Hof van Cleve is in an old house outside of Ghent, using several of the rooms as dining rooms. The wide wood plank floors and white painted ceiling give it the feeling of a farmhouse. The house windows look out on to the meadows and farms around it. It has a comfortable and welcoming feel. The tables are well spaced and service is friendly but the pacing is variable. We started with the house aperitif which was a sparkler mixed with elderberry. It rang up at 30 euros a glass, but was a good pour and nicely refreshing.
While we looked over the various menu options they presented a mousse of tomato and arugula, which was very tasty. Also a tomato tartlet with mozzarella and basil came out. It was nice but mildly flavored.
The next snack was sea bass with red rice and Asian flavorings. It was very tasty.
The bread tray included selections with spelt-ename, rye (Trappist from Westmalle), durum foccacia, camp rémy baguette, and wheat meule. The butter was lightly salted and good tasting. The spelt was a standout bread.
Wagyu was a nice bunch of tastes including a fried potato puff that gave good textural contrast. It contained oxtail meat and a poached quail egg. The only problem here was that the wrapper was tough to cut.
The chicken liver contained carrot, orange and marinated mushrooms. It was really good with the liver being exceptionally creamy. It blended well with the pieces of orange. A very thin cracker added a bit of crunch. A real Yum here.
Squid was served with roasted sesame seeds, herbs and buttermilk. The sesame seeds are a dominant taste and they’re good. A mild, fresh dish, it was nice.
The “North Sea” crab was mixed with sorrel, wasabi and hijiki. The mild taste of the crab mixed well with the various other flavors, apple vinegar, dashi juice and avocado. The second smaller bowl had a stronger taste of crab mainly because of the broth. The noodles in the bowl worked well with the dominant Asian flavors here, seaweed, tofu, sesame, oil of citrus and the juice of North Sea crab.
Dune asparagus were mixed with chicken, smoked eel and fresh green peas. Also included were cream of parmesan and chicken stock. The chicken was a crispy, moist piece of wing and the asparagus were white without a hint of bitterness. The chicken stock was strongly flavored and very aromatic – excellent. Everything here mixed together so well producing a wonderful set of flavors and textures.
The line caught sea bass was cooked perfectly and plated with cockles, bear’s garlic, peas, the juice of clams, mushrooms, green herbs, feta cheese and romanesco. The nice sauce included a bit of browned butter that had been drizzled on the fish. The sauce really brought out the best in the fish and the feta cheese was an interesting addition that really worked. The cockles brought a little brininess to the taste but it didn’t take over. A total success.
The langoustine dish took a little time to get out and so they brought out a tartar of langoustine with fennell to bridge the gap. It was very good.
The perfectly cooked Langoustine ‘Guilviniec’ was plated with artichoke, bouillabaisse, eggplant and chick peas and then topped with crispy fried leaves. A very nice dish again.
For the squab you first had to chose a knife from a selection made for the restaurant. All were made with handles of recycled materials and carbon steel blades. The choosing usually elicits a chuckle as one handle is made from the bone of a walrus penis. We chose an ivory and a wood handle. The Squab ‘Anjou’ was plated with cauliflower, broad bean and morels. The very tender meat was served alongside a crispy roll filled with more squab with tandori sauce and dominated by Asian flavors. Everything once again blended perfectly together and the sauce (cream of pigeon juice with sage) on the bird was particularly tasty.
‘Organic’ pineapple was served with curd, hammam (green) tea, tapioca, passion fruit, and butternut squash. The sauce was made from blood orange and red fruit infusion tea and was absolutely exquisite. But then so was the pineapple and I particularly liked the addition of tapioca, it made the texture sing.
Chocolate Van Dender ‘Madgascar’ 72% was mixed with matcha (green tea), kumquat and a sauce of sea buckthorn. A really fun dish made with cold ingredients and mostly smooth textures. Very, very nice!
Chocolate and sweets was an inadequate description of the dessert cart. Filled with homemade tarts and crispy, buttery pastries it was a sweet lovers dream. Snowballs (like beignets), Madeleines and custards – I couldn’t tell you all we selected to try but I can tell you it was all delicious.