Culinary Digest: The Tram Experience, Brussels, Belgium


What the experts say

John Brunton, The Guardian: Trams trundle all over the centre of Brussels, and one of the flagship Brusselicious events that will run from Tuesday to Sunday every week during the whole of 2012 is a futuristic white gourmet version. During a two-hour trip through the most beautiful parts of the city, guests will be served an haute-cuisine meal created by a legion of Belgium’s two-star Michelin chefs. Not cheap at €75 per person all-inclusive, but still necessary to book well in advance.

What the diners say

Alison Cornford-Matheson of Cheeseweb.eu: The first look at our table for four was a real treat. The tables are specially designed with cut-outs for glasses, plates and cutlery, to keep things from sliding around. The funky blue and purple lighting and glasses of champagne set the tone for a fun night.

The menu (marbled terrine of baby leeks and goose foie gras, codfish with speculoos and Blood Orange and Sangria jelly with a crispy biscuit) was conceived by Pascal Devalkeneer of Le Chalet de la Foret. Chefs and menus change regularly on the Tram Experience so there is always something new to try.

So what was our verdict? Was it the best food ever? No, but the menus are always changing and the experience was truly unique. The service was good and the wine was flowing freely. The atmosphere was lively and all around us diners seemed to be having a great night. We particularly enjoyed watching the looks on people’s faces as we passed by them waiting at tram stops. Overall, it was a fun and tasty evening we would certainly consider repeating.

Luxury Travel Beat’s verdict

Despite being at par with almost anything you’ll find in the highest echelons of Parisian haute cuisine, Belgian cuisine continues to languish in the shadow of its more famous sister. So it comes as no surprise that the Belgians decided to something about it this year.  Luxury Travel Beat donned their loose-fitting lycra travel pants and a beret and high-tailed it to Brussels in the name of travel journalism.

My friend and I turn up at Brussels’ Place Poelert at a quarter to ten on a Friday night full of expectations. None of us can say we’ve ever partaken in Michelin-starred dining on a moving tram, so as far as novel experiences go, this is up there with the best. It’s all part of the tourist board’s Brusselicious year, a year-long food festival which has already seen a series of pretty unique culinary events taking place in the Belgian capital so far this year, including the sky-high dining, which took place  during the whole of June, and featured a 22-person dining space suspended high in the sky from a towering crane above various emblematic sites in Brussels, as diners feasted on Michelin-starred fare.

At Place de Polaert, we are met by a crowd of people waiting for the tram, which is parked at the station,  to open its doors. We can already see chefs and waiters walking up and down the very well-lit, Electrolux-outfitted tram, and excitement among the waiting crowd is  running rife. By the time we’re welcomed inside, it’s already half an hour past the time we were meant to have boarded the tram. No one seems irritated by the slight delay though; why would anyone want to ruin a perfectly good once-in-a-lifetime experience?

Not long after we are all comfortable seated, the two-hour culinary journey, which takes you through the most beautiful parts of the city — though to be honest you won’t see much of the sights — sets off. Haute cuisine is front and centre on the Tram Experience, and a rotating cabal of Belgian Michelin star chefs the alchemists.

Starter

The starter is an interesting take on the popular salmon and asparagus beer. Although unremarkable in and of itself, it is the pairing of each course with Belgian beer that not only jazzes this one but all the ensuing courses up. Accompanying the salmon starter is the Deus Brut des Flandres, a sparkling champagne beer which completely takes me by surprise. Made from barley, it combines the best of beer and champagne production methods, being first brewed in Belgium using a unique recipe and techniques perfected over centuries of making premium beer, then refined in France using ancient techniques including riddling and yeast removal. This highly carbonated drink is best served cold.

The main is an interesting combination of foie gras creme brulee mushroom soup, oxtail, potato foam and artichoke. I must say I’m surprised by how well this different elements go together. Mostly because I didn’t expect all this elements to come together in this way. This course is accompanied by Blanche de Namur, a light, fine-bodied beer which has the distinction of being the world’s most famous wheat beer.

A simple dessert of pineapple, meringue and cream, accompanied by a fruit lambic beer completes the three course Tram Dining Experience. By this time, we’re about 10 minutes away from the Place Poelaert, which is also the en point.

Generally, I wouldn’t advice anyone try and achieve their sightseeing objectives on The Tram Experience, simply because outside of the long summer days, it’s usually dark by the time you board the train. Also trying to divide your loyalties between good food and Brussels sights will only result in you enjoying neither. Also, make concessions for the tram not being exactly on schedule, and the dining experience sometimes being enhanced by abrupt stops and wobbling. This is all part of the Tram Experience’s charm. Bon appettit!

The Tram Experience  costs €75 per person all-inclusive, and diners are advised to book well in advance as seats on this culinary tram ride sell out fast.  For this and other Brusellicious events, visit visitbrussels.be

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