[Leper, Belgium] Ariane

As well as being the best hotel in town, the Ariane’s restaurant is probably the best in Ieper itself. There are other excellent places in the surrounding area – the Michelin 2* Hostellerie St Nicolas at Elverdinghe, which will serve you rich and elaborate dishes, or the 1* In de Wulf at Dranouter, where it’s a multi-course tasting menu heavily featuring local and seasonal dishes. In fact, our original plan had been to eat at In de Wulf, before it closes for good at the end of the year, but circumstances forced a change.

So, it was at the Ariane that we ate that night. And only a main course. There was a lovely amuse bouche (or whatever they would say in Dutch). A few shards of Parma ham and a mini-cornet filled with a melon sorbet, topped with a Parma ham mousse. A classy take on the classic combo.

One main course featured poached halibut. OK, it was a tad overdone, just on the point of starting to go a bit mushy, but it tasted absolutely fine. It came with decent, non-sloppy mash and asparagus, together with a garnish of brown shrimps and watercress. A creamy shrimp sauce brought it all together.

Ribeye steak was flavoursome and accurately cooked. It came topped with herb butter and was accompanied by some stirfried veg – green & white asparagus and mangetout. Spuds came, most oddly, in the form of hash browns – the sort that appear on hotel breakfast buffets, having been taken from the freezer and thrown in the fryer. Incongruous in a place of this general quality but that would be the only foody quibble.

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“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold