Haute cuisine or high tea with Santa - 35m in the air

Chefs in safety harnesses serving diners strapped to chairs and suspended on an open platform 35m from the ground - during the Santa In The Sky event as part of Christmas festivities in Brussels on Friday.
Chefs in safety harnesses serving diners strapped to chairs and suspended on an open platform 35m from the ground - during the Santa In The Sky event as part of Christmas festivities in Brussels on Friday.PHOTO: REUTERS

BRUSSELS • Not waiting at home for Santa Claus, gourmands in Brussels are flying off on his sleigh to dine with him above the city's rooftops and twinkling Christmas lights.

Santa In The Sky is a novel twist on the Belgian capital's Dinner In The Sky venture, where diners and the chefs cooking for them are lifted high in the air on an open platform suspended from a construction crane.

Last weekend, in the city's chic Sablon square shopping district, a bell-ringing Santa Claus welcomed people aboard the "restaurant" fitted out as a sleigh decked with lights and drawn through the air by four theatre-prop reindeers.

Diners, who sat strapped to chairs to eat at a bar running round the open kitchen, pay up to €250 (S$380) for a gastronomic four- course supper with wine, or go for options starting at €55 for high tea.

Free to marvel at Brussels' Flemish Renaissance grandeur and mediaeval churches, customers could savour haute cuisine from distinguished chefs, some with Michelin stars to their name.

On Friday evening, Mr Maxime Mazier's menu included a lobster and artichoke starter, line-caught sea bass with shellfish and coconut marshmallow with mango.

The trick, he said, was coping with the gusts of winter night air that whip around the sleigh.

"It's not that warm," he said. "Just as you're serving, if the wind gets up, for the fish, which has to be served just right, it's the timing that's important."

Mr Michael Chiche, who helps run the Brussels-based firm that over the past 10 years has brought the sky-dining experience to 58 countries, said he was confident the four-day Christmas event, which ended yesterday, would be repeated next year.

"To be in the air, first, it's the view," he said. "Secondly, you're blocked. It means that you are with your guests, you are with the chef and all the flavours, everything, you're going to experience it completely differently."

Ms Helene Ziegler, 19, an art history student, said: "As we were on the way up, I got a bit scared. It was moving. But once on top, it became very quiet... It's great to see the entire city. The food is very good. The chefs prepare it in front of us. It's wonderful."

The evening, she said, was a gift to her and her sister from their father - though he found a convenient excuse not to join them 35m above the cold cobbles of the Sablon.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 28, 2016, with the headline 'Haute cuisine or high tea with Santa - 35m in the air'. Print Edition | Subscribe