When we enter ‘L’Amandier’ into our GPS on a sunny summer’s day, we are already mentally on our way to sunny places. Because admit it, who wouldn’t want to sit under an almond tree? Half an hour later, leaving Leuven, we arrive at the beautiful restaurant just across the language border in Rixensart near the equally beautiful ‘Lac de Genval’. It is the home of the Volkaerts family, where the son of the family has worked his way up in temporo non suspecto to become one of the greatest culinary talents our country currently knows. More than time for a discovery!
Who looks at the culinary course of Martin Volkaerts, almost falls over backwards for the letters of nobility. Martin has literally been spoon-fed the culinary arts, for his father Marc’O Volkaerts has been running the family restaurant L’Amandier since 1991. But after his chef studies at the hotel school of Namur, he became an apprentice with the big names in gastronomy both at home and abroad. Follow this: L’Air du Temps by San Hoon Degeimbre (2*), Nuance by Thierry Theys (2*), Pastorale by Bart De Pooter (2*) and finally a passage at Quique Dacosta in Spain (3*). Just to say that this young man does not come unshod on the ice…
Coming home in a beautiful setting
When we arrive at the cosy and at the same time modern building, we are immediately taken with the concept. At first glance, you enter a family house, but at the same time the architecture is sleek with large windows and beautiful modern chandeliers made in Belgium (by the Belgian brand Art Maker). We are escorted to our table, which gives us a splendid view of the cooking island that could actually have been in the better modern living room. It ensures that you can see the kitchen brigade at work in a very intimate way. But the chef Martin immediately comes to tell us that we better not get used to this scene because at the end of August the door of this building will be locked forever. Together with his family, Martin has bought a new building and from then on it will be the new playground of L’Amandier.
When we are just seated, the friendly sommelier William Georlette, comes to invite us to taste his house cocktail or his gin with homemade tonic. While my partner goes for the house cocktail, an original version of a spritz, we let ourselves fall for the delicious gin and tonic. The appetisers that accompany it look tasty and are a nice warm-up for what’s to come.
The first dish immediately puts us in the right culinary mood. The chef chooses a carpaccio of white tuna with a little cheese and currants. The combination is remarkably fresh and berries provide the nice acidity that brings this dish to a higher level. Very tasty!
We can immediately classify what follows as a ‘signature dish‘: calf tartare with a caviar espuma. The tartare is of course cut according to the rules of the art, but the espuma makes the dish mindblowing. By adding the caviar, we get an ash-grey cloud over this dish with a gigantic explosion of flavour at the same time. Miraculous.
On a walk in the garden of L’Amandier
On the menu we see ‘Jardin de l’Amandier‘. It turns out to be not just a dish but a true experience. Smiling with pride, the chef takes us to his herb and vegetable garden just next door. Here, they resolutely focus on vegetables from own cultivation, while a little further, the bees buzz, from which they also make delicious honey. At the table, we get about half the vegetable garden on our plate. But again, this vegetable dish is elevated to a work of art. Not only does the plate look like a little painting, but the young team gives it a super twist by smoking it, which provides an intense taste experience of Martin’s garden. Kudos for so much craftsmanship!
After the garden visit, we return to earth and sea. First, the chef conjures up a tasty plate with a nice piece of turbot with tasty beans. When the main course arrives, we are once again blown away: a slowly cooked piece of Malines Cuckoo with a tomato soup takes us to higher spheres!
The L’Amandier team then comes up with the cheeseboard. But who thinks of a classic plate with different cheeses: think again! We get 3x cheese which is beautifully culinary elaborated in appetizers with an espuma, a grilled goat’s cheese and a cheese puff. Wonderful!
For the final, the chef chose a beautiful and balanced dessert with cherries and white chocolate. It would be the perfect starter for the dessert trolley that William will proudly present. The selection of home-made delicacies is overwhelming, but at the same time it is the conclusion of a wonderful evening.
Conclusion: our experience at L’Amandier has so far beenone of the best food experiences of 2022. With the emphasis on experience, because apart from the delicious food, they also think about the total experience with a visit to the vegetable and herb garden, all in an intimate setting. The chef showed his mastery, with which this young man in his thirties has already manoeuvred himself to the Belgian culinary top . He and his team already have the future ahead of them. And in the future building these talents will undoubtedly be able to shine even more! We are looking forward to it!
- Apostrophe rosé wine from Provence, domaine Les Terres Promises
- Cuvée T bianco. Cantina tramin kellerei. White wine from the Dolomites.
- Timmermans beer, white lambic
- Gamuto “les têtes” Gamay, muscat fermented together before pressing
- Los cabos de Urbezo, Spanish grenache from the Tarragona region
- Valgrays white wine from Tarragona also chardonnay, white grenache and muscat from Alexandria
Address: 1332 Rixensart
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