Le Chavignol Louvain-La-Neuve: a world of extremes

For months we tried to book a lunch or dinner for two in Le Chavignol, but alas, the restaurant was always filled. Until we got the redeeming answer when we made a reservation on Sunday, November 11 (by all means on Armistice Day): there is room!

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It is literally raining cats and dogs when we arrive at Le Chavignol in Louvain-La-Neuve, but we are lucky. Plenty of parking space in front of the beautiful villa, elegantly sandwiched between two quiet streets.

As we head for the stairs, we throw a fleeting glance through an open gate and think how wonderful it must be in the summer to relax amidst the lush greenery of the garden. But we don’t have more time. My colleague is already opening the front door. THE RAIN…

A somewhat musty smell like of a wet dog comes to meet us (later we learn that the owners actually have a dog) but that is immediately forgotten the moment Marie Cuiro makes her appearance as a Sicilian ‘La mamma’. Marie is Belgian but married to Carmelo Cuiro, the co-owner and chef with Sicilian roots and she receives us in her small restaurant with barely twenty seats as if we were close family … on her slippers … an outfit that somewhat collides with the posh interior. But Marie thinks of everything. At the entrance she put a table with a wide choice of glasses. “Oh, she says there used by our customers that forgot their glasses to read the menu.”

Warm and interested, she asks where we come from and whether het restaurant was easy to find. She adds, apologetically, that they had long hesitated to open because of the holiday and that it is probably due to the somewhat bizarre nature of this day that they have no other reservations. It does not bother us at all. In New York or Beverly Hills, people pay several thousand Euros to rent a restaurant exclusively for themselves alone.

As an aperitif we order a gin tonic. There is, however, no further choice in that area. We are served a Buss gin with classic Schweppes tonic. After a first sip, we find it so strong and rudimentary that we leave the drink for what it is. The combination of the two is lacking refinement and also the proportions are wrongly chosen. Maybe at the time of publishing of this review, this uninspired aperitif may already have been replaced by a better alternative, given that the chef was listening carefully to our tips as gin experts when it comes to creating Mediterranean tonics.

As an appetizer we receive a broth of mussels. We are not really a fan and taste predominantly the onion.

The ‘Coquilles St Jacques juste Poêlées’ which we choose as appetizer, on the other hand, are crispy fried and nicely seasoned – however with lots of pepper – but combine nicely with the emulsion of pumpkin and ‘fleurette’.

The other chosen starter ‘Œuf Parfait, Poireaux and Truite fumée’ tastes absolutely heavenly!

The beautiful paintings on the wall draw our attention. We ask Marie if they are temporary exhibitions or if the works are hanging there permanently. Soon it appears that all these works are by her hand. And frankly, there is one that we would dare to purchase. This La Mamma with her oversized cardigan has talent, so much is certain. Between the courses, she tells us about her unstoppable creative urge which sometimes gets so strong that she gets up at the most unsightly hours of the night to ‘paint’. If she feels it bubbling, then it must! The act of painting can be interpreted broadly here. Marie dips almost everything in her pots of paint, ranging from ladles to her feet, with or without shoes. Impressive. And artfully it is for sure!

But now back to the culinary experience.

For the wine, the lady of the house recommends us a Ferro 13 – Hipster from 2016, a complex Negroamaro from Puglia which is everybody’s easygoing friend with its palette of spices and notes of red fruit and ripe berries. A wine to suit our taste.

As a main course we opt for the ‘Aloyau de Boeuf, Oignons rouges braisés (28 Euros) and the Filet de Biche au Poivre Blanc (34 Euros). Both dishes are clearly made with quality products. The ‘cuisson’ could have been somewhat more à point however.

A minus point for us was the fact that just about all dishes and side dishes as well as the puree bacon was used. Not really recommended if you cannot eat bacon because for religious reasons or because you somply don’t like it or are allergic to it.

For dessert, Marie presents her ‘Le dessert de Marie’ of the day. It is a lemon tart. Delicious, we would think. Until we notice when it was served that it contains pineapple. And unfortunately we are allergic to it. It does not seem to be our day, as Le Chavignol gets very good reviews and a quotation of 14/20 in the famous Gault & Millau guide. “Above all, I want to bring tasteful flavours and quality products in your plate”, owner and chef Carmelo Cuiro tells us. “Nouvelle cuisine with flowers and meringues is not for me.” You get excellent base products at Le Chavignol and we can confirm that all this comes at a low price. At Le Chavignol you pay 38 euros for a three course menu and 69 euros for a menu with apero, wines and coffee included. That is a very fair price for the quality and warm conviviality you experience in this restaurant. Of course, eating a la carte is also possible.

Le Chavignol, Rue de l’Invasion 99, 1340 Louvain-La-Neuve, tel. 010 45 10 40,

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