Exceptional wines and expressive dishes
For every dish Martijn puts on the menu, Esteban carefully selects two suitable wines. One is an affordable, accessible wine that suits the dish, the other a more exclusive option that is normally only available by the bottle. In this way, Rebelle offers guests a chance to taste exceptional cellar treasures by the glass. “This Julien Meyer wine, for example, is only available to drink here and at one restaurant in Japan,” says Esteban. “It is enormously complex and continues to evolve in your glass. A whole bottle would be too much, but it’s a perfect complement to an expressive dish. I see it as a meditative wine. It invites careful attention.” Another very special wine on the list comes from only ten kilometres away. “The Lijsternest vineyard in Otegem is owned by winemaker Servaas Blockeel. Here he creates supple, almost velvety wines from local grapes. We are closely involved in this vineyard; we even helped to plant the first vines. His wines have since gained worldwide recognition. He has an unusual vision. He works exclusively with hybrid grapes, crossings between different varieties. Traditional winemakers look down on these grapes, but they are strong and resilient, allowing him to make wine without using pesticides in the vineyard.”
Pure terroir in the kitchen
“That collaboration with local farmers works both ways,” adds the chef. “If I want baby turnips in spring, I ask our vegetable farmer to plant them and harvest them at the appropriate time. But if I get a call telling me they have a surplus of ripe tomatoes at the end of summer, I buy a couple of crates. By fermenting them, I can take those sweet flavour bombs in all sorts of directions. In this way we help each other.” His inspiration for the use of local ingredients comes from all over the world. For example, one of Martijn’s specialties is a preparation of langoustines with homemade XO sauce. While this savoury sauce originally hails from China, Martijn’s version is made with exclusively local ingredients such as Ganda ham, brown shrimp and scallops.
Michelin-starred but rebellious
Despite the Michelin star the restaurant received in 2022, Rebelle still has a casual style. “I’ve been dreaming of a star since I first decided to become a chef at the age of fourteen,” laughs Martijn. “When I did get one, I was overjoyed, but I also wondered if it would attract new guests with different expectations who maybe wouldn’t fit our style.” Martijn and hostess Tessa are determined not to change a thing. There are still no white tablecloths here, and we treat our guests with the same relaxed hospitality as ever. “We follow our gut feeling, we’ve always been a bit rebellious, but above all very welcoming. People feel at home here.”