A greedy picnic with Richard Mignolet

Every dish is a surprise waiting to be revealed and each mouthful tells a story. This is the taste of the passion and expertise of the people of this little corner of the Ardennes.

Pleasure, the Ardennes way

I meet Richard Mignolet at the bar of Saint-Hubert Game Park. He greets me as if this were his home, the roads his corridors, the fields his windows and the people his family.  He lives and breathes the Ardennes with the insane infatuation of a teenager, vowing love until death.


5 mins OF ESCAPE

Born in Liège, he spent all his holidays here and eventually settled in the region. Since then, he has built relationships and spread his love, pride and wisdom across the region of Saint-Hubert. I sense this instantly on our first discussion over coffee as he shares a private joke with the waiter.


To Richard, understanding the Ardennes means not just understanding the region's history and culture, but letting it permeate your body and mind. So he takes me on a culinary exploration of the Saint-Hubert area. Together, we're to prepare a special meal. The favourite picnic of the locals.

For his business, called “Ardenne Plaisir”, Richard Mignolet takes groups on guided walks during which they enjoy a picnic or a barbecue based on local produce. He proposes different themes, such as the forest, local produce or heritage, as well as some fun activities such as a witch hunt. To Richard, what counts is the people he meets in his land of adoption, and helping them discover all the beauty and savoir-faire it has to offer.


With Richard, I feel like a long lost niece reunited with my family. He introduces his friends, producers and artisans who seem delighted and welcome me like a relative.

Sitting at the Table of Champions


The day begins like a treasure hunt: we enter (by the back door) the butcher's workshop of Denis Colin. At the end of a long dark corridor shrouded in mystery, we reach a beautifully laid-out dining room where Denis welcomes us with a local beer, a Saint-Hubert. At 10.30 am, the restaurant, La Table des Champions, is still empty but later it'll be buzzing with lovers of grilled food and traditional cuisine based on local produce. A "borquin" or "pipe d'Ardenne" saucisson, a pâté with Saint-Hubert beer, and our basket  looks delicious already.


The borquin is a typical local saucisson. Created by the Saint-Hubert butchers' society for the 1958 Universal Exhibition of Brussels, it is now one of the delights of local heritage.

cheese saint-hubert

Cheese and the call for freedom


Our purchases continue at Saint-Hubert prison, which looks more like a huge farm than a prison. It is in fact a semi-open detention centre which mostly houses prisoners approaching the end of their sentence. This is a gentle rehabilitation method facilitated by the contact with animals. The milk crisis in 2009 is the very reason why this little cheese dairy exists, producing butter, fromage frais, hard and soft cheeses and icecreams. We leave amid a subtle aroma of garlic and herbs from the cheese in our basket.


Isabelle Heusden trained as a cheesemaker on the job, after the milk crisis. She and her colleagues are still in training and their selection increases year by year as new recipes make their way to the shelves.

At Long Pré, with our furry friends


At Long Pré we're greeted by Sophie Deger. We're joined later by her partner, Jonathan Rifon, and their young daughter as well as a whole bevy of dogs of every age and temperament. It came naturally to them to start breeding these cute sheep of the Entre-Sambre-et-Meuse region, urged by their love of animals and wide open spaces, and their enthusiasm for a job well done. Long Pré is a haven of love and peace, where choice ingredients go into their terrines and apple juice, as well as other local delights.

Sophie and her ewes. One of her favourites, no. 904, has a very good appetite. At the back, a flock of hens who have escaped from the less gentle hands of industry are recovering well, thanks to this family's care.

Cultivating patience, naturally


How quickly time flies with all these wonderful encounters! We're running very late by the time we arrive at Didier Leurquin's farm. Didier is the horticulturist behind the plat de résistance of our picnic, a rich, thick vegetable soup. He explains all the ins and outs of permaculture to us. This is a natural cultivation method that produces large quantities in small spaces (for instance, a crazy 350 kg of potatoes with just a 150 m² plot and a tarpaulin). 

Richard asks me what I thought of our day together. Put it this way, I feel like moving house right now and never going shopping in a supermarket again! Richard certainly knows how to bring you back to basics. Here's to the good things in life!

The marrow plant spreads over the ground, helping to conserve the soil's humidity which in turn helps the corn to grow. In return, the corn will provide shadow for the marrow plants.

ardenne plaisir

Pleasure on a plate


It's nearly time for dinner and we head for Saint-Hubert forest where a picnic area awaits us. Richard fires up the grill to heat Didier Leurquin's soup. We enjoy a real feast under the wonderful autumn sun. Every dish is a surprise waiting to be revealed and each mouthful tells a story. This is the taste of the passion and expertise of the people of this little corner of the Ardennes. We raise our glasses to life and to an essential return to nature and its simple pleasures. 

N.B. Since Corinne's arrival, Ardenne Plaisir has met new service providers and producers. The network is growing, always with the aim of using products from eco-responsible crops, horticulture, livestock and crafts, respecting the nature and located in the region of the Great Forest of Saint-Hubert. Each experience (meal in the forest or on the farm) is unique. For Richard and the Ardenne Plaisir team, the most important thing is the human contact, the conversations, the encounters and the quality of the product. Authenticity, conviviality and sharing, enchantment… that’s what best describes the Ardenne Plaisir team.
With Ardenne Plaisir you will enjoy the Ardennes!

Ardenne Plaisir - Richard Mignolet
+32 (0)498 57 37 08