How to eat in Belgium: Bruges edition

How to eat in Belgium: Bruges edition

Those of you kind enough to read and be complimentary about last week’s post on Bruges were all too sweet to mention the gaping hole in my list of recommendations. There was nothing, NOTHING about where to go to eat.

And I did that on purpose, because food is special and sacred and deserves a little post all of its own.

If you’re in Bruges and you’re not full all of the time, you’re doing it wrong quite frankly (incidentally, that applies to the rest of Belgium too). If at any point you feel even the vaguest inkling of a stomach rumble, locate the belfry — tall tower thingy with a clock, you can’t miss it — and get thee to one of the two frites stands underneath it tout-suite.

The belfry. In case you were in any doubt.

These stands are legendary, and have been stationed here since 1896. Every two years the vendors change, with the slots being awarded to the highest bidder. Which stand you choose is up to you, but for I always seem to instinctively make for the one on the right.

Frites come served in a traditional paper ‘cornet’ and are topped with a humongous dollop of mayonnaise, or one of many mayo-based equivalents. If you’re brave, try the mysterious Bicky sauce which contains such diverse ingredients as white cabbage, tarragon and mustard. Um.. yum?

For something more substantial, I can provide two entirely excellent restaurant recommendations. The first is a little pancake house called De Bretoen tucked away in the north of the city, and is perfect for brunch, lunch or a warming afternoon snack.

It’s chintzy to the extreme, although this is offset perfectly by the endearingly gruff Flemish service. You watch your crepes being made on a huge stone hotplate by the bar. The highlight of the menu is the ‘belle époque’ which comes topped with poached pears and chocolate sauce.

I suggest ordering it with a delectably creamy hot chocolate for maximum indulgence. It comes in a little jug so you can keep topping up your mug with molten cocoa.

If, like me, you’re partial to a savoury crepe, you’ll be glad to know they pile the fromage and lardons tremendously high here.

Keen carnivores and Tolkien fans will not want to miss De Hobbit Brugge. A restaurant with a sense of humour and a passion for all things Middle Earth, De Hobbit is just a quick stumble across the alley from t’Brugs Beertje. I find the two make an ideal pairing if you’re looking for an evening of good cheer and hearty feasting.

It’s worth booking ahead, as it gets extremely popular. The restaurant has low, crooked ceilings and is adorned with fantasy memorabilia and pictures of druids. One of my favourite things though is the menu, which drops on to your table in the form of a newspaper called The Daily Hobbit.

Veggies should look away now, for primarily, what you’ll be coming here for is the grill menu. More specifically you’ll be coming for the ribs, which are served ‘a volonte’, meaning ‘at will’. Feel free to get excited, as it’s exactly as good as it sounds.

For 18 euros, you will be brought a gigantic rack of juicy, succulent ribs, and when you’ve finished – if you can stomach it – you will be brought more. And more. And more. Until you are so full of pig, you are practically part swine.

There are desserts on the menu too, but if you’ve paid for all-you-can-eat ribs, do the sensible thing: eat the ribs and be happy. Dessert can wait until tomorrow. After all, it’s hardly as if there’s a shortage of sugar in this town…