It was about time a serious florist started serving food. The hairdresser is allowed to serve champagne these days, so why not. It exists, in Utrecht. Le Jardin: during the day it is a florist, but in the evening… (you have to think about Paul Jambers’ voice yourself).
The restaurant has a sleek design: stone floor, spotlights, tables covered with white linen on one side, but not on the other, and a very modest row of well-lit cacti along the wall. Outside it has a great terrace, where you can sit in the middle of the city between the greenery. There is a choice of a three to ‘seven dish menu’ that is very competitively priced: three courses for 29 euros, seven for 58. A la carte are starters between 7 and 12 and main courses 17 euros.
On the map
It’s not surprising that a florist puts a lot of emphasis on vegetables in the kitchen. There is quite a bit of protection in communication with that. Both on the website and at the top of the menu it states pontifically:
Let us lead the way in the ‘Vegetable Economy’.
* Vegetable-to-no-mie (de; v)
1. The art of good food and drink with vegetables as a starting point.
OK. Whose deed. The promise is largely fulfilled. Meat eaters also get at least three vegetarian dishes in a six-course menu. The amuse-bouche – corn, yoghurt cream, blackened string bean and radish served on such a ceramic saucer for under the flower pot – is cheerful and tasty. The first course is nice: a tartare of adequately prepared, fleshy tomato, with capers, pickles, mustard seeds and an egg yolk cream. An antiboise, cleverly turned into a dish.
A real steak tartare – a large plate of raw meat – would not fit within the philosophy, it is explained. Then we are served a huge slice of ox sausage, with sour and cauliflower in different colors. Looks nice, but not much else. For vegetarians, there are different types of garlic (spring onions and leeks) with an annoyingly bitter arugula pesto and sea buckthorn berries that are too sour. The crispy parmesan biscuit clashes with that quite a bit. It’s clunky and harsh. And so it mudds a bit all evening .
It’s all a nice idea, but I really wonder if the cook tastes the food. The cold soup of green tomatoes and coriander (served on a warm plate?) has been given a dash of vinegar, which leaves a very nasty, sharp sting in the throat. That little bit of burrata won’t help. Next, the ‘cassoulet without pork leg’ is a mountain of dry beans topped with chanterelles, over which a stock is poured at the table. If those beans don’t get the time to submerge themselves nicely in the stock (the idea of a cassoulet), it remains a dry heap.
The tender, juicy, gently stewed lamb with green peas, mushroom duxelle and a creamy mashed potatoes turned out well. But green asparagus in September? So much for thinking about vegetables. The ice cream for dessert (mango passion) is exquisitely twisted, fresh-sour and evenly soft in structure. A shame about the semi-hard mango slice that was burnt on the grill pan and the floury attempt at sponge cake next to it.
The operation is tight in the suit, is smooth and correct. The front therefore radiates more pretentiousness than the kitchen can deliver. The wines are not all equally interesting, but the service is nothing to argue with. I want to take the space to say that we have the nicest waitress ever who treated us to a private cabaret show and gave an even nicer answer to every smart remark from me. Although that is not a credit to the boss, he is very lucky with it.
Le Jardin is an impressive florist – with a diverse and cleverly displayed range of cut flowers, hanging plants and cacti. Unfortunately as a restaurant it is less impressive. They do do their best to take the vegetable as a starting point – for which kudos – and the prices are mild. But that is of little use if the board leaves something to be desired.