Elckerlijc farm & restaurant (Maldegem)

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The Place

We discover Restaurant Elckerlijc in the fields of ‘het Meetjesland’,

a relatively unknown but beautiful region in East-Flanders. The restaurant is located in an old, beautifully renovated farmhouse with a view on the fields.

* Klik hier voor het Nederlandstalige verslag

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The interior combines self-made art with romantic, authentic furniture and the warm atmosphere of the farmhouse is kept well through the use of wood and dark colors.

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We travel to Elckerlijc on a rainy day in May, together with colleagues Be-Gusto and Le Gourmand Belge. We leave our vegetarian friends at home: today, meat will be the king and only the best quality will be served, prepared in the best ways. In restaurant Elckerlijc one does not come for fine & elegant cooking art, but for an exceptional no-nonsense kitchen based on fresh top-products.

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The chef

Peter De Clerq is a dynamic Belgian chef who manages the art of grilling as no one else. Passionate about meat, Peter knew at a young age that this beautiful ingredient would become his profession. Meat of the best quality and top-products became his trade mark and with the best preparations he delivers his costumers an unforgettable taste experience. He became world champion barbeque in 2003, something that no other Belgian chef accomplished since then!

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Peter is not only chef and owner of restaurant Elckerlijc, but also author of several barbeque books (BBQ bijbel, Basic BBQ, Just Grilling, …), a barbeque advisor and he also sells barbeque tools, spices and even has his own meat products (http://www.cocks.be). You can also find his products in supermarket Delhaize.
The authentic beef meat that Peter serves in his restaurant comes from top butcher Dierendonck in Sint-Idesbald; the lambs, chickens, spices, vegetables and fruit come from his own ‘Elckerlijc farm’ (http://www.elckerlijcfarm.be). During a visit to the farm we learn that quality is a philosophy here: the pigs are fed with a mixture of self-grown corn, steamed potatoes, Filliers leftovers, cheese whey and rice pudding and this is something you will also taste on your plate!

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The food

Because of the ‘home-grown-philosophy’ that Peter applies, you will only find amazingly fresh vegetables, spices and fruits (picked in the morning, served at noon) on your plate, together with meat and fish of the best quality. The meat (more than 20 beef varieties), the fish and the sea fruits are prepared on the large grill, in the outdoor oven or on one of the barbeques.

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The beef is matured with care, two till eight weeks, and is grilled above oak, beech or other wood chips with Geuze beer or bourbon fragrances. The meat gets a delicious tender structure and an extra smoked taste dimension, which is complemented with the characteristic flavor of each beef variety.

The table is laid cozily and a bowl of olives and homemade dried sausage invite us to join. A meal at Elckerlijc is started in style and the drinks menu with strong liquors, cocktails, beers and aperitifs surprises with a wide and varied range. If we want to start with one of the Gins (more than 20 brands), served with quality tonic and fresh herbs? As a civilized gin-lover you just don’t say no and soon our Gin Fifty Pounds is served, with Fever Tree Tonic and samphire. Fresh, gentle and a perfect start of our meal.

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The extensive menu (printed on a daily ‘gazette’) invites to sample various dishes and we start with a delicious pig cheek of the Elckerlijc farm, grilled above keg chips of Geuze Timmermans. The cheek is full of flavor, has a firm structure and is accompanied with a soft cream of carrot and parsnip and puffed rice.

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Next are a few slices of pigs smelt, home-smoked on pegs of Lambic and pickled (’Coppa di Kleit’). The soft Belgian ham reminds of her Italian competitor but gets its own & unique style because of the smoked aromas.

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Authentic grilled lobster shows off with aromas of fire spices and lovely herb butter. Sleeves are rolled up, napkins are tied and the delicacy disappears much quicker than anticipated. The aromas of the green herbs and garlic give the lobster the perfect seasoning; the fire spices deliver the smoked touch.

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Vegetables play an important role in Peter’s kitchen as well, and that is proven by our next dish: grilled asparagus from Spitsbroek is combined with bacon from the Elckerlijc farm, cheese whey, crumble cheese from Lotenhulle and a quail egg. We recognize Peter’s typical smoked grill flavor in the dish, supplemented by the greasy touches from the egg and the cheese.

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After these surprising dishes we’re ready for the real work: noble beef of the best quality, grilled above wood chips of Geuze Timmermans pegs. Making a choice between the more than 20 varieties is difficult, share & taste is the message. Boeuf Salers comes from France, is aged during 5 weeks and is known for its beautiful color and deep flavor. Galloway derives from Scotland, received 8 weeks of ageing and contains exceptional Omega 3. The amazing Rubia Gallega comes from Spain, had 7 weeks of ageing and is incredibly tender, well veined and with a delicious aroma. Every piece of these meats was exceptional, where the Rubia became the anonymous favorite.

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The meat is accompanied by fries baked in ox fat, which we would have liked to be crunchier. We also taste delicious vegetables, baked in the oven with rosemary for a Southern touch, and a fresh salad from the garden. We’re already looking forward to our next visit for the tasting of the other 17 beef varieties!

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There’s no room left for a dessert after this carnivore festival, but we cannot leave without tasting the Elckerlijc chocolate pills (in cooperation with Dominique Persoone): delicious hazelnuts, grilled on spices and covered with a layer of chocolate. A wonderful ending of a delicious meal!

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The wines

The international wine menu offers wines from different regions and at different prices. We taste a white Lirac, Domaine de la Mordonée with the lobster and the vegetables: a floral whine with enough strength to accompany the seasoned appetizers. With the meat we taste a Spanish Syrah, Durius 07 Natural Reserve from de Duero region. A full and embodied red wine that can compete with the aggressive meat violence.

The “Belgian Taste Buds” Experience

Restaurant Elckerlijc is a must for every lover of quality meat, home-made products and the best grill specialties. The price setting follows the quality of the products but the beautiful location, the extensive and surprising menu and the great philosophy will have you come back for more. A visit to Elckerlijc guarantees for no-nonsense culinary pleasure, and we consider this meat temple as one of our discoveries this spring!

Belgian Taste Buds:

– Food Buds 7.5/10

– Wine Pairing Buds 7/10

– Price/Quality Buds 7/10

– Service Buds 7.5/10

– Experience Buds 7.5/10

Thanks to Be-Gusto and Le Gourmand Belge for the pictures!

Restaurant Elckerlijc
Kraailokerkweg 17 – Maldegem
T: 050 71 52 63
http://www.peterdeclercq.be

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