I have a thing for reality TV shows that feature professional chefs. It’s a platform to see who the next culinary rising star may be, with their careers kickstarted by endless challenges in front of a camera. I loved the US series of Top Chef (Padma Lakshmi is fire) and the UK series of Masterchef Professionals. Through these shows, I’ve followed chefs around the world and seeing them create art through food.
When I went to Lille, my free itinerary centred on where to eat. After consulting the interwebs, I came across Bloempot. Described as a Flemish canteen, it’s a project fronted by French Top Chef finalist Florent Ladeyn.
In his young age, Chef Ladeyn has already received a Michelin-star for his restaurant L’Auberge du Vert Mont – a kitchen garden cum country inn near Lille and Dunkerque. It’s a passion project and a great homage to the chef’s roots; a culinary statement showcasing Flemish cuisine. Le Bloempot in Lille is his “cafeteria” where he gets a bit more playful with the menu.
Tables at Le Bloempot are literally hot off the press – most of the seats get snapped as soon as a new month rolls in. They do, however keep one or two tables reserved for walk-ins. I had to go to the restaurant ten minutes before they officially opened for the day et voila, I got lucky.
The restaurant seats around 40 – it’s cosy and cool with exposed brick work and industrial feel. I loved the rustic feel of the furnishings with recycled wood, mismatched chairs and faux fur blankets.
The menu is a ‘surprise’ menu, similar to Detour in Paris. It costs 40€ for a ‘taste’ and 60€ for the full spectrum of dishes. I went for the latter option, because why not.
First up was a snack of cereal cracker with a mushroom mousse and microleaves. The cracker was light and crunchy, with the mousse packing great flavour.
Next up was a bowl of cured trout, gooseberry and mandarin juice. The fish was roughly seasoned, which I actually like, because it tasted so fresh. Citric notes from he gooseberry and mandarin juice lifted the flavour and it was a very clean starter. Refreshing, at most.
The next dish was a beautiful plate of Jerusalem artichoke with chopped smoked haddock and a watercress sauce. I’ve never had artichoke quite like this before and, to my delight, it was rather mindblowing. The saltiness of the fish was a nice hit of flavour, and the sauce was subtle yet fragrant. The whole dish was well balanced and was so good. So much so that it inspired discourse on how sustainable it really is to become proper pescatarians. Because I can eat like this every day.
Along came bread, homemade, served with beer butter. Guys, if you’ve not had beer butter before, I suggest you go find it and stock high piles of it.
We were then presented with a dish made with sweet potato, radish, more potatoes, a sprinkling of crisped greens and ‘acid milk’. I’m not too keen on starchy things unless they come deep fried or mashed with lotsa cream and buttermilk, so I wasn’t too sure about this surpassing the artichoke plate. That said, I was again, I was blown away.
After our big-ish small plates, we were given a small bowl of duck consomme with rutabaga noodles (that’s swede for you). I thought the flavour was too strong on this one, albeit surprisingly clean.
The main course arrives, and it’s a fillet of Flemish goose with blackberries, cured slivers of beetroot, and a thick jus. Flemish geese apparently almost became extinct, but luckily a few farmers decided to breed them again.
As you can see, the meat is actually cooked on the rare side. The whites haven’t rendered yet and I feared this might be slightly too chewy for my liking. Hesitantly, I sliced through the fillet and thought it was actually quite flavoursome, with the strong flavour of the goose tendered by the sweetness of the blackberries and jus. It is not my favourite dish of the whole x courses, but it was nice enough.
A small bowl of homemade pasta came next and boy, oh boy, it was a triumphant one. Cooked with cream and bone marrow plus a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, I could’ve easily gobbled bigger bowls of this. Be still my cholesterol and heart, this was ridiculously simple yet great pasta.
The cheese dish is Le Bloempot’s play on the Flemish tartiflette dish.
I do love Reblochon cheese and how rich and pungent it is. The new potatoes in the pot were cooked perfectly, too.
Our first dessert was literally a carrot cake. It’s a moist slice of carrot loaf topped with a carrot sorbet and thin slices of carrot, drenched in carrot juice. Perhaps the only non-carrot factor was the finger lime, which added a semi-bitter, semi-tart flavour profile. I liked this dessert without the lemon caviar.
As a palate cleanser, we were given some fruit jelly made with Flemish kiwi and parsley.
Finally, Bloempot’s take on salted caramel was as glorious as this millenial fave flavour. The milkiest panacotta with the most incredible texture sits next to a beautiful caramel sorbet. Actual breadcrumbs give texture, salted caramel drizzle add volume, and salsify chips create an extra dimension I can’t explain. This dessert was totes to die for.
Verdict for Bloempot
The bill totalled to 150€ for two – and that’s including a bottle of still water and a bottle of white on the side. I mean ain’t that fantastic?!
Service was polished, yet casual; friendly yet systematic. Everyone seems to know what they were talking about and it’s refreshing to hint on a feeling of pride from each and all of the staff.
The food was brilliant with excellent flavours and excellent quality. There are flavours that made me understand northern France a little bit more, with its Flemish influences. Defo a taste of Flanders.
If you have a weekend in Lille, definitely don’t miss out on Bloempot. I won’t be surprised if Chef Ladeyn earns another star for this outpost. It’s blooming amazing.
Bloempot: cantine Flamande
22 Rue des Bouchers, 59800 Lille, France
Ave spend pp: 70€