It’s rare that a marketing ploy concocted by a city’s tourism board graduates to become a gastronomic treasure, but the Brussels Tram Experience has done just that. Over seven years after it first hit the tracks as a temporary project to promote local chefs, this rolling restaurant shows no signs of slowing down and now has an impressive line-up of local Michelin-starred names ready to embrace the challenge of inventing a menu that can be cooked in a diminutive – and moving – on-board kitchen.
During a recent trip to the Belgian capital, this foodie tour was top of my to-do list. And it didn’t disappoint; by the time we clinked glasses on our digestif I was convinced that I never wanted to eat another meal within the confines of a stationary restaurant. The setting was both incredibly intimate and entirely charming, as staff expertly navigated the narrow confines and paused for bumps and bends as the tram wound its way through the city’s districts.
Maxime Maziers, the young Belgian who is head chef at the esteemed Brussels restaurant Bruneau, created the current menu (€200 for a six-course set menu, including drinks, for two people). My Brussels-based friends tell me that Belgians are characteristically confident but very humble, with less flamboyance than some of their European neighbours. Mazier’s menu of local and seasonal ingredients certainly reflected this, and she demonstrated the talents of la cuisine belge with finesse without showing off.
Hors d’oeuvres were served as the tram set off from central Brussels: the delicate roulade of caviar-topped crispy smoked salmon perfectly complemented by a dry sparkling Spanish Bonaval Extrem. Somewhere around the grand boulevards of the upmarket Woluwe-Saint-Lambert I was served a juicy bite of smoked eel, as we pointed out landmarks through the dusk. The tram then temporarily halted with a view of the expansive Stockel marketplace so the chef could plate up the roasted venison. A chocolate heart oozing a deliciously tart passion fruit sauce was a final reminder of what this city is most famous for. As the on-board host and head waiter Adelin Marette told me: “We want this to be a mirror to the best of Belgian gastronomy, and as long as people want to come we will keep rolling.” I urge you to get a ticket.
Maxime Maziers is chef until January 27, followed by Ugo Federico and Francesco Cury, head chefs at Brussels restaurant Racines, from January 29 to March 24.