Chef lays foundations for new career in culinary trade after abandoning career as an architect

A few years ago Simon Vanden Broucke was destined for a career as an architect - but this talented young Belgian is now laying the foundations for a very different future – as a chef.

At the still tender age of just 22, Simon is (in tandem with his father Michel) running his own restaurant on the outskirts of Brussels.

It may be a far cry from the job originally earmarked for him but Simon’s not complaining.

After abandoning architecture and attending a leading catering school he hasn’t looked back.

“I’ve certainly no regrets,” says Simon who is now in charge of the kitchen at "32 Chemin de l’Herbe".

From here he produces some very tasty and attractive dishes, something that has reinforced the excellent reputation of a restaurant that has actually existed for well over 20 years now.

Now is a particularly time to visit as Simon and Michel have recently introduced a new seasonal menu which very much takes into account the onset of the game season here in Belgium.

The fixed card features some delightful starters, including foie gras in ravioli flavoured with truffle oil; St Jacques with peas and black pudding; chicken “bao” in a pitta; shrimp croquettes and something called a “perfect egg” with girolles and shrimps.

There are several grilled dishes such as burger made from 100 percent beef, filet of beef and filet Americain.

For mains, guests have the choice of some lovely game dishes, including young guinea fowl with wild mushrooms and wild duck filet with a cream of carrot and old port sauce.

There’s also deer with parsnip and, if meat isn’t your thing, a couple of excellent fish dishes: smoked salmon with cauliflower and “comte”, an old cheese, and cod filet in a crust, served with a risotto of tandoori spices.

The a la carte tends to be most popular but there’s also a fixed menu, priced a very reasonable €48, with consists of a choice of a couple of starters and mains (hare with mustard sauce and Liege syrup or salmon).

If you want to push the boat out a bit, you might also like to sample some caviar for a relatively small supplement.

The restaurant, which is closed on Monday, does a particularly lively lunch trade, attracting not only locals but people from Brussels.

If you are in the area you might like to know there’s a great value-for-money lunch menu, priced a mere €18 which offers, for starters, either fried clams or foie gras and, for mains, either pintade with a fig sauce, grilled gambas or lasagne.

There is also a very good wine card and some lovely deserts to conclude what almost certainly will be a very satisfying dining experience.

It all takes place in a rather splendid setting, in an oak-beamed dining room which oozes character.

A terrific terrace overlooking rolling countryside is very popular in the summer while a roaring open log fire makes for a perfect backdrop for a visit in the autumn and winter months.

The restaurant, located near Wavre and the motorway network, is literally a “home from home” for Simon: he was actually born in the property which has been the family home for a long time.

If pushed, he readily admits to always harbouring ambitions for a career in the culinary trade.

He says his interest started as young as 14 and now, after four years in charge of the kitchen here, this former would-be architect now clearly has designs on another trade.

There’s a reassuringly traditional feel to this fine restaurant but the youthful Simon has also integrated a “modern touch” to things, notably in the preparation and presentation of the cuisine.

It you’re looking for a bit of treat this Christmas you really should give this place serious consideration.

Simon and Michel promise to produce a special menu for the festive season and, while the restaurant will be closed on December 24 and 25, there will be a takeaway/traiteur service on these two days.

It celebrates a special occasion of its own this year – its 25th anniversary.

Its army of loyal customers are agreed on one thing: here’s to the next quarter of a century.

32 Chemin de l’Herbe

1325 Chaumont-Gistoux

010 68 89 61

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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