Willem Hiele

Willem Hiele Restaurant (Oudenburg)

© Pieter D'Hoop

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Rooted in the polder lands, Willem Hiele set down his knives at Jacques Moeschal’s modernist cube, after closing his shop in Koksijde. It feels a bit like the inside of the Interstellar shuttle, but worse – and therefore better: the vast, floor-to-ceiling windows open out onto the salt plain, providing views of so much sky that you could almost fly away. But that midday, in the furious weather where all four seasons felt rolled into one, the cuisine from this Viking, surfer and self-taught pastry chef brought everything back down to earth. Minimalist and maxi-terroirist, the marathon of a menu featured 18 razor-sharp gems, including: dainty cockles dancing in a smoked duck consommé; razor clam ceviche marinated in fermented redcurrant juice; a morsel of freshly smoked mackerel, eaten with your fingers alongside the chef in the kitchen; a coffee and shrimp bisque that was out of this world, slurped up without cutlery; immaculate asparagus with poached (Ostend) oysters and walnuts… We wouldn’t risk falling in love for anything less. // Toni Negroni

FEELING THIRSTY? Slick cocktails (€14-18) and chic bottles that are naturally inclined: La Rumbera, a shape-shifting Catalan white from the Oriol Artigas winery (€63 a bottle), Ribolla, a Slovenian white by Marjan Simčič (€65), Felsen I, a blood-red Austrian wine produced by Christian Tschida (€138).

PRICE: Tasting menu €235, food and wine pairing €95.

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