PakhuisBelgium is one of those countries I’ve only really visited in passing or by mistake. But recently I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days there on business so was able to inspect it in more relaxed detail.
Having negotiated the journey from Charleroi to Gent, checked into a hotel and borrowed a plug adapter so my phone charger worked, my first dining stop was at Pakhuis, a smart restaurant brasserie just near St Niklaaskerk.An absolutely fantastic former warehouse building across two levels, it was completely rammed on a Monday night when much of the rest of the city seemed fast asleep. A reverberating barn with an open upper gallery and spacious lower dining space where I was seated, I’d clearly made a wise choice for somewhere with buzzing atmosphere.
The menu was mind blowing. I toyed with it for a good fifteen minutes before settling upon dishes. There was a set list, a market menu, wine and beer matching suggestions all over the place, plus extensive a la carte.I eventually settled upon starting with ceviche of Zeeland mussels with a rocket cream, barley salad and marinated kohlrabi.
This arrived looking very bonnie. It had very good elements but lacked a real unity. The overwhelming aroma upon arrival was of the kohlrabi; let’s just say it’s not the world’s most delectable smell. All of the expected punch was in a bright broth and zingy sorbet but this didn’t transmit to the mussels. The matching wine had a light mineral quality to it so worked pretty nicely. But it was a slightly mixed opener.Between courses I had time to observe that they had a dedicated oyster station on the mezzanine where I guy was shucking throughout my visit. The seasonal oysters were clearly proving popular.
The main course was another curious mix. The steak was of very good quality and beautifully prepared. The accompaniments were an odd confection, though. The curried potato cake seemed out of context and didn’t marry well with the blueberry ketchup. The mixed pepper salad was fine but didn’t link with the other elements at all.
So overall, I suspect Pakhuis is one of those places best enjoyed with a big table of people where you all try to order the “winning dish”. I like the ethos at the heart of the business but didn’t really luck out with my choices. I’m glad to have visited as it gave me a really lively Monday night dining experience, but there were weaknesses enough with what I sampled to consider the place guilty of style over substance.
As a postscript they brought me a little tablet at the end. No, not the Scottish confectionery but of the touch-screen variety to leave them a score and comment on the meal. I wouldn’t touch this approach with a bargepole in the UK, but I played along on this occasion reporting similar scores as below.
Blythe scores Pakhuis
3/5 for food
3.5/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for setting
4/5 for service
giving an overall 15/20
I ate: ceviche of Zeeland mussels, bavette
I drank: Roomer, white wine, red wine
I wore: a mix of stripes
Total bill: €62.70
Address: Schuurkenstraat 4, 9000 Gent, Belgium