyaki, chicken curry). The prices are reasonable for Brussels but you can order two courses for 25E and three for 28E, good value compared with the à la carte (there's also a slightly cheaper set lunch). I started off with prawns a la plancha
(mood light + phone = awful photos, I'm afraid)
There's not a lot that you can say about giant king prawns in a buttery garlic sauce, except perhaps comment ruefully that there's never as much meat inside them as you expect, but another starter of smoked salmon offered a generous amount of markedly lean fish. A basket of bread rolls that arrived with the warning that they were still too hot to touch certainly showed the kitchen's enthusiasm.
Up to this point we'd been eating alone, but at this point a couple more diners arrived, although they did seem to be friends of the waitress. Our main courses, meanwhile, had the same 'absolutely fine but not extraordinary' quality as the starters. Two entrecôtes were certainly cooked to a high standard and came with chips that would not have disgraced the friterie down the road; I felt the vegetables, though, had that subtle and indefinable aftertaste that comes of being cooked in a microwave. My suckling pig looked less pretty on the plate than the steak did - it had been dished up in a fairly cavalier fashion - and the vegetables were the same, but the meat itself had a pleasingly down-to-earth gammony flavour and a buttery mushroom sauce that was too good not to mop up. Moreover, I hadn't had mashed potato for ages, and this version was excellent.
Now the two other guests were joined by some friends of theirs, so as we ate our desserts things almost - almost - threatened to get lively. All of these came with the same carefully cut garnish of pomegranate seeds, kiwi and physalis, which made more sense for the fruit salad than the tarte tatin and the moelleux au chocolat, but all three dishes were decent specimens without being outstanding, and (always a mark of attention to detail in my book) were accompanied by high-quality ice cream.
As you can probably tell, I didn't quite know what to make of Déjeuner sur l'Herbe. I understand why its location means it may be busier at lunchtime, and obviously it's unfair to blame a restaurant for not providing more fellow diners, but at the same time the experience of eating carefully prepared food in rather glamorous surroundings while for most of the meal the waitress sits at the back chatting with some friends is always going to be a slightly odd experience - that's not a comment on the service, which was fine and very friendly, but more on the restaurant's odd status as an evening destination (as we paid the waitress asked how we had come across the place, which was telling). 

As for the food, it was enjoyable but essentially simple, and while three courses for 28E was fair I think I'd have been less happy paying half that for an individual dish. This may indeed be how their pricing model works but, again, the lack of finesse didn't quite fit with the surroundings, though I suppose you could argue that the posh dining room doesn't quite fit with an anonymous street on the way down to St-Josse, and so on... I think I'd go back to Déjeuner sur l'Herbe - but maybe only at lunchtime.

Déjeuner sur l'Herbe
80 rue des Deux Eglises
Brussels 1210


No comments:

Post a Comment