Essenciel (Leuven, Belgium)


The place

Restaurant Essenciel is a cosy and small gastronomic restaurant in Leuven. It is located in ‘de Muntstraat’ in the centre of the town, the most famous culinary street of Leuven. This small street is crowded with restaurants, from gourmet burger joints, to sushi places, Italian restaurants, Belgian brasseries, and much more. Essenciel is, together with Trente (which is located just in front the restaurant), the most gastronomic option of the area. It is housed in a (very) small townhouse, squeezed in between other restaurants.


The restaurant opened in 2014 and the interior was already renovated in 2016. Today it is contemporary, incorporating lots of wood and dark accents. The white linen was removed and diners enjoy their meal on the wooden tables.  The open kitchen is located at the back of the restaurant and is impressively small as well. The restaurant seats up to 24 guests.

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The chef & the team

Chef Niels Brants and his girlfriend Romina Charels are managing restaurant Essenciel. The young duo worked together at the famous restaurant Nuance (from Chef-patron Thierry Theys), where Niels was sous-chef during 2 years.


At a very young age the couple decided to live their dream and opened up their own restaurant, Essenciel. Niels is obviously carrying the signature of restaurant Nuance, but manages to give his own creative touch to his dishes. His kitchen can be described as a highly labour-intensive, precise, complex and flavour-driven cuisine. He uses lots of different structures to keep the mouthfeel exciting, and integrates creamy elements to add power. Presentation is important and flowers, fresh herbs, colours and different shapes are added to beautify the dishes. In the kitchen, Niels is assisted by sous-chef Jens Németh.


Romina Charels is in charge of the service and serves the guests with a youthful and professional enthusiasm. She is assisted by sommelier Bram Moens, who creates a delicate and very pleasant wine pairing to go with the chef his dishes.


The food

At restaurant Essenciel, guests choose the ‘Essence’ menu (4 to 6 courses) or dishes à la carte. A lunch menu (3 courses) is also available. Seasonal produce forms the basis and beautiful ingredients such as goose liver, langoustine, high quality beef or coquilles are often on the menu. We enjoyed the 6-course Essence menu in March 2016.





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Coffee & sweets:

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The “Belgian Taste Buds” Experience

Restaurant Essenciel is an essential reservation in the city of Leuven. The beautiful dishes from chef Niels, bursting with flavour, and the pleasant laid-back atmosphere make this a place you will definitely want to return to. It is truly impressive that a team of only four people (two in the kitchen, two in the dining room) delivers a gastronomic experience of this quality!

Belgian Taste Buds:

–        Food Buds                                                      8/10

–        Wine Buds                                                      8/10

–        Price/Quality Buds                                          8/10

–        Service Buds                                                  7.5/10

–        Experience Buds                                             8/10

Muntstraat 23
3000 Leuven
Phone: +32 16 29 06 00

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