I may not have saved enough Green Shield stamps for a stairway to Heaven, but there are certain restaurants that make you want to stay on earth. Brussels’ Le Coq en Pate is one of them. Tucked away in a quiet road behind a park in Woluwé-St Lambert, this restaurnt has been awarded one “couvert” (knife and fork - honourable mention) in the Benelux Michelin Guide, and doesn’t take walk-ins (I’ve tried).
As Scouse Doris and I had birthdays fairly close together, it seemed like the ideal opportunity for a leisurely Sunday outing for Ladies Who Lunch. The restaurant, which is discreet enough that you may have passed it several times without even noticing, is fairly small and decorated in a clean 1980s style with leather banquettes and Venetian blinds. There were two tables against the wall occupied by single ladies of a certain age having lunch in solitary splendour.
Most of the diners were even older than myself, which I take to be a sign of a good restaurant.We sat by the window and perused the menu. There’s an à la carte, and two tasting menus, one at €30 and one at €45. We went for the latter and ordered two glasses of chilled prosecco with peach liqueur - a kir royale with a difference - to kick start our gastronomic adventure. The mise en bouche arrived almost immediately, a large square slate on which sat five items: not on the menu, we sampled a cappuccino de mortadelle, a gazpacho and a pea soup, all served in glasses, two of them topped with whipped sour cream. All three were tiny, beautiful and packed with flavour. I believe this sort of presentation is known as a “flight” of dishes. A tiny cheese scone and a tiny piece of cornbread completed the composition.
The taste of garden peas just exploded in my mouth. The mortadelle cappuccino was pure froth of ham. Doris was enamoured of the gazpacho, which looked like a tiny serving of strawberries and cream but the flavours of tomato and cucumber were intense.
It was all a bit Heston Blumenthal, our eyes seeing one thing and our taste buds experiencing another, but a great introduction to what was to follow.First starter: three asparagus sticks in a egg pesto dressing, served with scallops (St Jacques) and salami chips, a spinach sauce and a test-tube of Vichysoisse.Second starter: half a pacchero (pasta tube, a bit like cannelloni) with a mortadelle and salami stuffing, with a tiny egg of buffalo mozzarella and a sliver of Spanish cured ham, served on a hubcap
.Main course: one tiny, perfectly slow-cooked spare rib of pork in a honey-spicy glaze, served with a glazed lettuce leaf and ...damned if I know, I was off with the fairies by this time. Each of the three savoury courses came with a glass of suitably matched wine - two whites and a red.
The dessert(s): the pièce de résistance. A flight of five mini-desserts on a slate: melon sorbet; skewer of fresh pineapple chunks with cinnamon; lemon meringue;
strawberries with cream; fresh sweet orange and pineapple juice with pulp. All totally delicious.To finish: coffee, served with mini Madeleines and a box of the lightest, whitest, crispest meringues you have ever tasted. I ate about half the box, and normally I wouldn’t touch a meringue.
We drifted out on a cloud of what I can only compare to post-coital afterglow. Doris said it was a shame those two ladies never spoke to each other throughout their meal. But I understood why they didn’t. You don’t want to talk to the neighbours while you’re having sex, do you?
By Daphne Wayne-Bough
Le Coq en Pate
1200 Woluwé St Lambert
Tel: 02 762 1971