A gastronomical Spanish oasis in Aalst
TEXT: ARNE ADRIAENSSENS | PHOTOS © GASTROBAR SAVIDA
A stone’s throw from the main square of Aalst, one of Flanders’ cosiest city’s, you will find Gastrobar Savida, a culinary paradise with a Spanish edge. Don’t expect century-old recipes and Iberian classics here, however, but instead, allow yourself to be surprised by pure and refined dishes with a Spanish soul.
“Savida means ‘the life’ in Balearian Catalan,” explains chef Olivier de Kegel, who runs the business alongside his wife Ellen. “We came up with the name on a holiday in Ibiza. Both of us love Spain and, throughout the years, we have seen quite a bit of the country. When we are there, we also love to go for dinner and be inspired by their rich and pure flavours. So, when we decided to open a restaurant ourselves, we just couldn’t resist bringing those Spanish flavours into our kitchen as well.”
Ellen and Olivier
Nonetheless, Gastrobar Savida is not your run-of-the-mill tapas bar. Instead, De Kegel mixes classic Spanish ingredients like chorizo and ‘jamón ibérico’ with traditional Flemish products like prawns and North Sea lobster. The essential concept of tapas stays afoot, though: the menu counts plenty of small dishes from which you can take your pick. “Yet, that’s where the comparison stops. Unlike classic tapas, our dishes are not meant to be shared. Furthermore, they are way more refined than the Spanish classics. We never combine more than three flavours on a plate, so as to give all those great ingredients the attention they deserve.”
For the full experience, you had best opt for the Experience Menu (80 euros): a selection of nine delicious and diverse plates; some from the general menu, others created especially for the set menu. Often, the most popular dishes from recent weeks appear in this excellent selection. “And nothing complements a Spanish meal better than a good glass of wine. 80 per cent of our wine list comes from the Iberian Peninsula and, upon request, we even serve our Experience Menu with all-Spanish selected wines.”
Yet, that refined food and elaborate wine list stand not in the way of the restaurant’s informal and warm atmosphere. Instead of long table cloths and sterling silver tableware, they have filled their elegant restaurant with minimalist, marble tables and modern cutlery. “For us, it is vital that our guests have a great time. And, they definitely don’t have to dress up for that.”