Close to the North Sea in Western Belgium is a charming fisherman’s house that’s been transformed into a restaurant called Willem Hiele. A lot of the produce used is grown on site and there are even chickens, ducks and roosters roaming freely in their own big space. There is also a swing set on the property. But this isn’t just any swing set. It’s the same swing set that the owner/chef Willem Hiele used when he was a little boy. Willem Hiele restaurant is the house he grew up in, completely transformed into a warm, cozy restaurant serving upscale Belgian food. The apple trees from his youth are still bearing fruit today and now he shares his passion for cooking and his childhood memories combining them into a pleasant dining experience.

For those who enjoy locally sourced, elevated dining, Willem Hiele is a special restaurant where the chef might even point to the yard and show you exactly where the ingredients on your plate are from.

Small World

Just a few days after returning home, I saw a friend’s live Facebook video by Eric Kleinberg, food photographer formerly from Chicago, now in Europe. The video took place on a fishing boat and they were on the way to dinner at Kadeau Bornholm. I recognized two of the people and amazingly, it was Willem Hiele and coincidentally the chef I met the day before. The group is called Tripping Chefs. Chefs, chocolatiers, bartenders and sommeliers go on culinary expeditions to discover exceptional places around the world.


Arrival and Tour

Shannah Zeebroek is Willem’s wife and is Front of House as well as a sommelier at Willem Hiele restaurant. When I arrived, she was standing at the head of the driveway to direct me in and greeted me with a warm, welcoming smile.

Patio at WIllem Hiele
Patio at Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele

Willem showed me around the property so I could see all the produce growing at the restaurant. He had stories from his childhood and told me which plants and trees were there when he was young, and it was then that I realized this was his former home.

Willem showed me all the food he grows on site for the restaurant.
Willem showed me the food grown on site for the restaurant.
He adjusts his menus acccording to what's available that day.
He adjusts his menus daily according to what’s available in the gardens.
Willem Hiele
These will be used in one of my dishes today.
Herbs in containers
There are seven kinds of apple trees on the property.
Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele
Once a year he sets up long tables outside for a big dinner and a band plays.
This is the spacious area where the chickens and other birds roam freely.
Willhem Hiele
At Willem Hiele
Willhem Hiele
Willem Hiele
The swing set from when Willem was a young boy.
The swing set from when Willem was a young boy.

The Restaurant

Main dining room at Willem Hiele
Main dining room at Willem Hiele
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This is the house Willem grew up in. Upstairs through that door was where they slept.
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Door at Willem Hiele
Another dining area at Willem Hiele
Another dining area at Willem Hiele
WIllem Hiele
Willem Hiele

Lunch

We headed back outside so I could start my lunch. It was a beautiful sunny day so I sat outside.

Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele
Starting my lunch.
Starting my lunch.
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Willem Hiele

The Meal

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Mussels Beignet, beer sepia, fennel, sweet pea and Moroccan pea cream with sumac. Polenta Corn Cracker, chicken, hummus, avocado.
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Mussels Beignet, beer sepia, fennel, sweet pea and Moroccan pea cream with sumac.
Polenta Cracker, chicken, hummus, avocado.
Polenta Corn Cracker, chicken, hummus, avocado.
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Razor Clam Tartare, Belgian caviar, bergamot, crithmum (sea fennel) cream, quinoa
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Razor Clam Tartare, Belgian caviar, bergamot, crithmum (sea fennel) cream, quinoa
Bread and olive made by WIllem Hiele
Bread and olive made by WIllem Hiele
Gillardeau oyster, horseradish, pickled red onion
Gillardeau oyster, horseradish, pickled red onion
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Sea bass marinated in fermented onion juice, lime and coconut. Ceviche, sea bass, corn, beets, calamansi, cashews, coriander cream
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These brown shrimp (crangon crangon) are from the North Sea. They have a very distinct but delicate flavor, and are tender, juicy and delectable. They are time consuming to peel because they are so small. First you twist the head to detach it and pull off half the shell. Then the other half is removed when you pull the tail.
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This smooth custard seafood dish was accented with the gentle quinoa pops. Crème brulee, cauliflower, North Sea shrimp, quinoa, leeks, vervain
Crème brulee, cauliflower, North Sea shrimp, quinoa,  leeks, vervain
Crème brulee, cauliflower, North Sea shrimp, quinoa, leeks, vervain
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Willem’s updated take on his family’s third-generation recipe. Bisque, North Sea shrimp, coffee
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Roebuck Loin, fermented golden beets, whiskey sauce with dates, orange, cardamom, venison and plum demi-glace
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Roebuck Loin, fermented golden beets, whiskey sauce with dates, orange, cardamom, venison and plum demi-glace

I was full after the venison so I passed on the rest of the meal but an example of one of Willem’s desserts is ‘Gariguette’ strawberry, consomme of rhubarb, pomegranate sorbet, lemon, berries, meringue.


Behind the Scenes

Honing the knife
Honing the knife
Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele
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Willem Hiele
WIllem Hiele
Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele
2016_08_17-willem-hiele-045
Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele and Shannah Zeebroek
Willem Hiele and Shannah Zeebroek
Willem Hiele
Willem Hiele
2016_08_17-willem-hiele-050
Willem Hiele

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Posted by:Lou Stejskal

Introverted extrovert.

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