Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Restaurant Beluga in Maastricht

I have been lucky enough to have eaten in a few of the worlds best restaurants. Lunch at D.O.M in Sao Paolo, dinner at Astrid y Gaston in Lima, both of the *** restaurants in the Netherlands, Oud Sluis & Librije, and the Tasting Room in Franschhoek, South Africa. But my all time favourite isn't ranked in the Worlds 50 best restaurants list nor does it has 3 Michelin stars.  
Although I really don't understand why not. It makes me wonder how these inspectors rate the restaurants they visit. Because it's just impossible to compare a high rated restaurant in, for example, South America with a not rated restaurant in the Netherlands.

I was not planning on writing restaurant reviews on this blog, but I make an exception for my favorite restaurant EVER. It's Beluga in Maastricht; a burgundian city in the south of the Netherlands. It has 2 Michelin stars and chef Hans van Wolde is cooking just the way I like it. Not too much meat and almost no intestines. Lots of  fish & other seafood. A major role for vegetables and light and tasty dressings instead of those with cream. 

The reason I prefer Beluga over many other fine dining restaurants, besides the food, is the relaxed atmosphere. That starts in the lounge where you are welcomed to have a pre-dinner drink, accompanied with at few amuse bouches.

Vegetarian amuse bouches
Amuse bouche: 10 preparations with local Limburg 'grotchampignon' aka Champignon de Paris

The chef himself comes around to say hi, personally hands over the menu and discuss the menu options. I've been here 8 times so far and he has done that every time. In contrary to some other chefs who walk around in their restaurant to meet the customers, he's the only one who does it with a natural flair.

After that you are guided to the comfortable chairs and couches in the restaurant which make you want to sit back and relax. Which is what they are meant to be for. Once at the table Hans van Wolde's famous Chef's special signature amuse is served; Parmesan, basil and tomato. This looks like a famous and simple combination, but is wonderfully prepared with very strong flavours. The Parmesan always as a foam, the basil sometimes as ice, the tomato I've seen liquid and crispy (like on the pictures below)

Previous presentation of Chefs special; Parmesan, basil and tomato

Latest presentation of the Chef's special amuse bouche; Parmesan, basil and tomato

It's the combination of the high quality food, perfect matching wines, the relaxed atmosphere because of the informal yet amazing service, from the minute you walk in that make it worth every Euro you spent. 

It didn't really came as a big surprise in these economical bad times, but it still was a little shock to read that Beluga decided to make a big change! They are changing the concept, NOT the quality of the food or service, which makes it accessible for more people. Less amuses bouche, less expensive menu options and less exclusive dinnerware. It sounds good to me! 

We have enjoyed quite some of their 4-course Pleasure and Business lunch deals; a great deal where you're welcomed with a glass of  Cava and about 4 or 5 amuses, then 4 courses including matching wines and coffee or tea with friandises to finish with. And all of that for the price of € 90,-! Compared to other 2-star Michelin restaurants that was a really great deal. There are still 2 months left to make a reservation for this offer on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

Matching sweet wine with dessert and specially for Beluga brewed beer with verbena to accompany the cheese

But I'm sure the menu in the new concept from October 1st, when the name of the restaurant will be Beluga Loves You, is gonna be great as well. They have posted a preview on their website which except for some dishes also reveals the coming of an 'upper top table'; on a stage over the stairs!

Because my husband only had experienced lunch at our visits together we decided to have a 'Last Supper' in Beluga old style and chose the full 10- course tasting menu. Plus the wine accompaniment!
I would be a very bad restaurant critic because I forget the exact ingredients of all the different dishes. Especially after some wine ;-)
But to give an impression of the fabulous food, here are some pictures I made during our visit last Friday.

Hans van Wolde's signature dish: Lobster Chicory Tarte Tatin. 

Lobster - avocado - americain - anchovy

Turbot - cauliflower- almond

Veal neck - foie gras - garlic plant- rhubarb

Hit me dessert; passion fruit

Beluga restaurant is a reason in itself to visit the city of Maastricht, either if you live in the Netherlands or as a tourist. But it is also one of the oldest cities in Holland with a beautiful centre worth visiting. Maastricht is known as a city of indulgence and culinary highlights. There are excellent restaurants and eateries, vineyards close to the city and an extensive range of great quality regional products and dishes. 
Any foodie should not miss out on Maastricht!

I will definitely pay a visit again as soon as possible to find out about the new Beluga Loves You.

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