Sergio Herman is a true culinary artist and this is a write-up of a truly culinary perfection, foodwise.
During one of my spring visits to noma René (Redzepi) recommended me to go try Sergio Herman’s reastaurant Oud Sluis in Holland, situated close to the Flemish border of Belgium. “I think this is something you will like”, he said.
I got totally curious and wanted to visit the place as soon as possible. I had in mind to drive down to Brittany and Olivier Roellinger, which I was introduced to by Julot and Laurent, and Oud Sluis could easily fit into the route of my summer trip. In the end it wasn’t possible to get reservations at Olivier Roellinger and so the alternate pit stop at In de Wulf saw light.
I looked at Oud Sluis’ website for accomodation near the restaurant and chose Else’s cosy Bed & Breakfast, Veerhoeve, where transport to and from the restaurant is included in the room rate. It seemed like the closest place to the restaurant at the time. Now Oud Sluis has opened it’s new guest house, though.
Oud Sluis in the rain
Unfortunately is was a very rainy day, night and morning so I didn’t get to explore Elese’s beautiful and flowering garden. The reservation was at seven so we arranged with Else to drive us to the restaurant at five to. We got a table in the biggest one of the two rooms and walking towards my seat I saw a glimpse of Sergio in the kitchen looking out towards the dining room through a narrow window.
Crispy chicken with a mayonnaise of curry
While studying the menu and the wine list, the appetizers started to roll in and I was offered a glass of Champagne without specification – it turned out to be a Jacques Lassaigne Blanc de Blanc NV which was nice but a little indifferent to me. Naturally, I had already decided to opt for the full menu, so the browsing of the card was more for the entertainment of it rather than the consideration.
The crispy chicken skin was thin as paper and very fatty, my fingers glinted after touching it, but the taste was finely balanced with salt and worked well with the curry dip.
Oyster cracker, salad of oyster, apple and fennel
The oyster cracker was a cold enjoyment, fruity in taste with sweetness also from the cracker, a delightful explosion and a startling beginning of an unforgettable evening.
Quinoa and lobster, cream of avocado and jalapeno
Next amuse was a wonderful lobster with elements that formed a unity of a perfect tasting experience. Please note that this plate is Danish design by Georg Jensen.
Luke warm goose liver emulsion, sorbet of green apple
An awesome emulsion followed and it was balanced with the acidity of the green apples and the freshness and crispiness of the green pea stalk.
Maatjes, different structures of salicorn and yuzu
Again a dish that presented an extremely high level of cooking and preparation. And yet it looks so deceitfully simple with ingredients casually dropped into the bowl. I have no further notes nor memory on this one, other than very tasty and very good.
Sushi of black radish, tuna and crispy foam of soy sauce
The soy sauce was here, cleverly, a stiff foam instead of a juice. The quality of the tuna was outstanding and the flavours of little dainty was balanced with a sprinkle of green wasabi powder.
Razor clams, cream of chick peas and Moroccan eggplant
The seventh and last appetizer offered a delicious razor clam put into the little glass bowl. The shell was instead filled with the slight sour cream and the full flavoured eggplant. Excellent.
As this point I was so stunned by the fabrication that I found it hard to imagine that it could be any better. But it did.
Lightly smoked and marinated sardines, ice cooled
and emulsion of artichoke, tartar of oyster and coffee-olive oil
The waiter informed me to take note of the biggest green leaf, which remarkably tasted just like an oyster. It was a pre-taster before the real thing would hit my senses. The sardines were of very high quality, restrained in taste and the coffee beans and the artichoke were great and took away the attention of the sardines. The not visible shaved lime peel was a brilliant touch. The dish was highly innovative, but it worked.
The food and furniture reflecting in the inside of the bowl also added sophistication visually.
Marinated langoustine, glazed lard
and coffee-citrus-voastiperifery pepper
Langoustine cooked on a low temperature with homemade tofu,
gel of sushi vinegar and green tea gomasio
A rich dish in flavour and at the same time refreshing and delighting.
