Oud Sluis – a Gastronomic High

What an adventure. Short flight to Brussels, the city of oysters and Lambic beer! Follow this with a short train ride towards the Dutch boarder throw in a Taxi ride and voila “goedemiddag-wilkomme in Sluis”

You have to imagine the build up. A table booked a year in advance. A chef that has pretty much been declared perfect by a certain French guide book. Anticipation was pretty high, I wasn’t going to be taking any prisoners when it came to making judgment here that’s for sure (well come on, have you seen the prices!). I wanted fireworks and more.
Nerves took over as did excitement.The day had finally arrived.

What is so special about this little restaurant tucked away in a tiny corner of the Netherlands? That was it, it wasn’t just one thing, of course the food was show stopping (more about that later), it was the whole concept, this is a project that has been dissected and intricately put back together to provide, not just a yummy meal, but a gastro experience, a journey.

Chico y Luna – an old converted farm house with 3 fabulous rooms, in the most amazing rural setting. Every detail perfectly executed. Be it the personal greeting from Paula our hostess or the amazing snacks awaiting us on arrival. Who knew grissinis could be so good! Oh and did I mention that the bathroom was full of Aseop products (bonus points already)!
The next logical step was to check out the free mini-bar. I mean what B&B offers a 1/2 bottle of Troplong Mondot, ok 1997 wasn’t the greatest year but still.

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Paula sorted out the pick up. 18.55 our dapper driver arrived and whisked us through the quaint and surprisingly attractive Sluis, a tiny village with more Michelin star restaurants than schools. Think the Bray of Holland. Talk about perfect timing, as we arrived Sergio was just mounting his “G Star” designed whites – there is a pattern forming. Was this going to be style over substance, was he just trying too hard. Is less more? Well no is the answer!

A warm, charming welcome made you feel instantly relaxed. Little note books lie under each napkin, so that all thoughts and emotions could be documented. Fun idea! The restaurant must have had about 10/12 tables – the dining room however, was surprisingly small, compact and very cleanly designed. There was obviously a man in-charge. A glass of Pinot Meunière driven House Champagne was poured and boom, fasten your seat belts for the journey of the year.

7 snacks are fired at you with a tempo that just left you speechless. A highlight was the crazy mushroom – think the most insane earthy porcini and times this by a trillion. I am still speechless. Every morsel a new experience. Balance, a word I used all night. Balance. Every dish was perfectly balanced, 20 components became 1. Harmonized in a way that left me flabbergasted.

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Of course when it came to ordering we went for the full monty. To be honest at first I was a bit disappointed. What, they only have a 6 course tasting menu? Gosh, but after 20 minutes I knew why. I think if you include the snacks, or as we called them in the day “amuse bouche” we had a total of 12 courses! Admittedly the cheese course wasn’t needed, but how was I to know that they just had a trolley like any other fine-dining establishment. At the point when they asked miss greedy (thats me by-the-way) that fatal question “cheese or dessert Madame” I was horrified, I didn’t want to miss a single course. If he can do that to a mushroom what the hell is he going to do with cheese. And the answer was, nothing. Maybe somethings really are better just left as they are.

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Decided against the wine pairing, which was actually a shame now I think about it. On the other hand though my wallet was all the happier for it. The wine list was attractive, but a bit lacking in certain areas. I am giving them the benefit of the doubt though on this one. They are due to close soon for good, so I am presuming they have just stopped buying – which would makes sense. For someone based in Switzerland and I should add an avid Swiss wine drinker, I was incredibly surprised to see the white list dominated by the Swiss.

The service was generally good, dressed in trendy rolled up G Star jeans and black blazers – all too cool for school! The Somm was obviously alone and overworked meaning the actual wine service could have been smoother. Although I am sure no fault of her own, there is only so much a girl can do.

Back to the food. Obviously due the location of the restaurant and the proximity to the sea, seafood dominated the menu. I enjoyed the most succulent oysters and mussels. Absolutely divine. Every dish demonstrated Sergio’s respect for the product and the sea. Poaching things in sea water and using all sorts of sea herbs (if you can call them that) and seaweeds. Each dish was so intricate and complex – with a huge list of ingredients. I must admit I was a bit worried at times that it was just too much. But it wasn’t. Not once.

This guy has obviously spent the last 20 years perfecting each dish. It was perfect. Also the stories that accompanied the dishes, were honest and heart felt – no signs of kitsch and trying to be trendy. This was an example of someone who lives and feels food, and most of all respects and understands his products! There are many young Chefs out there that could learn a thing or two. Oh, did I add that him and his team work 20 hour days. Dedication.
Thank you Sergio Hermann and team for creating this memory!

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Oh, one more thing! How could I forget the breakfast – what a feast. This is what I meant at the start about providing an experience. It was 30 hours of foodie pleasure. This is gonna be hard to top.

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