Flying the flag for a great family tradition in the Ardennes

This year’s Belgian Grand Prix is fast approaching which is always a good excuse to discover the country’s beautiful Ardennes region.

If you are among the thousands who find themselves in this great part of Belgium in a few weeks then it’s not just the F1 drivers you should look out for.

While in the area you’d do well to also check out a delightful restaurant, located just a few kilometres south of the famous Spa Francorchamps race track.

La Ferme de la Reine des Prés is a real fixture in these parts and not without good reason. It’s been run by two generations of the same family for many years.

Jean Minguet, described as a “typically hard working Ardennese”, quite literally rebuilt the long abandoned mill (dating back in the 18th century) which now houses the restaurant.

His son Jean-Paul and wife Sonja took over the reigns many years ago and, with their retirement fast on the horizon, the family story is set to continue with the couple’s sons, 22-year-old Laurent and Vincent, 26, due to take things over in a couple of years.

While it may soon be all change in terms of ownership, some things remain decidedly unchanged and that includes the quite wonderful setting which is probably the USP (“unique selling point”) of this eatery.

Located just off a main road, it overlooks tranquil forest and a small lake. If the setting is delightful so too is the cuisine, a responsibility evenly split between Sonja, who comes from St Vith, in the German speaking province of Belgium, and her Maastricht-born husband.

Starters include scampi in a creamy soup with carrot and coconut sauce, salmon tartare and goats cheese while the mains choice currently features a ravioli of fish with sweep peppers, chicken waterzooi and lamb filet served with honey and thyme. There’s a nice selection of deserts, including locally sourced cheese, and an equally impressive wine card. The menu is rotated every couple of weeks or so and there’s also an excellent “gourmet” menu (3 courses is a €40 and 4 is €48.50).

The “star” attraction here, though, is the trout  and what a choice there is with people travelling very long distances just to sample it.

The trout used to come from an old lake opposite the restaurant but, these days, it is sourced from fisheries nearby which is known locally as a “trout capital.”

The reason is due partly to the “extraordinarily” clean local waters where the trout are bred.  

The couple offer many different trout-based preparations. It can be served with everything from a buttery sauce to almond and raisins and port to seafood and white wine.

They ensure that the trout is never more than 2-3 days old when served and Sonja and Jean-Paul also make good use of the trout in lots of other ways.

Trout has been a mainstay of this restaurant from the very start even though lots of other seasonal dishes are served throughout the year. It remains a customer favourite and it’s easy to see why some diners come a distance to try it. Considering the high quality, the prices are very reasonable indeed, not least when compared with those in Brussels. One course is just €22.50 while a starter and main will set you back just €28.50.  A main and desert is €26.

A good value wine proposal includes  a glass each of a white and red wine (Chardonnay and Malbec Shiraz) which will increase the bill but only ever so slightly.

Laurent currently helps out with front of house duties before resuming his education at university in Maastricht.

The good news is that while Laurent and his older brother may have their own plans for the building (possibly turning it into a gite for large groups) nothing will change just yet.

Closeby is Vielsalm, located in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes and an ideal holiday destination for nature enthusiasts, mountain biking or a hike in the woods

So, if you find yourself down in the Ardennes for the big F1 race at the end of this month – or any other time of the year come to that – try to make a beeline for this very pleasant restaurant. It’s well worth the excursion!

La Ferme de la Reine des Prés

Route du Moulin, 128, Petit-Their, Vielsalm

080 215801

www.lafermedelareinedespres.com

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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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