Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Restaurant review | Bruges


I’ve recently come back from four days in Bruges – keep an eye out for my City Hopping post. Here are my restaurant picks.
For man-friendly food
Heer Halewijn – Walplein 10
We found this place by chance on the first evening, as the place we intended on eating at had closed. I found that all the restaurants in Bruges are really small but cosy and intimate – serving up to 30 diners. At Heer Halewijn, all the food is cooked in front of you on an open fire. Not only do you see it cooked, but prepared too and the owners – a husband and wife team – are the only staff working, but the service is very good. We sat next to the fire so were kept warm without being uncomfortable, as well as having a great view of various dishes being cooked. Jake and I shared the rib eye for two and but for the steak at Hawksmoor, this was incredible and the best I’d had. The menu is mainly meat (I don’t recall seeing chicken), with fish and grilled garlic prawns also featuring. Each main course is served with a giant baked potato – there’s a never-ending supply of those – and side salad. We also shared a carafe of house wine, which was reasonably priced (around £7). The decor was traditional and the atmosphere relaxed, it almost felt as though I was dining at a friend’s.  I think we paid just over 50€, which is good considering the quality and quantity of steak! Booking is recommended although this hidden gem is away from the tourist trap.
For tradition fare
Gruuthuse Hof – Mariastraat 36
We found this restaurant online and after reading the Trip Advisor reviews, we ended up at Gruuthuse Hof. If you’re looking for typically Belgian cuisine, this is your answer; although beware, you have to book – so many people without a reservation were being turned away! The restaurant seats 28 and again, there are two members of waiting staff. When we arrived, we were given the table nearest the draughty door – but were soon offered a much better table in the window, with a beautiful view of the Christmas lights and cobbled streets. Jake chose a hearty Flemish stew, while I opted for mussels in white wine. The pot was huge and it’s fair to say I struggled. Both options were served with fries, although I could have done with some crusty bread instead. I managed a dessert though – a wine glass of passion fruit sorbet, which was lovely and refreshing. The service started well but ended up quite slow; I can only imagine that it was because of a large party of 10.
For afternoon tea (or brunch!)
Tearoom Carpe Diem – Wijngaardstraat 8
A place we hadn’t researched, but I really wanted a crepe or dainty pastry – I’m glad we came across Carpe Diem as it proved popular with locals, as well as tourists... always a good sign! There was plenty of seating in the tearoom, with little cubby holes and a conservatory to sit out the way. Should you wish to take away products, there’s a patisserie counter too, with some heavenly looking cakes, show-stopping tarts and macarons. After finding out a mocha doesn’t contain chocolate and is similar to an espresso, I opted for a cappuccino and the Norman crepe (thinly sliced apple flambéed with calvados). Both were well presented and the coffee came with a slice of Madeira-esque cake and a chocolate! It was quite pricy – you’re looking £20 for two crepes and two drinks – but it was worth it, especially for a treat.
For something less traditional
Bistro Maurice – Walstraat 11
Bistro Maurice serves up a mixture of cuisines and with its small menu, you can expect quality. From the inside, it’s your typical bistro: minimal, monochrome, light and airy. We booked our final dinner at Bistro Maurice but it will be remembered for the wrong reasons. It was far too hot and from the moment I sat down, I felt uncomfortable and wanted to leave – to the point I was having coughing fits because of the heat. The food was incredible though and I was really pleased with what I chose – even if it was a salad. It was presented beautifully, with an array of inviting colours. There were so many tastes and textures – from the creamy old Bruges cheese to the salty Serrano ham, peppery rocket leaves and sweet balsamic dressing. Every mouthful was delicious. It’s amazing how something so simple was turned into a real delight. I loved the croutons and toasted seeds too. The service was good – but were only in the restaurant 50 minutes!  

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