For its fourth season, visit.brussels is bringing back the Tram Experience from 21 August 2015 to 17 July 2016. Throughout the season foodie passengers will embark on a maiden voyage through the heart of cuisine offered by the best lady chefs.
Many of today’s big name chefs were captivated early in life by the pleasant aromas wafting from the kitchens of their mothers and grandmothers, those humble magicians of daily grub. They definitely knew how to get the most out of a simple stew, a frugal handful of vegetables fresh from the garden, or a comforting sweet, which was all the better for all the love they put into it.
This honest family cuisine inspired many of these chefs to embark on their career paths. While the men and women of today both do the cooking at home, too few women are calling the shots in our best restaurants.
Women’s cuisine is nonetheless rich in the subtleties and emotions we wish to share through the different menus that will be offered on board the Tram Experience during this 2015-2016 season.
In keeping with the spirit of openness to the world that Brussels is known for, besides the kingdom’s best lady chefs the Délice network of gourmet cities around the world were called upon. The line-up will thus combine the best with the best by bringing in lady chefs from extremely diverse backgrounds.
And, as in every year, the Tram Experience also promises a few (heavenly) surprises. All aboard!
A rich and diverse line-up
As in every year, the season is comprised of a series of menus rotating every four to six weeks. They are commissioned by the lady chefs and cooked on board by chef Denis Roberti who practised the recipes with the appropriate chefs. Each menu is sampled in the studio and validated by a tasting committee sponsored by chef Lionel Rigolet ** (Comme chez Soi, Brussels) prior to being served on board the Tram Experience.
A prestigious ambassador of Belgian cuisine
Arabelle Meirlaen * (Arabelle Meirlaen intuitive cuisine, Marchin) will get the ball rolling this coming 21 August. This almost goes without saying since she is unquestionably Belgium’s foremost lady chef, as evidenced by her Chef of the Year 2014 title awarded by the Gault Millau Guide of Belgium. Her cuisine is extremely personal and largely inspired by the plant kingdom so it seemed logical to open the doors of the Tram Experience to her right away this summer at a time when nature is fully expressing its flavourful richness and palette of many colours.
Local ingredients enhanced by a starred chef
Chef Mariangela Susigan * runs a restaurant called Gardenia, opened by her own mother in the 1970s. Located in Caluso, in the countryside northeast of Turin (Italy), the restaurant has its own garden full of vegetables, herbs, and spices which play an essential role in this chef’s cooking. Her style draws its inspiration from Piedmontese cuisine, while prizing emotion and creativity.
The holiday season promises to reveal one of the schedule’s big surprises. This woman has away of collecting stars, five in total, and yet she does not cook. Not a single customer of this great Belgian eatery will have escaped her notice, and yet she is hardly ever mentioned. She has spent her life at the side of two of the greatest Belgian chefs, but very few really know her. It’s safe to say that Laurence Rigolet, daughter of Pierre Wynants *** and wife of Lionel Rigolet **, does not like to be in the spotlight. Nevertheless, she is the one who welcomes and takes care of each customer at Comme chez Soi, the famous Brussels institution.
Start-ups of Belgian cuisine
2016 will get off to an auspicious start. Stéphanie Thunus * and Mélanie Englebin, named Discovery of the Year 2014 by the Gault Millau guide Belgium, are well acquainted and even went to school together. One runs Au Gré du Vent out in the country in Seneffe, and the other operates Cécila, a stone’s throw from Grand-Place in Brussels. One draws inspiration from family farm ingredients while the other is decidedly oriented towards the sea. Make no mistake: both run their respective restaurants with an iron fist in a velvet glove. Their cuisine is meticulous, perfectionistic, and inspired. They will author two menus where their dishes will intermingle with harmony and finesse. Two of tomorrow’s greats, the challenge is on!
A culinary icon still relevant today
Another new foray abroad with a legend of world gourmet history. However, nothing foreshadowed that Eugénie Brazier, daughter of modest farmers born in Bresse just before the dawn of the 20th century, would become such a legend. Opening her restaurant in Lyon in 1921, Mother Brazier would be the first woman to earn the highly sought-after three rosettes from the Michelin Guide in 1933. She would also be the first two-time three-star winner with her restaurants in Lyon and neighbouring Col de la Luère. It would take more than a half-century for such a feat to be repeated by the great Alain Ducasse.
Again it would be with her that a young Paul Bocuse, just back from the war, would learn the fundamentals of his trade while minding the cows, doing the washing up, and tending the vegetable garden. Mother Brazier is no longer with us but her image lives on under the leadership of one of France’s most talented chefs: Mathieu Viannay **. Chef Viannay, with his two stars and membership in the Grandes Tables du Monde, bought the La Mère Brazier restaurant in 2008 in Lyon, and modernized it without forsaking its roots. The famous spring chicken in half-mourning, Eugénie Brazier’s signature dish, is still there but now shares the stage with chef Viannay’s more modern offerings.
The Swedish-Mexican menu, a contrast of flavours
The menu – Puebla (Mexico) and Göteborg (Sweden)- will be one of great contrasts. Two cities that seem to have nothing in common, two chefs from very different backgrounds, terroirs combining land and sea, the Mexican sun and the harsh climate of Scandinavia.
