Opened by the owners of Au Vieux Saint-Martin and Au Grand Forestier, Au Savoy may have the appearance of a place that carries the “Niels” name but it doesn’t yet have the flavours or the consistency. A pity.
It was a stormy evening when we went to Au Savoy, a new place opened by Albert-Jean and Frédéric Niels, whose family boasts such ancestors as the inventor of the filet américain. Going to Au Vieux Saint-Martin, on the Zavel, or Au Grand Forestier in Bosvoorde, guarantees you a good time, a chance to sample one of the safest bets in Brussels.
This was far from the case on that Friday night at the end of October, when the place was literally taken by storm by a large number of customers. Due to their reputation for classic cuisine, it’s good to be seen there. Unfortunately, this time, it was not good to eat there. We got the impression that the place had bitten off more than it could chew. There was a lot of confusion.
Organised around a huge bar decorated with wood latticing, the place follows a tried-and-tested formula with Mart Stam chairs, leather benches, and tastefully chosen paintings, such as the beautiful fish by British artist Josh Smith. It’s certainly pretty, but less efficient than it could be, the activity around the large counter being anything but smooth.
The lighting was another issue. It was rather clinical and the brightness needed to be turned down.
The menu also features the hits they are known for: filet américain (€24), shrimp croquettes (€17.50), and rice pudding made in-house (€9). Was it the ambient chaos that prevented us from appreciating the food as we should have? It’s hard to say.
One thing is for sure: out of a table of four people, only the filet américain hit the mark, tasting the way we would normally expect. The most displeasing dish was, without a doubt, the sirloin steak cooked to order. It cost €27.50 and arrived dry and lukewarm, as did the fries that came with it. For that price, we were disappointed, especially since the portion couldn’t have been bigger than 200 grams.
Also, considering the price, we would have liked to be told the origin of the meat. It would have been a complete catastrophe if Albert-Jean Niels had not sent the Béarnaise sauce back to the kitchen in the nick of time. It did have an odd look about it.
Not a classic (yet)
Doing his best to be witty and attentive, we could tell that the owner was on the verge of putting things to rights. The waiting staff, equally professional, spared no effort in alleviating the effects of the overwhelmed kitchen.
In conclusion, we recommend waiting a few weeks before trying out this place which should, we hope, become a Brugmann classic.