Lunch@The Artist, Bucharest

We are in Bucharest and we are looking for an unforgettable food experience. After a little research, we have settled on lunch at The Artist . Dutch chef, Paul Oppenkamp uses the kitchen at The Artist to create ‘delicious sculptures through the magic of texture, flavour and colour’. We are excited at the prospect.


The restaurant is quiet when we arrive but it soon starts to fill up. I order a bottle of Ursus, a popular local Romanian lager. It is significantly better than other local beers I have tasted but that is not saying much – Romanian beer has not yet reached the heights of some of its European neighbours. Rock has The Artist Cocktail – a combination of lemongrass and elderflower, topped up with prosecco.  She is already enjoying herself.

The menu here is full of interesting dishes and they offer the option of spoon tasting! If you want to try all the starters, for example, they will give you a spoonful of each as your starter. Even the bread here is an event – small fresh, delicate rolls are served with olive oil foam and a special salt. Beautiful.

Parmesan roll with olive oil foam

Then we have a dramatic amuse-bouche. Whipped brie, granola and an intense orange gel served on a bowl of dry ice and accompanied by sunflower seed crackers. Wow – great food with built in entertainment!

Whipped brie, granola and orange gel

Unusually, Rock and I choose the same starter, hot smoked grilled trout with polenta, black garlic, onions, and whipped white cheese wrapped in a tomato gel. The trout is presented in a glass dome filled with smoke and the accompaniments are set out in a curve around the edge of the plate. Beautiful to look at and beautiful to eat.

Hot smoked grilled trout, polenta, black garlic, whipped cheese & tomoto gel

No spoon tasting yet but it’s coming soon. Rock decides to have the white cod for her main – served with zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant and a gentle curry. It is sensational. But I’m going for spoons – I have a spoon of every main course – white cod, chicken, jumbo prawn, veal fillet, sea bass and lamb fillet. The portions give you enough to understand and appreciate the flavours of each dish but not so much as to make you feel like a glutton.

White cod, zucchini, cauliflower, eggplant and curry.
Spoons of lamb fillet, jumbo prawn, chicken, sea bass & veal fillet.  Bowl of white cod.

We don’t want this experience to end so, without really needing more food, we decide to share the dessert spoons. Another bit of theatre now follows. Paul comes out of the kitchen with a pestle and mortar. He places the mortar, which contains orange zest, mint and basil leaves in front of Rock. He pours dry ice over the leaves to freeze them and asks Rock to crush the leaves with the pestle. This releases the fabulous smell of mint, basil & orange and, into the crushed leaves, he drops a ball of cucumber sorbet – this is both a palate cleanser and a stunning first dessert.

Cucumber sorbet with mint, basil & orange zest

The sorbet is followed by spoons of strawberry & white chocolate, a chocolate cigar with salted caramel and coconut and a raspberry cone with berries. Extraordinary. We draw out the experience further with great coffee and an exquisitely intense chocolate truffle.

Spoons of salted caramel, chocolate & coconut, raspberry cone & berries, strawberry & white chocolate

The Artist is a very civilised, quiet and unassuming restaurant. The people here are polite, very helpful and very keen that their diners enjoy themselves. The food is presented in extraordinary ways and the flavours match the aesthetics. This has been one of the best eating experiences we have had anywhere in the world. It has been truly unforgettable.


Baking with Champagne & Fireworks

The fizz of champagne cocktails, the dazzle of fireworks, the laughter of family and, most importantly, the intoxicating smell and taste of home-made bread, cake and cookies… we must be in a version of paradise for the senses.

Today is an all family affair.  The star guest is my cousin Karla.  She bakes her own bread and cakes and this will be her first visit to our home.  Other guests include my brothers, Van and Neko, sister-in-law Ziggy and my favourite niece, Edda.  Edda brought beautiful flowers and Van brought his washing!

Everyone arrived in time for lunch.  Rock’s fabulous home-made lentil soup was accompanied by equally fabulous slices of home-made bread from Karla and Rock.


Neko and Rock spent the afternoon kneading, proving and baking even more goodies.  Afternoon tea was accompanied by Ziggy’s wonderful polenta and almond lemon syrup cake and Rock’s chocolate brownie cookies – moist dark chocolate inlaid with hard chunks of white chocolate, omg.


As evening approached, I served champagne cocktails to the brave and sloe gin fizzes to the meek.  As soon as darkness fell and before I had consumed more champagne cocktail than was safe, it was time for fireworks. Fireworks have changed since I was a small boy – now you light one fuse and a succession of colours, stars, crackles, glitter bursts, whistles and bangs follow one after another.

Excited by the fireworks but also chilled by the evening air – we were ready for dinner.  Salads and home-made dips were served with Neko’s sourdough and Rock’s focaccia.  Then we had Karla’s unbelievably rich, dark and moist ginger cake served with crème fraiche – wow.


We really need to do this more often!