Oh what a story it is. La Villa Lorraine is a true Brussels institution. Started in the 50’s, the restaurant received not 1, not 2, but 3 Michelin stars in 1972 under Chef Camille Lurkin. Talking of heritage, La Villa Lorraine was the first restaurant outside France to be awarded 3 stars.
The tide changed though during the 80s when La Villa Lorraine, after trying out several chefs, also loses its stars with the last one taken away in 2006. Up, up, up … and then a harsh decline.
Trying to cope with the changing times – and the changing clientele – La Villa Loraine reinvented itself (a bit, not too much) in 2009 by creating its brasserie arm, the Diptyque, there to attract younger and more hip clients. Because its one thing to rely on the ‘old guard’, something completely different to attract new clients.
Which brings us to today and its owner Serge Litvine, which took over in 2010 and decided to revive La Villa Lorraine and bring it into the 21st century.
La Villa Lorraine has always been a place where tradition ruled. Maybe too traditional for today’s dining expectations. Playing on the old and the new, Serge Litvine commissioned Jacques Garcia and Marc Bierman to come up with a decadent, luxurious, yet modern approach for La Villa Lorraine. A mix of deep purples, of modern glass, of traditional armchairs, and Mad Men cocktails is the result. The atmosphere exudes tradition with a cosmopolitan twist. Just like the cocktail list.
Our table was in the restaurant part of La Villa Lorraine, which has the most amazing mix of colours and Victorian feel to it (granted, when we went it also poured outside so the moody automatic lights only gave our restaurant experience an added kick). For a more casual dining experience, La Villa Lorraine Brasserie is just next door, and boasts the most amazing art. And for the rare sunny Brussels days the terrace looks very inviting and strangely secluded – probably due to the fact it borders the Bois de la Cambre.
Now we are coming to the best bit!
The food. Like the rest of the restaurant, the food also underwent major transformations under Chef Alain Bianchin (who regained a Michelin star in 2013). Today the kitchen reigns are under Maxime Colin who at only 26 (seriously, how can chefs be this young?!) is taking La Villa Lorraine to new culinary heights. Will he get a star soon too? Most likely if he continues to cook like he does.
The classic La Villa Lorraine dish is sole but trying to be different we opted for the more modern dishes. Although the classically trained skills of Chef Colin are visible and can be tasted throughout the menu. On our visit we had langoustines from the Isel of Læsø (Denmark).
We continued with Artic char (a first for me), then pigeon, and finally a concert of desserts. Oh, and just for good measure we also had a piece of Kobe beef. The food was clean, modern, well presented (oh boy!) and exploding with flavour. All ingredients are hand selected and sourced with the greatest care so I was expecting amazing. This surpassed it though and amazing just got better.
Spoiled? Pretty much!
And I have not even mentioned the wines …. Antoine Lebel (no less, awarded best sommelier in 2014) served us matching wines with all our dishes – heaven. To top it all off – start and finish – we also tasted the La Villa Lorraine specially commissioned champagne. Did I mention I could live off champagne?
Service with a smile
La Villa Lorraine is a well oiled machine. Employing over 70 people who all know what they are doing means that as a diner your only job is to sit back, taste, and enjoy. We were not one moment felt intruded on yet our dishes, glasses, cutlery appeared, disappeared, re-appeared … just like an orchestra that comes together in the end to perform a great concert. I guess 1 Michelin star does that. And it is such a joy to dine in style!
A bit of old … a bit of modern … a bit of purple. The snaps below sum up the attention to detail at La Villa Lorraine. Engraved butter? Check. Engraved cutlery? Check. House champagne? Check.
From the classic to the modern to the institution La Villa Lorraine has its old charm with a new twist. Expensive, yes. A treat. Very much so. And if I would be just a little bit younger, say under 28, I would most definitely take advantage of their Menu Jeune offer to try just about everything on the menu. Twice.
I would like to extend our thanks to La Villa Lorraine for organising this amazing meal and to the staff for hosting us and dealing with our endless questions and cameras with grace.
Disclaimer: as always, all opinions written are our own.
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