Belgian Bistros: A Guide To Eating Out In Bruges
“After a full belly all is poetry.”
― Frank McCourt
For me, one of the most exciting things about travelling is living like a local - and that means eating like a local too. I love food at the best of times but when I'm somewhere new and exciting, my taste buds go into overdrive! Whether I'm tucking into a culinary masterpiece created by top Michelin star chef or some local street food from a roadside truck, it all adds to the flavour of the experience.
And my time in Bruges recently was no different. So without further ado, here's a little list of the places that you should stop by, if you're ever in Bruges, to taste what Belgian really has to offer.
Located just off the Markt, Fred's Belgian Waffles is the perfect place for you to get your Belgian waffle fix on the go. With over 27 years in the waffle industry, Fred knows exactly how waffles should be done - the Belgian way. Whether you're craving plain waffles, caramel waffles, waffles with cream, waffles with ice cream, filled waffles or the full works, there's a waffle waiting just for you. And you won't be sorry.
Nothing will ever prepare you for the amount of chocolate shops you will encounter during a visit to Bruges. And I mean nothing. As you walk the quaint, cobbled streets, your senses will literally have a meltdown as every other shop beckons you to see, smell and taste their chocolatey delights. A few of the shops, including Depla Chocolatier, The Chocolate Line and Sukerbuyc, make their chocolates on site and offer a sneak peak into the heavenly world of chocolate-making. From hot chocolates and truffles to personalised chocolates and giant boxes of goodies, there's something to satisfy every chocolate-related desire. So, whether you're a chocolate fiend or a chocolate foe, a real life Belgian chocolate shop is definitely worth your time.
If you're looking to dine at a traditional Belgian restaurant, look no further than Bistro Den Huzaar. Tucked away from the main Markt Square, it's easily accessible without crawling with tourists. On arrival, you will be greeted with the warmest of welcomes and invited to take a seat in the large, open restaurant.
The most charming thing about Bistro Den Huzaar is that it feels like home; or rather, your Grandma's home. Cream and white vintage furnishings create a cosy ambience, while soft 60s music filters in from the stereo ("These Boots Are Made For Walking" being amongst the favourites). Freshly pressed table cloths sit joyfully atop each table and offer a home to adorable checked napkins, while a candle stands elegantly as the centre piece. It's granny chic at its best - without being pretentious.
With a restaurant that boasts so much charm and heritage, it seems only natural that Bistro Den Huzaar serves up a menu filled with Belgian classics. Mushrooms on toast, shrimp croquettes, cheese croquettes, pork cheek casserole, Flemish stew, steak and mussels are a handful of the dishes on offer, and showcases a seasoned insight into Bistro Den Huzaar's best bits. Although much of the food is presented very simply, the portion sizes are more than sufficient while the flavours remain true to their origins. You'll undeniably feel like you've stepped back in time - but all for good reason.
Located in the heart of Bruges' Simon Stevinplein, you will find Aquarel; a fashionably rustic restaurant serving up a savoury storm of contemporary European cuisine. In the summer months, you can choose to dine al fresco on the patio on the square but as coldness takes over, the restaurant remains as the heart and soul of the dining experience.
Unlike many of the restaurants in Bruges which are steeped in tradition and heritage, Aquarel welcomes its guests into an intimate, modern area of calmness and serenity. Grey, muted tones and wooden furnishings create a wholesome environment for dining, while soft melodic tunes add to the idyllic ambience.
And Aquarel's menu is just as stylish its surroundings. As well as serving traditional Belgian dishes, including Flemish stew and several flavours of croquettes, Aquarel also offers a hearty helping of Italian-inspired pastas. After gorging on a decadent goat's cheese croquette with a generous side salad, the shrimp tagliatelle with pesto and lasagne bolognese boldly made their way to our table. While it's true that the presentation of the food is rather simple, it's the undeniable freshness and honest flavour combinations that truly make the dishes delightful. The perfect restaurant choice for a dignified lunch.
From the outside, Bistro Brugis may look like a traditional Belgian restaurant but its influences are unlike any other in Bruges. With a legacy that traces all the way to Nepal, Bistro Brugis incorporates traditional Nepalese spices into classic Belgian-French dishes to create a unique fusion of flavours. French onion soup, cheese croquettes, Flemish stew and traditional mussel flavours are served side by side with chicken momos, chicken lumpias, Himalayan scampi, king crab and Himalayan mussels, offering the locals a special South Asian twist on their all-too-familair cuisine.
Located just off the beaten track, the restaurant offers a cosy escape for diners. The deep red curtains open to reveal a simple yet sophisticated setting; the large open fireplace is warm and comforting, bringing the dark wooden tables and leather-backed chairs to life. The rest of the furnishings are similarly uncluttered and fuss-free, other than the swanky chandeliers that hang gracefully from the ceiling.
But what's hard not to notice is the gloriously triumphant bar. Stocked with a variety of local Belgian beers, including Leffe, La Chouffe, Brugse Zot and Liefman's cherry beer, as well as an impressive selection of gin, it appears that a good beverage is as important to Bistro Brugis as their food. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. An evening filled with too much beer, gin and deliciously hearty Nepalese-inspired Belgian cuisine sounds marvellous to us.
Whatever your poison - be it beer, wine or spirits - Bar'N is the perfect place for a tipple. With fur throws scattered across high leather sofas and an enormous bison head overlooking all shenanigans, this cosy, cattle-inspired bar oozes cool and is best known for its distinctive selection of cocktails and gins. Other than a few nuts and nibbles, you won't find any food here (just pure unadulterated booze) and with only a handful of tables, avoid peak times if you want get comfortable. Tucked just out of sight of the main Markt square, it's excellently positioned for you to stop by before or after your evening dinner reservations.
If lavish, low-lit, sophisticated cocktail bars are your calling in life, Groot Vlaenderen will feel just like home. Step through the perfectly symmetrical doorway and enter a bar that overflows with style, opulence and mystery. Lose yourself in a glass of champagne or a deliciously divine cocktail - or both - and make it a night to remember. With a drinks menu full of familiar favourites and new obsessions, you won't ever want to leave.
Where's your favourite place to eat or drink in Bruges?