Julien Burlat serves exquisite Michelin-starred cuisine in a splendid late 18th century manor. Before Dôme, an establishment of this calibre had been missing from the trove of Antwerp’s many treasures.
Chef Julien Burlat moved to Antwerp nine years ago. Today he is at the head of veritable little gourmet empire that includes a Michelin-starred restaurant (Dôme, open since 2003), a seafood bistro (Dôme sur Mer, since 2006) and even a bakery-patisserie (Domestic, since 2008).
Born in Saint-Étienne, France, Burlat naturally learnt his stuff in Pierre Gagnaire’s first restaurant (two stars), where he developed a taste for gourmet cuisine. He continued in Lyon at the Villa Florentine before heading for the French capital where he worked at the Crillon and chez Alain Ducasse in his restaurant on Avenue Poincaré under the direction of Jean-François Piège. But the decisive culinary experience for Burlat was the period he spent at Bernard Pacaud’s l’Ambroisie (three stars): his vocation blossomed in the family atmosphere of this restaurant defined by honesty and the pure pleasure of cooking.
His wife, Sophie Verbeke, former stylist and assistant to the fashion designer Dries Van Noten, brought him to Antwerp. He immediately felt he was in his element in this international, cosmopolitan town, a city in perpetual movement. The couple fell in love with a fabulous old building (circa 1893) of an eclectic and expansive art deco style.
Even though Antwerp already had plenty of commendable places to dine, from hip bistros to classic restaurants that had been there forever, after only three months in business, Dôme was fully booked every weekend. The restaurant has a fresh and inventive nature, of a piece with Burlat’s cuisine: classic and instinctive, certainly, but never smug. The epicureans of this dynamic and opulent city with a penchant for commerce and their well-off Dutch neighbours in for the weekend certainly know quality when they see it!
Julien Burlat’s very elegant, refined cuisine is in a continual state of evolution: the mode of cooking and seasonings are adapted according to whichever fresh ingredients are available, and the result is perfectly harmonious. His suppliers trust him enough to bring him products he hasn’t ordered; he improvises from morning ‘til evening, and even from one table to the next. His guiding star, followed since the years with Pacaud, is pleasure - the pleasure he takes when cooking delicious food, and the pleasure he has when sharing it. The same generous attitude is apparent when Dôme’s excellent sommelier proposes bottles with obscure titles and little-known vintages to be discovered.
Three years after he opened shop, Burlat invited a childhood friend, another Julien (Bobichon), to Antwerp to open a seafood bistro whose simplicity and relevance - oysters from the fish market and Brittany lobster à la plancha - attracts multitudes.
Finally, since the customers of Dôme had asked where they could buy the bread served during meals, Burlat rounded out his little empire with the opening of Domestic, a bakery-patisserie located right next door to the restaurant. Pre-Domestic, a bakery of this quality had been hard to come by in the good city of Rubens. Another rousing success, with its hand-rolled pure butter croissants, excellent fresh bread and pains au chocolatwhich grace the cosy homes of Antwerp of a Sunday morning.