One of the reasons we wanted to visit Belgium was to eat food.
Frites, waffles, chocolate, beer, mussels, cheese, bread, chocolate, and beer. Did I mention beer?
Brad is a bit of a beer snob (I mean connoisseur), and used to brew his own. Belgium is a beer-lover’s heaven! We started our feasting in Bruges with an al fresco lunch after our visit to the Minnewater and the Begijnhof. We stumbled upon a nice-looking cafe in a cute public square and got ourselves some frieten met mayonaise, a crab sandwich, and some beer. The first beer of the day was a Brugse zot, which we have had before, on tap even, at a Belgian bistro in Canterbury. This beer was so fresh and delish!
We finished lunch, started our amble through the square in the direction of the city centre, and found that we had just had our glorious glass of Brugse zot directly across the street from the brewery! Brouwerij De Halve Maan is where this magical concoction is brewed, and they have a lovely courtyard with a cafe/restaurant.
Well, for us, that means coffee and hot chocolate, and maybe a snack, being that we’re not big tea fans. So we took our friend Emilie’s advice and visited De Proeverie Tea Room which is just a few doors down from the Sint-Janshospitaal.
Brad ordered a double espresso and I ordered the chocolademelk (hot chocolate), which was what Emilie recommended we try.
The chocolademelk arrived and I immediately started to drool (and I kinda wanted to break into song…). Wow. Hot milk, molten chocolate, a dish of whipped cream, and a few chocolates to accompany the chocolate. YES!
And equally good, if not nearly as gluttonous, was Brad’s espresso, complete with whipped cream, milk, and chocolates, of course. Really delicious!
Oh yum. Yummy yummy yum!
And what a cute place!
They also had amazing cakes. Alas, they wouldn’t allow us to take any away with us.
And beautiful cupcakes.
That was a lovely tea-time treat! Then, on to more of Bruges. We climbed the bell tower, we saw the Basilica of the Sacred Blood, and did some walking around.
We enjoyed a warm waffle in the cold drizzle…a quintessentially Belgian experience.
Oh man, was that waffle good! And exactly how I remembered from my teen years.
After our sight-seeing and soggy wandering in the drizzle, our minds were focused yet again on food…..and beer. It’s impossible not to think of beer constantly as there are reminders everywhere….
So we made our way back toward the station and decided to take Emilie’s advice yet again (hey — she steered us right on the tea room!) and eat at a somewhat posh restaurant just outside the Begijnhof called Maximiliaan Van Oostenrijk. (Emilie’s father’s artwork just happens to hang on the walls there — more on that later.) It was convenient as it was quite near the station, and we needed to get back to Brussels that night anyway.
This is the view just out front of the restaurant.
Obligatory couple self-portraits at romantic place in Bruges:
And horses. All outside the windows of this restaurant!
We never did succumb to the lure of the carriage ride. Too cold and drizzly.
Okay, here’s the restaurant:
And the view from our table.
And the complimentary hors d’oeuvres. Major yum.
And the beer. This time, we tried a Brugge Blond. Similar in style to the Brugse zot, and very, very tasty.
Interesting antiques made up the very atmospheric decor inside the restaurant. I would give it full marks for ambiance.
Aaaaand the food arrived. Brad ordered the daily special: lamb loin with potatoes dauphinoise and ratatouille. It was really, really delicious. The lamb was melt-in-your-mouth good, and perfectly cooked. The potatoes were just creamy enough without being overly rich. The ratatouille wasn’t the best I’ve ever had, but hey — 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.
I ordered mussles à l’escargots (with a butter/garlic sauce in the shell) with frites. I felt obligated as I have never eaten mussels, and I lived in Belgium for nearly 5 years. I have had lots of trouble eating them in the past as the texture just creeps me out. I love the flavor, though, so I wanted to give it a go.
Well, I did it.
The flavor of these mussels was very good, and the sauce was divine. And the frites were good, although not the best I’ve ever had. I have to say, though, that the mussels were SO gritty! I knew this was common with mussels, but woah, these were like eating meat and shell together….they were crunchy. Mussels aren’t supposed to be crunchy, right? Well, Brad ate several and claimed that his were fine. Bad luck, I guess! I concluded that I do like mussels, but I think I’ll prepare them myself next time, with a good loooooooooooong soak to attempt to get rid of the grit.
After dinner, we headed for the train station and back to Bruxelles Midi to meet up with Lisette, our friend Emilie’s mum. She very kindly agreed to put us up for the night so we brought some dessert home with us to share over conversation.
Tot ziens, Brugge!
At Lisette’s, we tried this cake. We never figured out what it was called, but it was a crispy biscuit-like crust with a sponge-like cake marbled with something resembling praline, then covered with rich cream and a crumble topping dusted in powdered sugar. Rich!
And quite tasty, I gotta say.
Over our fabulous conversation (at times rather awkward due to my bad French and Brad’s non-extistent French) , I noticed a very strange-looking fruit in the fruitbowl. Lisette told us it was a Barbary fig. I had to try it, and it looked and tasted a lot like watermelon — delicious!
Brad had another glass of beer (not a Grimbergen — can’t remember what it was, actually).
It was such a wonderful day, jam-packed with gorgeous architecture, mind-boggling history, quaint shops and cafes, delicious food, chocolate, and beer. I love Belgium.
And to top it all off, we had a lively evening with Lisette in her lovely home in Brussels. She was so good to let us stay, and even set out bread and jams for our breakfast before she left for work the next morning. So much good food. And we still had another day left in the country! Mmmmmmm.