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Chef Nicholas Tsiknakos: from El Bulli to The Avenue in Brussels

Greek born chef Nicholas Tsiknakos was part of Ferran Adria’s last team the day when the no less emblematic El Bulli in Spain closed its doors. Today he reigns over the iconic restaurant The Avenue in the heart of the Barsey by Warwick Hotel, a cosy boutique hotel in the centre of Brussels. Of course we had to discover his kitchen !

Text and pictures: WOWwatchers.com

A stone’s throw from the Bois and the Abbaye de la Cambre, situated at the end of the prestigious Avenue Louise, the Barsey by Warwick Hotel is home to restaurant The Avenue. From now on it’s orchestrated by a new Executive Chef, Nicholas Tsiknakos. Big news, that is ! The chef with Greek roots who landed on our shores more than a decade ago, is far from an unknown in the Brussels restaurant scene. Before managing the kitchen of The Avenue, he worked for a while at the famous Italian restaurant: Da Mimmo. Before that, he made a name for himself at Kolya the restaurant of the Manos Premier Hotel (Saint-Gilles). But Chef Tsiknakos has much more arrows up his sleeve. In Zurich, he was hired at The Dolder Grand Hotel, a 5 star hotel and 2 Michelin star restaurant. He then left for Great Britain to work at the famous Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal’s three-star restaurant. And in Spain, he was part of Ferran Adria’s last team at the time of the closure of the no less emblematic El Bulli. At the same time, he has participated in 18 international competitions and has received several prestigious awards. For example, in 2005 he was named Best Chef of Switzerland. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

In 2005 Nicholas Tsiknakos was named ‘Best Chef of Switzerland’. Sounds promising, doesn’t it?

Anja Van Der Borght

We pick a table along the warm fire against the golden wall. In our opinion, this is the coziest table in the entire restaurant but soon we discover also other guests seem to have their own preferred table and clearly there is no accounting for tastes.

This restaurant is absolutely atmospheric. Eclectic too, since the entire interior was overhauled in 2016 by architect Didier Benderli (Kerylos Agency). Comfy armchairs in emerald green or dove gray velvet alternate with gold-rimmed black tables, Art Deco lamps and white Roman goddesses that seem to support the ceiling. You don’t know where to look first and you will discover something new in every corner. We certainly like that.

Located on the first floor of the Barsey By Warwick Hotel, the restaurant is conveniently located between the lobby and a vast outdoor garden terrace at the back. The elegant bar allows us to discover a large collection of whiskies, gins and also classic, signature or custom-made cocktails created by an experienced mixologist.

My dinner companion chooses Bosford Rosé premium gin served with standard Schweppes bitter tonic as apertif. I myself go for the English Silent Pool gin also served with standard Schweppes bitter tonic. The latter tastes as a standard gin while the Bosford Rosé shows a lot more character. It tastes a bit like a sweet flower, a tiny bit bonbon like, sugary but not too sweet. The kind of gin we would love to have a bottle from in our extensive gin collection.

As appetizer we got this delicious mini cheese Crottin de Chavignol turnover with lumpfish eggs and yellow bellpepper coulis.

The famous mushroom and truffle risotto, said to be one of the best dishes created by Nicholas Tsiknakos.

Nicholas Risotto with wild mushrooms, Black Truffle Flakes a real must-try !

As a starter we choose the suggestion of the waitress ‘Risotto Nicholas aux champignons sauvages, Flocons de Truffes Noires’ (Nicholas Risotto with wild mushrooms, Black Truffle Flakes) which is one of the signature dishes of the restaurant. We can understand why. The risotto is perfectly smooth, not too sticky and the taste is a perfect balance between the taste of mushrooms and the aromas of black truffle. Definitely a dish to try!

To continue my dinner companion chooses the ‘Carpaccio de Poulpe, Huile d’olive, Origan, Citrus main de Buddha’ (Octopus Carpaccio, Olive Oil, Oregano, Buddha’s Hand Citrus). The dish is a real treat for the eyes and the taste buds. A true art work resulting from the culinary imagination of the Greek chef.

The Carpaccio de Poulpe, Huile d’olive, Origan, Citrus main de Buddha is a real treat to eyes and taste buds.

As main dishes I choose the Sole de la Côte Belge, Mémi-Melo de Légumes, Pommes Château (Sole from the Belgian Coast, Memi-Melo of Vegetables, Pommes Chateau). We choose a grilled sole instead of ‘meunière’ which mixes perfectly with the crunchy vegetables. Bathing in Mediterranean flavors this plate reminds me of our holiday in Crete.

Grilled sole from the Belgian Coast, Memi-Melo of Vegetables, Pommes Chateau.
Filet de Veau basse température, Guanciale, Mousseline de Pommes de terre, racine de saison (Fillet of Veal low temperature, Guanciale, Potato Mousseline, seasonal root) , tinged with personality and seasonal colors. Delicious!

My companion goes for the ‘Filet de Veau basse température, Guanciale, Mousseline de Pommes de terre, racine de saison’ (Fillet of Veal low temperature, Guanciale, Potato Mousseline, seasonal root) , tinged with personality and seasonal colors. Delicious!

For dessert we choose the ‘Galaktoboureko en Rouleaux de Printemps à la Pâte filo, Glace Violette et canelle’ (Galaktoboureko in spring roll version with filo pastry and violet ice cream, Orange blossom and cinnamon. It made us think of Moroccan briwat but in a much more delicious version and less heavy on the stomach.


Pavlova The Avenue aux fruits rouges (The Avenue Pavlova with red fruits) is a real treat but is not always on the menu neither is the Tarte au citron d’Amalfi à la façon de Nicholas (Amalfi lemon tart the Nicholas Way). When ordering we hesitated between the different deserts, but we unanimously agree that the Pavlova cannot be outclassed.

Amalfi lemon tart the Nicholas Way

On the menu, there are several starters, salads, main courses (also vegetarian), grilled meats, cheeses from Charlie’s and desserts to choose from. For lunch, very democratic, two courses are priced at 25 € and three courses at 30 €. The lunch changes weekly.

In addition, there is an elegant smoking room and a cigar cellar – and open all year round – the superb garden terrace at the back, which is likely to become the most festive Brussels spot of the year.

Info The Avenue, Hotel Barsey by Warwick, 381 Avenue Louise, 1000 Brussels, tel. +32 (0)2 641 51 36, www.theavenuebrussels.com

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