Top notch regional cuisine - and you won't break the bank

Many of us will be familiar with the feeling. You’ve just enjoyed a nice meal but then the pleasure is overshadowed by the unexpected size of the bill.

No such unpleasant surprises await, however, at Le P’tit Troquet which prides itself not only on the quality of the food, but the transparency of its pricing policy.

Each of the starters are priced €15,the mains all come in at a very affordable €20 while a desert will set you back just €8.

It’s all very clear and “above board” with the same applying to the (very pleasant) wines which are available in four price categories: €20,€30, €40 and €50.

This also means that a very fine 3-course dinner at this lovely restaurant, which is located in the heart of the Ardennes, costs as little as €43 (an absolute snip compared with prices at Brussels restaurants) while a 3 course lunch is a mere €37.

You may not know it from the modern, stylish exterior but there’s actually been a restaurant here for no less than six decades although the latest reincarnation is largely the inspiration of owner/chef Gaetan Colin, who opened it about eight months ago.

Having worked in some notable Brussels restaurants, Gaetan brought an impressive CV and reputation as a brilliant cook to the Ardennes. He built his reputation as a chef at starred restaurants and has taken his talents and experience to a new and impressive level here.

The food, as ever the main thing, is top notch and, albeit it with a heavy French influence, reflects the emphasis Gaetan places on sourcing everything from local and regional produce (the vegetables, for instance, come from a local grower).

One example of this "go local" policy is found in the choice of starters and the snails from Namur (only a few kilometres away) which are served with smoked bacon and parsley.

Another recommendation for starters are the homemade croquettes de parmesan maison – delicious!

The mains list is relatively small but nonetheless a lovely balance of meat and fish and includes that old Belgian/French favourite, rognons served with mustard. The quality of this tasty dish can easily differ from one restaurant to another but, here, a lot of time/effort is invested (as with other dishes) in ensuring it’s perfectly cooked and presented.

The same criteria goes for the deserts which tend to be “more local” and include a very pleasant dame blanche.

Overseeing things in the kitchen (along with Gaetan) is Nathalie Tihon, the head chef, whose aim is to offer gourmet-standard cuisine but at very affordable and democratic prices.

Looking after things front of house is Quentin, another of Gaetan’s close collaborators who has himself worked at starred restaurants and, coming from Godinne, the nearby village, brings his local knowledge and expertise to proceedings.

As well as the restaurant, Gaetan himself is very much preoccupied with running a guest house just round  the corner (where he also lives).

Formerly the holiday home of Paul-Henry Spaak (one of the EU’s founding fathers no less!), the 5-bedroom B and B (“Le Richmond”) is ideally situated for a short break.

Gaetan used to serve just breakfast there but can now offer residents (as well as non-residents, of course) the opportunity eat lunch and/or dinner as well at P’tit Troquet.

The restaurant has, in the past, been known for being a great place to eat and its new owner is doing a great job in more than upholding that hard-earned reputation.

Both the restaurant, which has been tastefully refurbished with warm and welcoming interior colours, and guest house (less than 100m away) are both located in an enviable position on a bend of the sedate river Meuse which twists and turns its way through this part of Belgium’s French-speaking community.

Surrounded by the gorgeous foret de Profondeville, both of Gaetan's businesses are a mere 15km from the centre of Namur, the busy regional capital, and a relatively easy drive from Brussels.

If you are new to Belgium – or just wanting to rediscover the charming landscape of this particularly peaceful area – you’d do well to give this excellent eatery a try.

It is a very good example of the fine culinary traditions that are available outside of Brussels and, unlike lots of places in the capital, you’re guaranteed a lovely meal without breaking the bank!

Le P’tit Troquet

48 rue Grande, Godinne

082 611522

http://le-ptit-troquet.be

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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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