Sea bass with smoked and caramelized eel,
Next was the best sea bass I have ever eaten in my life, so juicy and incredibly tasty. The eel was magnificent in match and by itself, and the verbena-miso was not too overdosing but combined well with the other elements.
Turbot with cream of green peas, fish stock
… with churros and aioli
Yet another picturesque beauty in look, scent and taste. Excellent. It was, though, accompanied with turros and aioli. These were absolutely unnecessary and did not match the level of refinement offered in the other courses.
Anjou pigeon, sushi and cream of spring cabbage,
due penotti of goose liver and crispy pistachio
I don’t think I’ll ever find myself madly in love with pigeon. However, this was very good and the accompanying foie gras yolk (the beige bubble) was astonishing and with a texture that didn’t make it float too much.
I couldn’t resist the cheese trolley but have no photo of it. I asked for regional cheeses and they were all nice but not exceptional in any way.
Now, on to the desserts:
The explosion here came of the waiter slamming the beige ball for the nougat/chocolate filling to escape. Very good.
Raspberry, rhubarb and camomile
Even better was the raspberry and rhubarb one. You know (I hope) how much I love rhubarbs and the use of acidic fruits with desserts. It was a fantastic dessert only to be followed by the final and sublime one.
Couscous of red fruit, aloe vera and soy milk
When I read the text I didn’t associate it with a dessert at all and thought well okay let’s try it. At that point I had eaten chocolate, rhubarbs and raspberries, so if the third dessert would not please me it wouldn’t be so bad anyway. But this dessert turned out to be the very best of them and a marvellous crescendo from the more traditionally ingredient foundations to something I would never had imagined. I think this is the most intriguing dessert I have ever tried and it’s too complex to describe.
Most delicious lolly pop
We asked for a set of different wines to accompany each course and they all appeared nice and harmonized with the food. It was and interesting composition and offered amongst others this lovely white Burgundy shown above. The sommelier was, like Sergio himself, globalised in his expression by for example serving sake with the cooked langoustine. The service, by the way, was friendly, not too formal. The meal was executed at high but adequate speed but also leaving an impression of a being smooth… machine.
It’s admirable how skilful and clever Sergio Herman combines not only products but also how he uses modern techniques. I mean, it’s not a show-off in innovative preparation. He has the talent to utilize the modern techniques to reach the point of expression he strives for. At least, this is the impression I was left with.
Somehow, it’s like the top-performing ice skater who utilizes the whole ice rink in her or his show – Sergio is covering the whole world in his creations either by look, sentiment or the product’s origin. The flavours are new and sophisticated and above all balanced each time.
Where Fat Duck was a show of what’s creatively possible, Oud Sluis is the aesthetic sense of beauty in perfectly balanced look and taste. Perfection, and even beyond perfection.
Oud Sluis is unique and unlike anything I have ever tried before. The complexity and exoticness of the food is seducing in every way. It touched my heart and stimulated my mind in an intoxicating way. I have to go back and justify to myself that this meal wasn’t an imagination.
I got the coffee and number of sweets and chocolate and then the bill where about 30% of the total was reduced for a reason unknown to the waiter. I asked for an oportunity of thanking Sergio for a marvellous experience, but he had left the restaurant at that point. Sergio’s brother then kindly drove us back to Veerhoeve.
The next morning Else brought us a lovely homemade breakfast of new, boiled eggs, excellent croissants and freshly pressed oranges and a good strong coffee and we settled the bill with her.
While packing the bags, Else suddenly returned to our room. The Maitre d’ from Oud Sluis had telephoned Else and was asking us to top by the restaurant because there was an issue with the bill – not specifying what the problem was. And so of course we made the detour and went back to the restaurant.
Maitre d’ met us at the door and explained that the reduction made to our bill was a mistake. He asked us to pay the remaining 30% of the total amount. And being nice people, so we did, of course. It remains my last impression of Oud Sluis…
René was right: I loved Oud Sluis.