Imagine a green oasis in the middle of the city center of Leuven. Just a stone’s throw from the Boulevard (de Leuvense ring) but allready so quiet that the only things you hear is the birds singing, the silent murmuring of the clients and some clinking glasses some now and then. Restaurant Cum Laude and the Garden Lounge (the terrace of the Faculty Club) at the Groot Begijnhof definitely are the place to be when the sun is out.
The Garden Lounge, the terrace of the Faculty Club is ranked within the top 5 of nicest terraces of Leuven.
Photos: wowtrendmagThe Groot Begijnhof of Leuven – sinds ’98 Unesco Heritage – is a well preserved beguinage and completely restored historical quarter founded in the beginning of the 13thcentury containing a dozen streets in the south of downtown Leuven. About 3 hectares (7.5 acres) in size, with some 300 apartments in almost 100 houses, it is one of the largest remaining beguinages in the Low Countries. It stretches on both sides of the river Dijle, which splits into two canals inside the beguinage, thus forming an island. The complete beguinage is owned by the University of Leuven and used as a campus, especially for housing academics. But of course academics need to eat, gather, party. So the Faculty Club was founded, a place to meet, organize parties and weddings and/or enjoy culinary with your company/family in a beautiful historical setting.
Since Faculty Club was established, the à-la-carte restaurant Cum Laude has already been included in the Michelin Guide for 7 times. And in 2015 it was awarded with two forks. Each year the chefs reinvents himself and the kitchen gets better and better. The French-Belgian cuisine that chefs Lars Vleminckx and Tom Vanhoegaerden are serving is refined, light and centered around fresh products according to the rhythm of the seasons. Whatever you choose: you will always taste a kitchen that is creative and innovative in harmony with the culinary tradition. In short, at Faculty Club you enjoy delicious, good and healthy food gastronomy.
Before we head of to our chosen dishes we enjoy a gin tonic with cannelloni from black radish filled with meat of north sea crab, Granny smith, pickled radishes and jelly of samphire as an appetizer. The plate looks like a piece of art definitely when steward Koen Devos gives it an extra green touch when he elegantly pours coulis of watercress around the cannelloni. The combination tastes light and fresh in the beginning and develops to a real explosion of flavours.
As starters my colleague chooses ‘Lobster – grilled asparagus – bell pepper and bell pepper butter’ whereas I choose ‘Wagyu “5” – Avruga – garden herbs – parmezan’. The lobster, asparagus and bell pepper combination tastes heavenly. The asparagus are all dente and perfectly grilled. A good choice because the grilled flavour adds the perfect touch to this lobster dish.
The tartar of Wagyu beef looks great on the black plate. However tastewise the dish cannot convince us. The tartar is not as smooth as we would expect it, misses some seasoning while the Parmezan biscuit as such is too salty and the pea shoots give the dish a bitterness that combines strangely with the rest. The best thing about this starter is the Avruga caviar. Some delicacy you simply can’t resist.
Our main dish is Sole ‘meunière’ accompanied by a fresh, well seasoned vegetable salad. The classic tastes delicious. The sole fillet is not too thin or too thick. It is well sauteed but still juicy enough inside. It was served in clarifiedbutter – as it is done regularly – however, we would suggest all restaurants to give the customer the option of getting the butter separate so the dish would net get too greasy.
Our colleague orders Filet pur ‘blonde d’Aquitaine’ with spring vegetables and bearnaise. He orders the meat ‘medium well’ but unfortunately it is further than well done and really is too dry. But the fresh vegetable salad served with the Sole Meunière adds up for that.
As well does the dessert: ‘Banana – origin chocolate – banana sorbet – date – and cashew nuts’, a modern and heavenly interpretation of a banana split.
The verdict: With prices ranging as from 33 euro for the Wagyu tartar, 39 euro for the Lobster asparagus starter and 41 euro for the Filet pur ‘blonde d’Aquitaine’ with spring vegetables and bearnaise prices are rather high but the location is unique and the service is legendary. Even if you request something that at first sight doesn’t seem possible the waiters try to make it happen. At Faculty Club and the Garden Lounge, the impossible becomes possible.
Faculty Club with Garden Terrace & Restaurant Cum Laude, Groot Begijnhof 14, 3000 Leuven, tel. 016 32 95 00, www.facultyclub.be