For two and a half years, this small and colourful shop has brightened the 9th arrondissement. Keur Pigalle invites us to revisit...
Let’s please our taste buds and start a food exploration in Europe and especially in Brussels, its capital city! At Hortense and Humus, it all started with the partnership of two inspired gourmets. On one hand, Nicolas Decloedt, the “botanist” chef from the table d’hôte Humus Botanical Gastronomy. On the other hand, Mathieu Chaumont, the mixologist from Hortense who made these walls – which used to belong to La Mercerie – an unavoidable place in Brussels. In this world worthy of a green theatre, between Liberty inspiration and resemblance to English tea rooms, they take us to audacious and tasteful discoveries. There, vegetables have the place of honour. In all possible and imaginable forms, staged in three services. Roasted beetroot, purples salsifies, buttermilk vinaigrette: Nicolas keeps inventing multiple combinations with Hortense and Humus. To go with them, no wine but cocktails. Well, obviously. By the way, they’re also seasonal. Like in a ping-pong game, the two associates imagine together a liquid and solid evolutive cooking which follows the seasons step by step. Hortense and Humus enthrals and surprises us, both in the plate and through the artistic direction, run by Caroline Baerten in a setting designed by Anne Goldschmidt.
Hortense and Humus, 2 rue de Vergnies – 1050 Bruxelles
Nicolas, who is behind Hortense and Humus?
Hortense and Humus is a common project. Mathieu Chaumont, mixologist, and myself, in charge of the cooking: it’s a true partnership. Caroline Baerten is the artistic director, in charge of the atmosphere, the plants, etc.
Why did you choose this name?
We kept the two names of our precedent projects. On one hand, the “Humus” from “Humus Botanical Gastronomy”, tables d’hôte for 4 years. On the other hand, “Hortense”, which is the name of the cocktail bar Mathieu has managed for 5 years in the Brussels city centre.
Can you tell us a bit more about your cooking concept?
At Hortense and Humus, we create a platform for top-level market gardeners and artisanal producers. It’s a seasonal cooking. We pay tribute to producers and to the product. A tribute to vegetables, they are more than a simple side dish. In the meantime, we offer a contemporary, light and very creative cooking.
Indeed, vegetables have the place of honour. Why did you choose to focus on them?
Their colours, textures and tastes are very diverse. It’s very interesting to imagine our menu around this! The techniques we can work on them are multiple. There is so much to do that we have fun working on them.
Do you have key dishes on your menu?
Every year, I’m very happy when it’s the season of white asparagus. I work on a very specific specie, grown in the fossil dunes at the border of France and Belgium. Its taste is between bitterness and natural sweet, it’s quite fascinating. Every year, I want the approach to be different. There is nothing fixed on the menu. It keeps evolving.
Can you tell us about your cocktails and the mixology part of it?
As opposed to wine, which is a final product, we create the cocktail – and it’s an advantage. So we can go exactly where we want to. We both worked on their realisation and use the same products in our dishes and in our cocktails. We are really careful and try not to waste anything. For example, we can infuse carrot tops instead of throwing them away.
What inspires and influences your cooking?
The main influences and inspirations mostly come from the world of art. Music – Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Godspeed You Black Emperor-, literature – Peter Verhelst, Umberto Eco, Stefan Hertmans – and fine arts – Jeff Wall, Bill Viola, Mark Rothko and Robert Mapplethorpe. I always want my preparations to be as pure as possible. Scandinavian and Japanese influences are never far.
Can you tell us about the setting? Who decorated it?
The decoration was made by the former owner, Anne Goldschmidt, who designed it for her tea room. Now Caroline is in charge of it. She works on fashion, takes care of the plants and she also makes pottery. So obviously she was in charge of everything related to crockery and ceramics here!
What is this green installation?
It was designed by Thierry Boutemy, especially for this place.
What are your future possibilities and projects?
We want to improve the experience of our guests. To refine our work in the kitchen, behind the bar and in the service, so they would feel more comfortable, like home. We want to be a quality restaurant, both as a restaurant and for cocktails.
We both worked on their realisation and use the same products in our dishes and in our cocktails. We are really careful and try not to waste anything.
Credits : Eve Campestrini @thesocialitefamily