Belgium has come to Monaco with the opening of Smakelijk! – an authentic Belgian brasserie in the heart of Le Meridien Beach Plaza offering the best of this northern European cuisine.
From waffles to beer, fries to chocolate, Belgian food is some of the most mouth-watering in the world.
It is for this reason that General Manager Vincent Clinckemaillie and Culinary Director Chef Laurent Colin decided to transport Belgian cuisine 800 kilometres south to the Principality of Monaco, creating the first ever authentic Belgium brasserie at the Le Meridien Beach Plaza.
“The idea is to be very authentic and genuine,” Clinckemaillie told Monaco Life during a recent press lunch. “We have Belgian food, but we’ve also taken the Belgian hospitality. It’s all about friendship, authenticity, and simple but good food.”
Authentic Belgian cuisine in Monaco
Smakelijk, pronounced smaak-lek and meaning Bon Appétit in Flemish, aims to take guests on a culinary journey that is both familiar and exotic.
This journey should always begin with croquettes – a stand-out dish at Smakelijk that includes both grey shrimp and cheese croquettes. The tomatoes stuffed with shrimps and mayonnaise is another classic that you’ll find on any top-10 foodie list for Brussels. Grey shrimp are tiny yet flavourful, and hold a special place in the heart of Belgium’s seafood tradition.
Another menu highlight is the Liège meatballs, hailing from the south of Brussels, which are surprisingly sweet, sour and light; while the mussels in garlic and parsley sauce is always a crowd pleaser.
Chef Laurent Colin and his team have taken the best of Belgian cuisine and added a slight Mediterranean touch. For example, the humble ‘Eel in the Green’ dish is recreated here using cod fish, served on top of a vibrant, herby green sauce that is finished with vegetables.
Every good restaurant needs a signature dish, and both Vincent Clinckemaillie and Chef Colin agree that that it is the vol-au-vent – a famous, deliciously flaky pastry filled with chicken, cream sauce and mushrooms, and theatrically finished table-side with a burst of creamy sabayon. There are three variations here – the classic, a vegetarian option, and a gastronomic version featuring confit duck and pan-fried foie gras because this is, after all, Monaco.
Served alongside most dishes are fries – Belgium’s national pride – which are lovingly recreated according to tradition. Freshly-cut potatoes are cooked twice, firstly blanched to cook the inside, then deep fried in beef fat to cook the outside. The result is perfectly crispy, flavourful fries that are served with an array of sauces, like garlicky aioli and spicy samurai, promising a flavour-bomb with each dip.
The desserts at Smakelijk are equally decadent and comforting: the Brussels waffle served with chocolate and whipped cream; crème brûlée with vanilla from Madagascar; Callebaut hot chocolate soufflé; and speculoos cheesecake are among the proud ambassadors that can be enjoyed at any time of the day.
Getting the tick of approval
The Belgians are among the top five most prominent nationalities in Monaco, so there’s a certain amount of pressure on Vincent Clinckemaillie – who is not from Belgium – to get this right.
So, about a month before opening, and leaving nothing to chance, the general manager of just over a year took his team on a journey of discovery to Brussels.
“We visited the Grand-Place, we had a guide explain to us the whole story of how Belgium was built and the origins of the gastronomy; we tasted real croquettes and vol-au-vents in the city, and we had dinner with the ‘King of French Fries’ – the biggest seller in Brussels – who gave us some advice,” says Clinckemaillie.
“And I can say that we are not far off the best that we tasted in Brussels,” adds Chef Colin confidently.
The real test will come on 8th February, when Monaco’s Belgian community come together for a private gathering at Smakelijk.
“We really want to have the blessing of the Belgian community,” says Clinckemaillie.
Art nouveau style brasserie
Like the menu that is steeped in tradition, the brasserie itself has been inspired by yesteryear, but enhanced with a nouveau twist. Adjamé design studio has put together a décor that is full of character: a harmonious mix and match between kitsch and contemporary with leather booths, vibrant colours, striped prints and second-hand service consoles enhancing the vibe of this new gourmet adventure.
A taste of discovery with every sipserie
The epicurean exploration of Belgium continues with a curated selection of Belgian beers with infinite nuances of flavour: bitter, floral, citrus, spicy, herbal, fruity…
Head sommelier Jonathan Durante has also created an exclusive list of wines with a Brussels accent. Wine lovers are encouraged to discover new vintages and crus from the Gudule Winery, which produces only 100% organic wines.
It tastes good
Smakelijk is a wonderful celebration of Belgian gastronomy, of cheeky indulgences and the joys that only fries cooked in beef fat can bring. The motto: “ça goûte bien” (it tastes good) is all that matters here, and for a place like Monaco, there is welcome comfort in that philosophy.
Smakelijk offers continuous service from 12pm to 11pm. Starters are priced from €14, mains from €22 and desserts from €14. A special lunch menu includes starter, main, water and coffee for €26.
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Main photo: Culinary Director Chef Laurent Colin (left) and Le Meridien Beach Plaza General Manager Vincent Clinckemaillie