Restaurant De Jonkman in Bruges, founded in 2006 by chef Filip Claeys, has established itself as one of the best gourmet restaurants in Belgium. The two-star restaurant, located a stone’s throw from Bruges, has been molded over the years by Filip and his wife Sandra into a culinary hotspot. Recently, we were allowed to experience this. It became a culinary journey like we hadn’t experienced in a long time.
With a passion for quality and sustainability, Claeys and his team focus on using local, seasonal ingredients to create innovative dishes that showcase the best of Belgian cuisine. Filip has always had a huge “besogne” for sustainability. So it should come as no surprise that he is the founder but more importantly inspirer of The Northseachefs: an association whose higher goal is to promote fish from the North Sea including less popular species. Filip and the team at De Jonkman were recently rewarded for this with a green Michelin star. But back to De Jonkman. Because despite the fact that Filip loves working with fish, he is at home in all markets.
Claeys’ culinary expertise was indeed honed while working as a sous chef at star restaurants such as Oud Sluis and De Karmeliet. He also took a specialization course in patisserie at Ter Groene Poorte Brugge and studied at the prestigious Hotelschool Ter Duinen. From the moment he opened his own restaurant, one recognition after another followed with thus in addition to two stars the facade also the prestigious title of Chef of the Year 2015.
a memorable dining experience
But beyond the accolades and accomplishments, what sets The Jonkman apart is its commitment to creating a memorable dining experience for every guest. The restaurant’s elegant decor and warm ambiance provide the perfect backdrop for Claeys’ inventive dishes, which are both beautiful and delicious.
Time, then, to begin the banquet. The tone and approach of Filip and Sandra and by extension the entire team is immediately said with the equally simple and beautiful motto handwritten on the menu: “Enjoy”. Enjoy already does when the first beautifully elaborate amuses appear on the table. The chef’s genius is expressed, for example, in the snack that comes straight out of a waffle iron, but in the shape of a shell. The blini of whelks is both inventive and a real mouth pleaser. The amuses are accompanied by a beautiful champagne cuvée Brut Nature from the house Assaily near Avize, a sleek blanc de blanc with zero dosage, or in other words no added sugars.
Attention to top local products
When we get to the first oyster appetizers, Filip shifts up a gear. Highly personal and with great pride, he explains why he enjoys working with these products so much: “I very much enjoy working with the flat oyster Ostendaise, from the Spuikom between Ostend and Bredene. It is the only oyster farm in Belgium. Something we can be very proud of. The typical thing about this oyster is that it is very flat because in the Spuikom you have a nice mixture of salty and fresh water because they open the sluices of the sea regularly. This gives you a beautiful and full oyster. It’s a wonderful product.”
The splendor of the product is sublimely highlighted in a duo preparation. We get both a fresh preparation of the flat oyster “Ostendaise” with millefeuille of occa root, mousseline of sorrel and is finished with a vinaigrette of cardoon and a lukewarm preparation with a lentil salad at the bottom, finished with a puree of potato and vanilla and on top of it the Imperial Heritage Caviar. Another product from a Belgian house that Filip enjoys working with (n.v.d.r: Caviar produced by the Belgian Colman family).
Another highlight of the menu is Filip’s preparation of langoustine. These are grilled crisp fresh on the Big Green Egg in Filip’s kitchen and given a delicious mousseline of white beer. The crispy fried hop shoots provide just the right bite to this dish. An absolute hit.
But still looking forward to the “catch of the day” as Filip describes it on the menu. The turbot here is not served in the classic way but as a kind of prescallop made of the lesser known/used parts of the head of the turbot such as the cheeks, throat, … On top is a crisp made from the skin of the turbot, capuchin asparagus and finished with a buttermilk beurre noisette. This dish, which by the way is a true flavor bomb, is the expression of Filip’s vision to have as little “waste” as possible. Quod erat demonstrandum.
The culinary journey further took us past an exquisite but mostly slow-cooked rack of lamb, a refreshing duo of dessert and an elaborate cheese cart that did cause us some form of stress that evening: choice stress.
Help in all this also to the dining room team who work at a very high level as well as we would like to give a special mention to the sommelier and his excellent wine pairings!
For those seeking a culinary journey through the best of Belgian cuisine, Restaurant De Jonkman is a destination not to be missed. With its exceptional dishes, warm hospitality and commitment to sustainability, it is truly one of the pearls of Belgian dining culture. Keep up the good work, Sandra, Filip and team!