Yet now cuisine is universal and these regions some of the most interesting chefs of our foodie world. Menus that will certainly be full of high-flying discoveries with Liz Galicia (El Mural de los Poblanos) for Puebla and Karin Andersson (Toso) for Göteborg.
North and South, an unprecedented collision of gourmet worlds
Next up is a new North-South culinary collision. Dishes coming from radically different places whose only common thread is the gourmet excellence that the Tram Experience requires.
On one side, the Cape Winelands (South Africa) are a cluster of villages located in the heart of South Africa’s most beautiful wine growing region and one of the most beautiful areas in all of Africa, just a few kilometres from the Cape. The village of Franschhoek, once founded by Huguenots who fled France, has kept the French way of life close to its heart. There you can find many vineyards bearing French names and some of the country’s best restaurants. Chef Michelle Theron runs a restaurant in one of these wine-growing areas : La Motte. It is one of the country’s ten best eateries, and for many it will be an opportunity to discover South African cuisine largely unknown to the general public.
On the other side, another woman of excellence, Svetlana Riškova, chef of Elements restaurant in Riga, the capital of Latvia. Svetlana has made her presence felt as one of the shining lights of Baltic cuisine, which is expressive and very close to nature and is full of surprises. Beyond the geographical contrasts, these two menus will offer above all a contrast of terroirs to be discovered right away.
An unparalleled culinary stage designer
To close out the season on a beautiful note, the Tram Experience has called upon a somewhat unexpected individual: the Belgian Bénédicte Bantuelle is not, strictly speaking, a chef. She defines herself more as an Artistic Director, a stage designer whose purview extends well beyond the kitchen. Bénédicte considers cooking to be an entirely separate artistic discipline. Only recently has she started to apply her multifaceted gourmet talent for the benefit of Agence La Bouche, which creates culinary concepts.
She is also Damien Bouchery’s partner. Together they cofounded the Bouchéry restaurant that has without a doubt become one of the most desirable places to dine in Brussels today. At Bouchéry, the approach is reflected in even the most minor of details: house breads and cheeses, natural wines, cuisine that is totally in step with meticulously selected seasonal products. Bénédicte had carte blanche to write the season’s last menu.
It’s highly likely she’ll be inspired by Damien’s cuisine but also that she’ll surprise with her inspired and unbounded vision of tabletop delights in a 360° approach.
A few key figures
- 10,000 to 12,000 meals are served on board each year;
- Nearly 300 tours per year;
- More than 25,000 km covered since the project was launched;
- Service is offered year round from August to July, six days a week;
- Six people on board: 1 driver, 2 individuals in the kitchen, 3 in the dining room;
- Already more than € 8,000 paid to Samusocial to date.
New for 2015-2016
The “Tram” and “Experience” menus
The major innovation for the next season is the menu which will now be broken down into two plans. The “Tram” menu corresponds to the current version, that is, six courses (three appetizers, first course, main course, dessert, bubbly, water and wine as desired). This menu will however be capped off with after dinner drinks following the meal.
The “Experience” menu addresses a comment made by some customers who would have preferred a longer gourmet experience exceeding the 2–2.25 hours currently offered. As a result, a longer session will be scheduled each Friday from now on. This one will include an additional dish for a total of seven courses (three appetizers, two entrées, a main course, and a dessert), still accompanied with water and wine and served over the course of more than half an hour. The “Experience” set menu will follow a somewhat different route to Dumon Square in Stockel. Here, too, an after dinner drink will complete the set menu.
It is the chef of the Tram Experience, Denis Roberti, who will author this additional dish, allowing everyone to discover the uncommon talent of this chef who has been preparing all of the recipes from the numerous starred chefs represented on board for three seasons.
The guest table
Another innovation has already been tested on a small scale last season and will be fully implemented this year. This is the guest table. This four-person table with host two couples who do not know one another at a discount price. Each seat sells for € 10 less per person than the regular price. Given the success of this configuration, it will be extended throughout the new season.
- Six course “Tram” menu € 95 (VAT included) per person excluding booking fees
- Seven course “Experience” menu 115€ (VAT included) per person excluding booking fees (Fridays)
- Guest table sold with at discount of € 10 per person
What’s included in the price?
- Six courses (three appetizers and three dishes (first course, main course, dessert)
- Bubbly, wine, still and sparkling water
- An after dinner drink
- Seven courses (three appetizers and four dishes (two entrées, main course, dessert)
- Bubbly, wine, still and sparkling water
- An after dinner drink
- Tram menu: approximately 2 hours – 2 hours 10 minutes
- Experience menu: approximately 2 hours 45 minutes
At the time of reservation, it is possible to select a vegetarian menu.
Tram capacity : 34 seats (7 tables of 2, and 5 tables of 4)
On board personnel
One host, two servers, a chef and assistant, and, of course, the driver. All Tram Experience drivers are volunteers and have been selected based on their great skill at driving appropriately in all circumstances.
On board WC
One WC is available during the tour