Tervuren barbecue concept SMOAK at the Spanish House (Het Spaans Huis) in the Tervuren Park has won Best Burger in the Benelux 2022, beating over 400 other hopefuls to the accolade, awarded last week. The SMOAK team also run Copains, a nearby bar, restaurant and events outfit. Their prize, a glorious Multiwagon Foodtrailer worth €13,000, was shown off on Copains’ social media.
The Smoakburger ‘Blue Bayou’ combines lumberjack heft with sophisticated flavours. Inside a brown bun go truffle mayo, rocket, roasted hazelnuts, Black Angus beef, blue cheese, Jack Daniels Tennessee Fire flambéed red onions, mushrooms, beer smoked eye of back bacon, and hemp sauce.
I tasted one at the Spanish House in Tervuren Park. But first, preliminaries. The location is beautiful: a 17th century, red-brick Dutch-gabled mill house, set among formal parkland and forest, with a terrace overlooking a lake.
For some though, the real draw would be seeing the checker-shirted team of cooks working over their Plancha barbecue, flames and delicious wood smoke licking up through a steel griddle ring of burgers and buns.
Kurt Singulé, who describes himself as the manager and ‘serial griller’, is obviously a woodsman and fire afficionado. He was happy to chat, explaining that they use ash because it burns hot and fast, and birch because it creates a good bed of embers.
Asked about customising the burgers by a faint-hearted client, Singulé replied incredulously, “It’s the best burger in the Benelux!” He did relent and offer to take elements out, but in the end it wasn’t necessary. The real thing was too tempting.
Despite the long list of ingredients, each flavour shone, and the hazelnuts added crunch. The blue cheese melt – which isn’t usually my thing in a burger – pulled all the elements together without overpowering them. And another important factor: it didn’t go soggy or fall apart.
Singulé insiststhe burger and the SMOAK concept were in turn part of the reason why Het Spaans Huis didn’t fall apart itself during the Covid-19 restrictions.
“Without being able to offer these burgers and streetfood, we wouldn’t have survived the pandemic,” he told Travel Tomorrow.
Other burgers are on the menu at the Spanish House, including veggie options and pulled pork, as well as punnets of loaded nachos that could feed five people. Meanwhile Copains restaurant, bar and events is across the street from the Tervuren Park and Africa Museum at Leuvensesteenweg 10a, Wezembeek-Oppem, Belgium.