2018 was a great year for Marleen and Jeroen Brouwer. It started in January with the Golden Chef’s Hat. Marleen was voted ‘hostess of the year’ by restaurant guide Gault&Millau. And just before Christmas, De Loohoeve was awarded that coveted Michelin star. In short, the Brewers are on fire.
It went fast. When they came to work in the old farm in the Drenthe hamlet of Schoonloo, Herberg De Loohoeve was a hotel with a culinary restaurant and a large brasserie – you could also eat a bouncer on the plastic patio chairs. My esteemed predecessor Ronald Hoeben called the Loohoeve in 2014 “a friendly place to relax with a good kitchen” (he gave a 7+). In 2016, the young chef couple took over the business. Marleen was 28, Jeroen 25. Barely three years later, De Loohoeve is a household name in gastronomic circles, with a star.
There is a certain ambition that expresses itself – which, incidentally, they have never concealed. De Loohoeve was certainly not their first choice for their own business, they confided to a catering trade magazine in 2017: “It was too big, too expensive, too remote, not our taste.” But, they argue further, their old boss, the internationally renowned Flemish chef Kobe Desramaults, also got his restaurant Indewulf in the completely meaningless town of Dranouter full. “Why wouldn’t we succeed, we thought.” Not a modest comparison. But hey, Desramaults also didn’t get to where he is today without ambition. So go for it.
Inside, the tent is sleek: white linen, neat chairs. The space is divided by a wall-to-wall wine climate cabinet. The rest seem deliberately kept sober, to have as little distraction as possible from the food. Visually then. There is still a lot to be gained from an auditory point of view. In terms of playlist, we suspect something in the direction of Krezip’s Spotify artist radio. Just too hard not to notice. Music taste is of course very personal, but I’ll warn you anyway.
The couple has undeniable talent for catering. Marleen is quick-witted, she has a pleasantly loose but firm style. She is also a chef by birth. She is still responsible for the desserts, but also clearly involved in the rest of the menu, which is reflected in her detailed knowledge of what’s on the plate.
He shows that chef Jeroen is capable of great class with his hay-smoked mackerel. A rare perfect dish. In presentation: the bulge in the middle of the plate gives the appearance of a modern, technically engineered gel atmosphere due to the shine of the oil. While it is one long string of apples, tightly rolled up according to traditional methods. And in taste: the mackerel is full-fish, slightly salty, raw with a subtle, smoky hint of hay; topped with a refined interplay of the lactic acids of buttermilk, aromatic coriander oil and a touch of horseradish; supported by pickled apple and avocado cream. a modest spark of genius.
We find the same pleasure in the herbivore menu, which is presented as prominently on the menu as the omnivore menu, is in no way inferior to it and sometimes even rises above its meaty counterpart. Such as the simplicity and flexibility of the smoked beets in ponzu and lemon thyme, compared to the tartare, which is rather large for an amuse-bouche, of which there is little to taste because the piccalily ice cream is so cold.
Fortunately, the best vegetarian dish is also in the omni menu: a multitude of preparations of celeriac, with a fresh headwind of goat yogurt and sour-fermented tuber and a bay gravy. It’s clever not to let cooked celeriac be three times sweet. The key to this dish are the small specks of brine lemon: it is the ball bearings that make the mechanism run smoothly.
The omni menu is also a bit more brave, it lacks the open-mindedness of the vegetarian menu. In other words, the Michelin ambition shines quite clearly through the classic menu: langoustine – turbot – lamb. Solid dishes, nice flavours: turbot with dashi butter and cauliflower; lamb with asparagus, sage gravy and smoked hollandaise. But it’s not surprising like the simple tomato ceviche, with kohlrabi flowers and belperknolle (a peppery Swiss cheese), as a gastronomic impression of Marleen’s favorite snack: a cheese and tomato sandwich.
High level, with a few misses
The level is high, but there are a few weird misses. Like the XO sauce with the langoustine that has little to nothing to do with XO – it’s more like a spicy bisque. Like the combination of unripe strawberry and morels. Like the crazy gooey mashed potatoes that pass for gnocchi disguised as baby potatoes. And like the fully fat-saturated brioche with the foie gras – when I squeeze it, the fat drips down my fingers.
By the way, that foie gras is all deliciously prepared with a deep umami taste of the miso and the counterweight of the rhubarb. The dessert ‘milk & honey’ is also top class: a clever play of structures (milk foam vs. dried milk foam) and a tingling sweet and sour tension that exists simultaneously in the dessert as a whole and within the honey. there it is spark again.
Marleen and Jeroen Brouwer are young, talented and ambitious. They obviously cook with great pleasure and dedication. At this level the misses really have to be eliminated, but that is more in focus than skill. I wish them a big vision a common thread running through the dishes. A vista that ensures that the menu rises above the courses. Only a handful of chefs actually achieve that status. But hey, I’m not the one who set the bar so high in this case.