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Terborght

If the raison d’être of the annual Resto Days initiative (“haute cuisine at ultra-light prices”) is a very worthy cause, sadly not every participating restaurant sees it as an opportunity to make fine dining affordable, instead treating the great unwashed with utter contempt, shamelessly ripping them off on their visit to a world where they don’t belong. After all, what will they know? No such worries at Michelin-starred Terborght: the specially designed menu is outstanding – and great value – so long as you resist the add-ons.
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Less than 10 years after opening Terborght, chef Lesley De Vlieger has become a household name on the Belgian food scene, and the restaurant’s location – in the ‘castle belt’ south-west of the capital – makes it equally accessible to Brusselers as it does to suburban bons vivants.

I understand the place underwent a months-long makeover last year but, not knowing what it looked like before, I’ll tentatively describe the revamp as ‘well done’ – hey, if the contemporary artworks and the expensive bottles from the spirits cabinet want to fight for my attention, then let them, say I.

Cutting to the chase: the food at Terborght is excellent and, in the case of our starter, sensational. But by the time we get to said starter, our party of four has already been served, on top of the freshly baked bread and brioche rolls, a total of four courses of amuse-bouche. While the oyster served with geuze sorbet is, to this palate, a step too far, the bouchée of salmon with beetroot textures (macaroon, jelly and coulis) proves inspired. A two-storey modern interpretation of tomate-crevettes – with tomato sorbet – served on the lid of a pot containing a poached quail egg and sour-milk espuma tastes as exciting as it looks. Better still is the smoked eel and toasted quinoa nibble: unusual, unexpected and totally moreish. 

The starter, a playful tuna, yuzu and avocado-based affair, is the undisputed showstopper. At its centre, a tuna tartare adorned with a quenelle of yuzu sorbet. Surrounding it, tiny, dazzling morsels of seared tuna and variations – gels, mousses, macaroons again – on avocado, cucumber and yuzu. The four of us are speechless.

Two of us choose to have the second starter of hop shoots with slow-cooked egg, truffle and spinach. While good, it doesn’t come anywhere near the tuna starter. Likewise, the main of coucou de Malines – that most noble of Belgian chooks – served three ways, with deep jus and “onion textures” (their words, not mine) fails to have us reaching for the superlatives. We craftily manage to substitute a selection of cheeses for desserts, and by now we are struggling to ingest anything. We bravely volunteer to polish off the army of petits-fours served with the coffees.

At €36 per person, Terborght’s three-course Resto Days menu is a snip, especially when the freebies almost outnumber the dishes on the menu. The same, however, cannot be said of the drinks. The house aperitif – a glass of sparkling natural wine – costs €11. Our cheese-accompanying ports and sherries also cost €11 a glass. The suggested wine flight, at €22 a head for four or five glasses, left us feeling slightly short-changed. And €8 for a bottle of sparkling water may feel like stretching it a bit.

To be fair, we didn’t have to order the aperitif, the ports and sherries, the Irish coffees instead of straight espressos, or that optional hop shoot starter (€22 apiece). We chose to, and the total bill of €409 was, considering the quality of the food and drink served, and quantity of the former, fair. We had a proper blow-out, and we do not regret a moment of it.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that Terborght, for all its awards and posh ingredients, has cheap(ish) menus served all year round, and its sister establishment, the Oud Dorp Bistro next door, is even more affordable. Just remember that temptation does have its price.

16-18 Oud Dorp, 1654 Huizingen, 02.380.10.10; www.terborght.be