With Tinèlle, Graspoort, The Chick, Magma, ‘t Witte Goud in Leest, M-Eatery, De Fortuyne and Cosma, eight restaurants in the city of Dijle now have a nice listing in the culinary guide of Gault&Milau. Ken Verschueren of Tinèlle awarded Mechelen a Michelin star for the first time in years this spring. “That was since the closure of D’Hoogh and Folliez years ago,” says Christian Michiels, chairman of Horeca Mechelen.
Special to the city
The trend is continuing, because this summer alone two young chefs with gastronomic ambitions opened a new business: Bram Simons cooks in Emiel on the Vismarkt, Zino Jacobs gives the best of himself in Ember in Caputsteen Castle. “That is of course fantastic. Nowadays people come to Mechelen especially to dine and domestic tourism has clearly increased since corona,” says Michiels.
The increasing number of tourists in the city is something Stef Buelens also noticed. Just like the culinary advance. “I like to compare it with Ghent. Ten years ago there was virtually nothing there and now it is one of the culinary capitals. Mechelen has all the trump cards to make that happen,” he says.
Last summer Stef Buelens opened a caterer’s shop in the Nauwstraat. In a year he completely renovated it into restaurant Lesco. His second, because under the same name he has had one in Wetteren in East Flanders for about ten years now.
A lot of time and love put in
His last business in Mechelen at the time was Dorp 5 in Leest, but it was written in the stars that he would one day return. “It’s funny. When we stopped in Leest, I made a promise that we would definitely do something again and that we would refine ourselves. We finally did that first in Wetteren. When I drove home after an evening of tiling or painting in the new shop in Mechelen, it crossed my mind that we are now also fulfilling that promise here,” says Stef.
Mechelen is and remains the place of his heart for him. “Otherwise I wouldn’t have started anything here and wouldn’t have put so much time and love into it,” says the chef. The interior and the kitchen also manage to charm the first guests, a group of friends from Mechelen who like to dine. “It was great from start to finish. This is already one of the toppers in Mechelen for me”, says Andreas Van Deyck.
The three friends ended up in Lesco by accident on the opening day. “I had read an article in your newspaper about the opening of Emiel and Lesco. When I made the reservation, I didn’t realize this was the first day of opening. In any case, it is an asset to the city,” says Bram Verellen. Owner Stef Buelens likes to hear the gentlemen tell it. “That’s what we do it for. People should like to come here and linger,” he says.
His guests have already had about twelve preparations, including appetizers in smaller portions. “We work with a fixed menu, but not according to the classic recipe. Of course, our quail eggs should not be missing here. That is our signature snack”, says Stef. With those quail eggs and other ingredients, he even makes art that can be admired in his shop.
Also striking is the water that they serve at Lesco, based on red basil, for example, and it tastes surprisingly good. “As a restaurant owner, we have to keep up with the times, it’s a great alternative for people who don’t drink alcohol,” says the chef.
You have a menu with him from 125 euros per person. “That may sound hefty, but an aperitif, water and coffee are included. Because we know that young people also like to eat out, we have an interesting formula twice a week. We offer an all-in menu on Friday afternoon and Monday evening for 115 euros per person,” explains Stef.
Lesco Mechelen in the Nauwstraat 5 is open from Thursday to Monday, each time from 6.30 pm. On Fridays and Sundays you can also go there in the afternoon from 12 noon. “It feels like coming home to me, because I once cooked in this building when Brasserie Madeleine was located here. And at the Fish Market itself I was still in Kookaburra. The Vismarkt is a dream location.”
• Bram (26) opens fish restaurant Emiel: “We bring the best from the North Sea to Mechelen”
• Top chef Tinèlle takes Michelin star and gives Mechelen another star restaurant: “We want to • remain a very accessible restaurant”
• Restaurant Graspoort scores 13.5 out of 20 in Gault&Millau shortly after opening: “We are a bit in shock”