HISTORY OF THE VAL DIEU RESTAURANT
The creation of the restaurant in 1993
The “Moulin du Val-Dieu” restaurant has a major selling point: it is situated in … Val-Dieu.
It definitely did not steal its name! It also owns several buildings surrounding it and quite a lot of land crossed by the river “ Bel” as well as other waterways currently alimenting the turbine of the installations.
When in 1972-1973 the old activities of the mill are ended for more modern facilities, the Mill slowly goes into hibernation even with a small number of milling activities still continuing until 1986.
Well aware of the historical, economic and touristic value of the whole complex, the owners, Alphonse and Christion Hick and Philippe Van Laethem decide to transform the old Mill and some of the buildings of the old farm in a gastronomic place.
The principal objective is to create a synergy between the mill activity where specialised feed is produced and the newly installed restaurant in the old Mill. In order to respect this objective, the produce used is mainly sourced from farms using the products of the mill. Next objective is to present, prepare or, depending on their category, to transform them.
Thus we find here the milk products provided by the cattle and sheep farms: milk, cream, butter, cheese, meat , poultry, eggs and many more. Local products such as syrup, apple juice, trout, escargots, etc.. made by small local entrepreneurs are also valued.
The restaurant is divided in 3 areas:
- The ground floor and the belfry of the Old Mill and the old stable is where we find the tasting rooms with a choice of cold platters, a few hot traditional dishes and delicious desserts. At the back are also two large terraces, much appreciated in the summer season and a play area for kids.
Part of the ground floor and the belfry have been made into a small museum. Near the millstones one can find all sorts of objects covering a number of centuries as well as some archives.
- On top of the stable the old hayloft, which was in a bad state, has been replaced by a veranda, a modern addition to underline the impact of the 20th century transformations. Here you can choose from a menu card and menus featuring grilled meats and simple dishes with much highlighted local produce.
- The 2 small rooms above the ground floor and the Belfry, is where the haute cuisine is served with specific produce in a refined way. This part of the restaurant has been called “ Le Grenier à Grains” (the Hayloft) as this was where the grain was stored in the old days.
On June 23rd 1993 the whole establishment was inaugurated as “ Le Restaurant du Moulin du Val-Dieu”; it was managed by the owners Alphonse Hick, Christian Hick and Philippe Van Laethem until end 2006. In order to spend most of their time on the mill and the farms of Moulin du Val-Dieu, they then decide to leave the management to somebody else. Since December 2017, taking over from traiteur “Les Cours”, it is the Léon Stassen sprl that is managing the restaurant.
The mechanism of the old Mill is still running, it is possible to organise guided visits of the mill as well as the nature reserve only by reservation. For more information, please contact our guide, Martine Crahay on 0495/75.76.47.
A last word
And why not ask the principal character in this story to give us a last couple of words: … our Old Mill.
“I did everything I could to resist so as to still be present today after 800 years! I helped a number of generations of millers. I helped and encouraged them by running my millstones continuously. In the second half of the 20th century, it was then decided to separate me from my main activity, the milling, by transferring the activity to a new, more modern facility. In a sense I was pensioned of. Today I’m a page in the history books. People come and observe me, sometimes they admire me and they relax whilst tasting some local produce with friends or family. Many people just stop to admire my wheel which turns slowly with the rhythm of the water, an illustration of slow living. Now and then for the benefit of young students or groups of visitors I activate my whole mechanism which they then admire with open mouths. And you too, I’m waiting for you to spend a nice moment together. Come and discover me and if you wish, I’ll tell you some of my many old stories.
Also, my adventures can be found in two books: “ Le Moulin du Val-Dieu, 800 years along the water” and “Saint-Jean-Sart, 8 centuries on the flanks of the Bel” because that little village is also an integral part of my life”.