The space that was once her father’s doctors’ office today houses Alix Aelterman’s ‘Alix Table & Jardin d’Amis‘, a quaint bistro in Ghent…
The real magic of ‘Alix’ reveals itself fully in the evenings, when the place welcomes groups for a gathering in a cozy atmosphere.Unlike a typical restaurant, the place offers lunch and brunch menus that allow customers to choose from eight different dishes that rotate monthly. But the real magic of ‘Alix’ reveals itself fully in the evenings, when the place welcomes groups of 15 or more for a gathering in a cozy and private atmosphere. In summer, picnic blankets are spread across the garden and garlands are hung in between trees. In the winter, the rustic interior with its large wooden tables and fireplace creates a homely atmosphere.
We spoke with the owner about the concept behind the bistro, as well as how she developed her passion for food and hosting gatherings…
Can you start by telling our readers about what ‘Alix- Table & Jardin d’Amis’ is?
“We want to create a cozy and homey atmosphere in which to serve good food, prepared on a daily basis with fresh, local ingredients.”
Alix Aelterman:‘Alix’ is a restaurant where you can come for lunch and brunch. In the evenings and on Saturdays our restaurant is open for groups starting from 15 people. We want to create a cozy and homey atmosphere in which to serve good food, prepared on a daily basis with fresh, local ingredients. We want our customers to be at ease and feel at home, because at home is where I receive them… at my house, which used to be my father’s doctors’ practice.
During summer (from May till end of September), visitors can enjoy our garden for a picnic on Sunday or organize a private event in our barn. We run events for up to 150 people, which create a very cool atmosphere in our city garden. Picnic-goers make a reservation for our basket, pick their place in the grass and enjoy the buffet set up in the barn.
Where did the idea for ‘Alix – Table & Jardin d’Amis’ come from?
Alix Aelterman: “It began with a group of five people, then the next group grew to 12, and eventually I had a group every month of 20 people.” Three years ago I started inviting people to have dinner at my place (in addition to all the dinners I had with my friends and family at home). It began with a group of five people, then the next group grew to 12, and eventually I had a group every month of 20 people. In the summer of 2014 I started organizing picnics in our garden every Sunday, which were quite successful. Encouraged by the growing demand for group dinners, my passion for cooking and the big dream of opening my own restaurant, I quit my job and started ‘Alix’ six months ago. As mentioned before, my father’s doctors’ practice was available at that time, so I quickly realized this was the place where my restaurant would open its doors.
What would you say makes it different from other restaurant offerings?
Alix Aelterman: We’re driven by a concept. When organizing a group dinner you can choose from different formulas: a brunch, an afternoon tea, a sharing dinner or a picnic… During lunch and brunch you can compose your own meal. We have eight different dishes every month, ranging from fish to meat plus a large variety of vegetarian dishes. You choose your favorite dishes, up to two or three, and select which flavors you’d like to combine.
"I didn’t want to create a typical restaurant atmosphere, that’s why groups can book and have the place for themselves and feel at home without other customers present."
What were you doing before you started the restaurant? What’s your background?
Alix Aelterman: I graduated as a business engineer at the University of Ghent. During my studies I was always passionate about food and cooking and took cooking lessons and wine tasting classes, and worked in several restaurants. I worked for two years as a student in Julie’s House, a well known “Pie House”, and after that I worked part-time at Boxys Traiteur, where I learned to combine herbs, spices and flavors. Since my 15th birthday, I have always enjoyed serving people and bringing them unforgettable dining moments.
"Dining with your loved ones is one of the few occasions in the day or even the week where you have the chance to take the time for one another, talk and catch up. I think that is precious..."
Sourcing fresh ingredients from local suppliers seems to be a big part of your business, why is it so important to you?
Alix Aelterman: First, I really like my neighborhood! We have everything we need here: a fish shop, the butcher, a fresh bakery… Everyone of them is a very high quality supplier, and an expert in their respective product areas.
“My inspirations come from my travels, many restaurant visits and a lot of dishes I prepared in the past.”
The menu changes monthly based on the season, can you talk about the process of developing a menu each month? Where do you draw inspiration from?
Alix Aelterman: My inspirations come from my travels, many restaurant visits and a lot of dishes I prepared in the past. Every month it takes me about a week to create the new menu: creating, thinking, testing, reading books, … and up till now customers have been liking it. The menu is not always that coherent, because I like to bring many flavors and styles together, but this way customers can choose their favorite flavors for themselves and ultimately create their perfect dish.
All images © Curtis Spahl