Via Lamanna: thumbs up or not?

The multi-space restaurant/”concept store” Via Lamanna opened recently on Brussels’ chic Avenue Louise. Every time we drive past it seems bustling and attractive, so finally this week we got around to visiting. There are several “spaces”, including a shop, wine bar, lounge, and a “gastronomic restaurant”, which is where we’d booked our table.

The first impression upon entering was that it’s very Avenue Louise. Cavernous and dark and designed to within an inch of its life. The toilets alone are bigger than our apartment, despite that fact that there are only two “facilities” in the men’s, separated by about twelve metres’ worth (maybe a slight exaggeration, but not much) of wash basin.

The decor is almost entirely black, giving the whole place a slightly funereal air, and the gloom is broken by the occasional spot, frustratingly not directed at the tables where the food will be placed, but at random areas of flooring. I spent the evening with a spot behind me casting the shadow of my head on my meal.

We perused the options and eventually decided on a four course tasting menu, the contents to be chosen by the chef. My wife chose “fish” and I chose “meat” (we weren’t given a vegetarian option). Our amuse-bouche was mi-cuit tuna with campari gel cubes and shavings of pistachio. Pleasant, but the morsels of fish were so small they were hardly there.

For our antipasto my wife had scallops with a Sardinian saffron pistil reduction and courgette flowers.

I had vitello tonnato. I’d have preferred a touch more tuna, but other than that I couldn’t complain.

My wife’s first course was a rather blurry but very tasty shrimp risotto.

Mine was probably the best dish of the evening; rigatoni with rabbit ragù and caramelised hazelnuts. The rigatoni were just a touch too al dente for my taste, but the unexpected sweetness of the sauce was very enjoyable. I could happily have eaten a second portion.

For main my wife had pistachio encrusted swordfish, young sauteed vegetables and basil oil (there seemed to be quite a bit of pistachio dotted about the menu). Slightly disappointing as the fish was a little overcooked and the crust wasn’t as crunchy as I’d have liked.

Mine was a simple piece of veal with potatoes and shallots. Tender and tasty, if not the most imaginative of preparations.

That just left us with a standard tiramisu for dessert.

Something of a disappointment overall, I have to say. Some individual dishes were very nice, and I’d probably come back at some point to try a couple of things on the menu that caught my eye, but you’re looking at 20-30 Euro for an antipasto or a starter, and 30-40 for a main course. Typical Avenue Louise prices perhaps, but not exactly value for money.

Simon Litton
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