Off Our Trolley
On the gastronauts’ bridge of broad horizons, Brussels looms large, radiating racy and irresistible attraction. It ranks third – after Paris and London – in the Michelin Cities Guide. We’ve loved bistronomique at Scheltema and adored haute cuisine at Comme Chez Soi, so now we’re lusting after haute bistronomique in the thoroughly upholstered intensely mirrored supremely polished Maison du Cygne on Grand Place.
This 17th century former guildhall is gilded to the nines with golden capitals, corbels and a monogram of the architect Pierre Fariseau’s initials. A gold footed and beaked swan emerges from the fanlight over the entrance door. Stone guilt free angels guard the mansard cum bonnet cum domed roof.
The restaurant is a room of dreams: of shape, form, textures and tensions. Ebullience, rather than restraint, is its theme. This is not one restaurant: it is multiple dining rooms, moods, scenes and dramas. The result of multilayered endeavours. Maison du Cygne is a lesson in what Jacqueline Duncan, the Founder and Principal of Europe’s first interior design school, calls “the very grammar of the profession”. That is, the history of design, furniture and fittings.
And what of the Belgo French cuisine? Benjamin van Malleghem, the Majordome, recommends an off-menu seasonal Flemish starter: white asparagus with buttery scrambled egg. We get it. Continuing the high protein diet, we select a low cooked egg accompanied by chervil and sea shrimps main course. Crème brûlée with Madagascar vanilla is a flawless construct filled with passion – and calories. The food is as ripe and original as the revamped interiors.
Opening with O+C Club favourite St Véran Maison Joseph Drouhin 2017, upon Benjamin’s suggestion we move on to Domaine du Colombette 2016. “It’s by a small yet distinguished winemaker. This Chardonnay is rich and full bodied,” we’re advised. And as gold as the architectural trimmings on Maison du Cygne’s façade. “In the 1980s, Maison du Cygne had three Michelin stars. We have recently relaunched under new ownership. We want it to have a relaxing atmosphere – something a bit different,” says Benjamin, pointing to the leopard skin patterned chairs and contemporary French paintings.
Another O+C Club favourite is the puddings trolley, a sweet chariot of temptation. A faded photograph over the bar shows the restaurant in the 1980s. The trolley – still in use – takes pride of place against a recognisable powerfully carpeted forcefully panelled overwhelmingly lampshaded backdrop. Maison du Cygne: it’s an encore, not a swansong.