WOW* Restaurant score Bar Nine Leuven:
Although very lively, to our opinion student city Leuven was short of a decent cocktail bar address. By that we do not mean your regular Pina Colada slash umbrella style bar but a cocktail address where lovers of genuine mixology could have their ways. Can Bar Nine at de Oude markt fill in that gap ? Read on and find out.
Asian restaurant Ming Dinasty at the Oude Markt is no longer. It has transformed into a hip and trendy bar, entitled Bar Nine, whereby ‘nine’ is referring to the house number where it’s located. Outside a covered terrace with cosy lounge seats immediately indicates that this is a mixology address that takes things serious. It looks contemporary, trendy and the local peeps and students are crowding up to get a glimpse of it and sip cocktails while observing the passer-by at the Oude Markt. So far, so good. Inside the mood is nightly with fluorescent lights and Asian references without being kitschy. But this is not a cocktail bar pure sang. It is also a lunch/dining experience as well. The formula kind of goes as follows: you can have lunch or dinner and as of 10:00 pm a live dj turns up the vibe gradually and the restaurant setting is replaced by a cool bar/clubbing atmosphere. And ideed, when we walked in on a sunny summer day around 07:00 pm, it really felt as a cosy restaurant with serviceable staff serving dinner just as in any other good restaurant. After hours lighting started to change in all discretion and a dj emerged quietly. It all went very smoothly. Peeps that were still having dinner, weren’t disturbed by it. It all happened in a very elegant way.
With the arrival of Bar Nine, the menu of the former Ming Dynasty is completely gone and replaced with Belgian and fusion classics: asperges à la flamande (white asparagus served with crumbled hard boiled egg and cleared fresh dairy butter poured over it with some parsley snips on top), carpaccio of Filet d’Anvers (thin slices of smoked beef) and other treats such as a homemade meatburger to name a few things. Stir fried tiger prawns with egg noodles and crispy vegetables in oyster sauce and sesame oil seem to be the only thing on the menu that has survived the transformation. The menu is certainly adjusted to the hip atmosphere of Bar Nine, let’s say party food but with an edge. True to the hype, we choose a gin-tonic from the extensive drinks menu to start. Hey, they even have a complete gin-tonic corner on the menu divided into citrus gins, floral gins and complex gins. We like ! There are plenty to choose from: small batch brands such as Buss 509 or Vl-92 but we play it safe and tasty with a Tanqueray Ten London Dry and Fever Tree Tonic, a combination that never disappoints. A lovely cocktail to mix yourself (now, that’s what we call true craftsmanship. This way we can properly dose the amount of gin and Tonic Water to our own taste) is presented with a zest of grapefruit in it with no over the top decorations. Just plain and simple oriented towards taste. The sophistication in the gin cocktails at Bar Nine has a reason: no one other than mixologist Manuel Wouters from the cocktailbar / cocktailwalhalla ‘SIPS’ in Antwerp has lend its expertise. The number of Tonic Waters to choose from is also quite impressive.
© Photo wowozine.com
Following a lovely gin-tonic we start with homemade North Sea shrimp croquettes, a classic. The filling is fluid and yummy based on a tasteful bisque, all packed in a brittle and firm crust. Together with this delicacy comes deep-fried parsley and to our surprise a very fresh and completely vegetable based spring roll with ladyfingers, cucumber, pickled red onion, lettuce and horse radish. This addition gives an absolute freshness to this tasteful classic that we like a lot.
Next are juicy pieces of tuna grilled on the teppanyaki together with quinoa and stir-fried vegetables, a far legacy from the Ming Dinasty. The stir-fried vegetables are a match made in heaven with the tuna. The Asian touch of this dish really pleases the palette and we savour it every bit. A delicate crust of white and black sesame seeds around the tuna packs a punch of taste. Lovely ! A full bodied glass South African Slent Farms Pinotage Shiraz (red) generates a rich aroma which goes perfect with the grilled tuna.
© Photo wowozine.com
Curious as we are, we also order the asparagus ‘Flemish Way’ with egg and butter sauce to share and judge. What follows is a dish that is an example of how this Flemish evergreen should be: asparagus cooked just right, enough crumbled egg to mix and a rich and tasteful butter sauce. The colours on the picture look quite funky but it was getting towards tenish and the mood then transforms into a clubbing atmosphere with blacklights. But that could’t change our cheerfulness with these Asperges à la Flamande.
The dessert presented by the chef was a mix of desserts on the menu. It was specially made to order and since it’s not as such on the menu we didn’t take a picture of it (sorry for that) but we have to say: we really enjoyed the perfectly glazed chocolate cake from Demeestere Leuven with a rich, chocolaty taste accompanied by a chocolate mousse infused with Havana Club 7 Años and an not overly sweet coulis of red fruit with pomegranate. Conclusion: Bar Nine is definitely worth a visit for those who want to have a top-spot for a complete evening out without changing locations. The setting at the Oude Markt with an abundant covered terrace is marvellous boasting a quality dining address, a really good cocktail bar and an elegant club all-in-one.