Last time I was in Ghent, I left the excellent Jigger’s with a beer mat with restaurant recommendations scrawled on the back. I still have it somewhere as it has become a curiously valued possession. Top of the little list was Publiek so I was delighted to get a chance to visit on this my second trip to the city.
Ghent is a compact place with Publiek only about ten minutes from the centre of the city. Still, their exterior signage charmingly states ‘You’re not lost, you’re here’ which is always reassuring to hear.
The place radiates a relaxed charm and feels very much like a bar where the food happens to be very good rather than a formal restaurant setting. But their menu offers a tasting selection and they are the proud holders of 1 Michelin star.
I took a seat at their bar from where I had a good view of busy service throughout the dining area.
As I sipped an excellent drink of young Calvados with their own pressed apple juice, snacks arrived in a trio. We had some very good house salami, a couple of quail eggs to peel and dunk in a cheesy sauce, and an old cheese biscuit. These were very good quality openers.
The first menu dish was an outstanding red mullet tartare with kimchi mayo, celery granita, and a crisp savoy cabbage leaf. This was really splendid.
Next we had a taco of a thin slice of dried celeriac marinated in leek stock with a celeriac, shrimp and radish filling. This was wolfed in three bites.
We then had a very bonnie beef tartare, with winter cress and walnut. This was another winning dish.
We moved on to a neat dish of black pudding, yelllow radish, pear, and scallop. It was very elegant in its simplicity.
The main course was guinea fowl, with sunchoke and tarragon. The tarragon was punchily aromatic but well utilised and the guinea fowl moist and flavourful.
Dessert was quince topped with a smoked milk ice cream, fennel sugar and almond foam. It was light, creative and a well-judged finale to an excellent meal.
There was still time for a little petit fours sweetie jar and chocolate sponge with coffee.
Paired drinks were interesting and varied, with some real bangers. One of the Portuguese natural whites had a very similar flavour profile to Belgian beer so I had an interesting chat with the somm about the appetite for beer matching, with the conclusion that at least in Ghent wine pairings were still king.
Overall, Publiek served me an outstanding dinner. Their whole operation is top notch. I’d be a regular visitor if I was lucky enough to spend an extended period in Ghent. Make sure to book for when you’re next in town.
Blythe scores Publiek
4.5/5 for food
4.5/5 for presentation
4.5/5 for service
4.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 18/20
I ate: tasting menu
I drank: young Calvados and house apple juice, paired wines, espresso, water
I wore: Hawaiian classic
Total bill: €155.70