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Dining in the dark: Brussels eateries tackle energy crunch

by Sylvain Plazy, The Associated Press | October 1, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.
A couple speak as they enjoy a drink and candle lit dinner at Brasserie Surrealiste in Brussels, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A group of restaurant owners in Brussels has imagined how a future without gas and electricity would look like for gourmets. Dinner guests, served at the Brasserie Surrealiste and cooked by Racines restaurant employees, were the first to experience it: No ovens, no stoves, no hot plates, no coffee machines and no light bulbs. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

BRUSSELS -- While European Union nations are still mulling a cap on gas prices, some businesses are more in a hurry for solutions to the continent's energy crisis.

In Brussels, the epicenter of the EU, restaurant owners have imagined how a future without gas and electricity would look like for gourmets.

The guests at the dinner served at the Brasserie Surrealiste and cooked by Racines employees this week were the first to experience it: No ovens, no stoves, no hot plates, no coffee machines and no light bulbs.

Still, great food.

Just cold entrees, or slightly grilled over the flaming charcoal grill of a Japanese barbecue, served at candle-lit tables.

"The idea is to go back to the cave age," said Francesco Cury, the Racines owner. "We prepared a whole series of dishes that just need to be grilled for a few seconds ... But the search for taste, for the amazing, for the stunning, is still part of our business."

On the menu: brioche with anchovies, porchetta and focaccia cooked on a wood fire, raw white tuna, grilled pork with beans, and ricotta cream with pumpkin jam and pistachios as desert.

But what sounds like a romantic atmosphere and a one-time experience is actually what customers could face more permanently if energy bills keep increasing.

"People see price increases of 30% to 40% in the supermarket. And we, restaurant owners, buy the same raw material, the same products. So what do we do? We increase the prices. But then on top comes the price of gas and electricity. Can we do our job without energy sources? The answer is no," Cury said. "So we have to think a little bit more, and society has to realize how critical the situation is."

The dramatic rise of inflation in Belgium could have been a deterrent, but 50 guests took part in the dinner Thursday organized as part of the "Brussels in the Dark" initiative involving a dozen of restaurants.

"We are at a point when one needs to choose between being warm at home or eating out," said Stephane Lepla, on a night out with his girlfriend. "Finding the balance is complicated. So yes, of course, there is a reflection on a daily basis. There are habits that need to change, that we try to change anyway, even if it is not always easy."

photo A chef dresses plates for diners at Brasserie Surrealiste in Brussels, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A group of restaurant owners in Brussels has imagined how a future without gas and electricity would look like for gourmets. Dinner guests, served at the Brasserie Surrealiste and cooked by Racines restaurant employees, were the first to experience it: No ovens, no stoves, no hot plates, no coffee machines and no light bulbs. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
photo A group of diners have a drink and candle lit dinner at Brasserie Surrealiste in Brussels, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A group of restaurant owners in Brussels has imagined how a future without gas and electricity would look like for gourmets. Dinner guests, served at the Brasserie Surrealiste and cooked by Racines restaurant employees, were the first to experience it: No ovens, no stoves, no hot plates, no coffee machines and no light bulbs. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
photo A group of diners have a drink and candle lit dinner at Brasserie Surrealiste in Brussels, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A group of restaurant owners in Brussels has imagined how a future without gas and electricity would look like for gourmets. Dinner guests, served at the Brasserie Surrealiste and cooked by Racines restaurant employees, were the first to experience it: No ovens, no stoves, no hot plates, no coffee machines and no light bulbs. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
photo A chef cooks a steak on a Japanese barbecue at Brasserie Surrealiste in Brussels, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A group of restaurant owners in Brussels has imagined how a future without gas and electricity would look like for gourmets. Dinner guests, served at the Brasserie Surrealiste and cooked by Racines restaurant employees, were the first to experience it: No ovens, no stoves, no hot plates, no coffee machines and no light bulbs. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
photo A group of diners have a drink and candle lit dinner at Brasserie Surrealiste in Brussels, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A group of restaurant owners in Brussels has imagined how a future without gas and electricity would look like for gourmets. Dinner guests, served at the Brasserie Surrealiste and cooked by Racines restaurant employees, were the first to experience it: No ovens, no stoves, no hot plates, no coffee machines and no light bulbs. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
photo A man asks a bartender for a refill on his drink at Brasserie Surrealiste in Brussels, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A group of restaurant owners in Brussels has imagined how a future without gas and electricity would look like for gourmets. Dinner guests, served at the Brasserie Surrealiste and cooked by Racines restaurant employees, were the first to experience it: No ovens, no stoves, no hot plates, no coffee machines and no light bulbs. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)
photo A woman waits for her dinner to arrive as she sits at a table with a candelabra at Brasserie Surrealiste in Brussels, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2022. A group of restaurant owners in Brussels has imagined how a future without gas and electricity would look like for gourmets. Dinner guests, served at the Brasserie Surrealiste and cooked by Racines restaurant employees, were the first to experience it: No ovens, no stoves, no hot plates, no coffee machines and no light bulbs. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys)

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