For better or worse, Patrick Lefevere is a man that lives his life in the public eye, with his heart on his sleeve. This year alone, we know that he has taken a flawless selfie en route to Rwanda, been proud about a development team in Antwerp, and threatened Liam Neeson-esque vengeance on a Facebook impersonator. But it is in his weekly Het Nieuwsblad column that he really lets us know what he thinks about things. And after a lacklustre performance from his Soudal Quick-Step team at the E3 Saxo Classic last week, he was not well pleased.
Actually, that’s not quite right. He was briefly very happy, before descending into an abyss of despair. Patrick Lefevere, you see, had a lunch so brilliant that the rest of the day was a write-off.
Other publications may choose to focus on Yves Lampaert’s best-on-team 16th place, or Julian Alaphilippe’s minor fever, or Florian Senechal’s crash. But what of Lefevere’s Lovely Lunch? Is a team CEO’s tantalised palate not equally worthy of analysis? Personally, I don’t particularly care about where Kasper Asgreen finished (especially if it’s 51st), but I am deeply invested in what Lefevere ate, and where.
Here’s what we do know, from Lefevere’s column. During the race, he had – and I quote – “a tasty lunch” at a restaurant in Waregem called Castor, and “with that we have had everything that was good yesterday: the food. The performance of the team was below par. Furthermore,” Lefevere adds ominously, “I did not dare to look.”
Castor is no ordinary establishment, and has a long list of accolades to show for it. It is #1 on “THE 10 BEST romantic restaurants in Waregem” (according to Tripadvisor), 4.9-starred (according to Google Reviews), and two-starred (according to Michelin).
We can only speculate on what Lefevere ate, but from the menu, speculate we will. E3 was raced on Friday and our guy visited at lunchtime, which means that the full luscious suite of degustation menus was available: from four menu items up to seven, each dish accompanied by a carefully selected wine. That virtually guarantees that Lefevere had either the sea bass with garden peas, dashi and horseradish or the monkfish with artichoke, macadamia and vermouth (he doesn’t strike me as a back-to-back fish guy, and besides, I’ve got a good feeling about the veal). I’m willing to lock in the chocolate dessert rather than the lychee and coconut, and – all things considered – that would seem to pass the Lefevere “Tasty Lunch” test.
The ambience? Quite a modern building which Belgian Google reviewers, clumsily Google translated, seem to keep referring to as a “frame”. It’s not all upside: a man called Kristof, a week ago, was disappointed with “the remarkably bad acoustics in the restaurant, a pity” (4 stars). An earlier reviewer called ‘Hunting Cooky’ found the sommelier “incomprehensible” with “standard stor[ies] about the wines!”, but that seems an isolated gripe from someone who was already outraged about having to pour water for themselves.
There are limited windows at the front of the building, which is a cunning move from the architect, seeing as there’s a Texaco service station directly across the road, and a drab car accessories retailer next door:
Out the back, where the parking is, the scene is more bucolic; a farm road next to an orchard. From this we can deduce that after eating four-to-seven immaculate dishes and a matching number of wines, Lefevere and co strode on crunchy gravel out to a Quick-Step-branded BMW station wagon, hopped into the car, rejoined the race convoy, and waited for the boys to light it up.
Which they never really did.
Presumably to Lefevere’s chagrin, Soudal Quick-Step’s woes continued at Gent-Wevelgem on Sunday. The team’s best finisher was Tim Merlier in 14th place, more than two minutes off the pace, with the remainder of the squad doing little to enliven proceedings. With the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix fast approaching, there’s limited time to turn things around for a team best known as a powerhouse of the Spring Classics – which turns our attention, inevitably, to future Lefevere Lunch Reports.
Will anything come close to Castor’s asparagus and parmesan? Is its Norwegian lobster fated to be Lefevere’s highpoint of his team’s Classics campaign?
More on this developing story as we have it, but for now, Castor’s way off the front and the rest have some serious work to do to drag back the breakaway.
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