Sergio Herman is one of the most influential characters in the culinary scene of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. His restaurant Oud Sluis in the remote town of Sluis attracted foodies, chefs and journalists alike, who all embarked on the pilgrimage to visit one of the world’s most gifted chefs. What made Oud Sluis so special was the complex cooking that had Herman and his brigade plate dishes with dozens of immaculate components that were little taste explosions rather than just bland, manicured landscapes on a plate. The immense pressure that he put himself under eventually resulted in his decision to close Oud Sluis and focus on other projects. One of them is Pure C in Cadzand, where one of his most promising protégés Syrco Bakker cooks up a storm, whilst the latest is perhaps his most ambitious yet: The Jane in Antwerp.
In many ways the Jane is the opposite of Oud Sluis. It’s a cathedral to food rather than a modest house seating a couple of dozen guests at any given time. It is a restaurant that has been conceived carefully with the leading thinkers in their respective fields, to make it as complete and perfect as it possibly can be. The result is breathtaking, as the old chapel has been made into what is arguably the world’s most attractive restaurant. Every little detail has been thought of: the stained glass windows have been designed by Studio Job, whilst even the kitchen stoves have ‘tattoos’ on the stainless steel; a massive chandelier, composed of 150 lightbulbs, weighing over 800 kg is the central decorative element, whilst a similarly big neon-skull is the most provocative; some of the world’s most famous DJs have created the soundtrack for the restaurant, making this as close to a Gesamtkunstwerk as we have seen in gastronomy.
Sitting in this breathtaking room, one gets the impression that Herman hasn’t really taken the pressure off in the least. On the contrary, there is an almost religious feel about the atmosphere that reigns in the dining room during service.
In the kitchen, Herman and his chef Nik Bril really put the pedal to the metal and push for perfection. The food bears some similarities to that of Oud Sluis, albeit with fewer ingredients on each plate, and less food being served through the course of each meal. Price-wise, the menu here is much more affordable than eating in Sluis used to be, making it more accessible, were it not for the impossibility of getting a reservation.
What characterises the food now is the acidity that drives most dishes, the balance between textural and flavour contrasts and the precision, with which dishes are plated and served. The food is already at solid 18 point level, but given the speed with which things have developed here, we have a tough time foreseeing where Bril and Herman will take things at the Jane. We will write more about the actual cooking in a separate article, as this is a restaurant that truly deserves more than your average piece that simply ticks the boxes.