More often than not, the restaurants in places people have never heard of, tend to be the most exciting and surprising ones. My favourite restaurant in Europe, La Source in Lanaken is rather difficult to get too. Ynyshir Hall in the middle of the Welsh countryside is even harder and now there’s a third to add to that list. De Leuf. A Michelin starred restaurant in the Netherlands in a town called Ubachsberg. Perhaps the easiest to get to of them all, but for non drivers like me – less so.
With plentiful on-site parking, we approached the doors of the restaurant, snapping photos of the resident garden members. A mother and daughter browsing a menu with some canapés next to them and a waiter making his way over to them with who knows what delights.
Perhaps my only reservation about De Leuf is that the dining room could be updated a little in the future, to match the modern food they serve. Though saying that, I’d hate to lose the cosy feeling you get from it currently so they would need to strike a good balance between the two. There’s also a nice lounge with roaring fire, perfect for sipping on a glass of Champagne before your meal.
We kicked off our meal while browsing the menus with some crunchy biscuits breads covered in sunflower seeds and some rather astonishing prawns crackers with a Colombo curry and coriander dip. Vivid green, rich in flavour and a smooth texture which coated all corners of the mouth. A beautiful introduction to the cooking and it paired wonderfully with a bottle of local Muller Thurgau which came from vineyards just across the road. There’s a lovely terrace for the summer months too, complete with more of the sculptures we saw on the way in, this time a birdcage and birds.
Opting for the lunch menu of the day, we started with two gorgeous amuse bouches, but one in particular really got me excited. A small bowl of lacto fermented Winter vegetables with a good helping of parsley oil and a lovely creamy foam and sauce. The other small taster was a surprise off the menu and while my memory doesn’t quite remember its ingredients, I can recall its flavour was every bit as good.
The first of our larger courses actually turned out to be not just my favourite dish of the meal, but of the entire year. A perfectly presented plate of yellowfin tuna which sat in a rich dashi sauce and topped with an avocado cream, chives, bergamont and radish flowers. If there is one dish De Leuf should never remove from their menus, it’s this.
What excites me most of all about De Leuf is the potential still yet to come. Currently going through a transition, the kitchen is at this moment under the guidance of talented chef Bas van Kranen, but that’s all about to change. One of De Leuf’s family members and current chefs, Robin van de Bunt is about to take charge as head chef. Robin is currently on a round the world six month tour, recipe hunting and ingredients searching. Just imagine the skills and new flavour inspirations he’ll be bringing back with him. Of course sad news on the departure of Bas, though I look forward to following him in any of his new ventures. Another dish which really set the bar high was this beautifully cooked pigs cheek rendang with a ferment sambal and a squid ink blackened steamed bun which is served on the side. It was all utter heaven, faultless in fact.
Pre-dessert was a liquid version of the classic almond florentine and it certainly didn’t let us down, while dessert took a few seconds for me to get used to. A mix of hemp seed, yogurt whey, caramel and sourdough. At first I couldn’t quite decide what I thought of this dessert, with its almost breakfast like mix of flavours. But after just a couple of bites, the sweetness of the dish and the different textures make it all become rather addictive and not at all heavy. In fact it was the perfect way to end our meal.
Wondering if we were ever going to be able to move after all of the food we’d just consumed, petit fours arrived and I as always – couldn’t resist. Classic Bordeaux canelés, mini lemon meringues tartlets and chewy nougat squares. Each textbook perfection and absolutely delicious.
I didn’t really know what to expect from De Leuf if I’m completely honest, but with a recommendation from a friend who has been returning time after time – that simply couldn’t be ignored. De Leuf completely surpassed my expectations and easily fits into one of my best restaurant experiences in quite some time. I can’t wait to see this restaurants menu evolve when Robert fully takes over and hopefully return very soon. I’m already missing it.