Eating in Brussels & Bruges Part 2: Bruges
“It’s a fairytale town isn’t it?”
Stepping of the train from Brussels and walking into Bruges feels like stepping back in time. The walk to our hotel took us right through the heart of the historic centre, passing cobbled streets and the Minnewater park. We wandered through the Grote Markt and passed beautiful little bars and pubs.
Bruges is beautiful and pretty. The old town is simply gorgeous to walk around and after just a few minutes in the city you can see why Bruges is hugely popular among tourists as a destination for weekend breaks for foodies, romantics and families. With it’s great mixture of chocolate-box looks, fairytale magic, canals, cobbled streets and attractions, there is more than enough to keep anyone happy here.
Most visitors come to wander around the old city centre, surrounded by a large canal, to look at the art, visit churches and take a sedate ride along the canal. But Bruges is also a great place for foodies and gourmets to go too. Bruges has a well developed gastronomic scene, which does feature more than a drop or two of lager. It is guaranteed to delight any food lover. Here’s some of what we ate in Bruges.
Carbonnades Flamandes – Flemish Beef Stew
We had this a couple of times whilst in Bruges. Around the Grote Markt or market square there a lot of restaurants which are geared up towards tourists. They all offer several different set menus featuring traditional Flemish and Belgian dishes. One of the dishes which all of them offer is Carbonnades Flamandes or Flemish Beef stew. This was described to me as the Belgian answer to that classic French dish, beef bourguignon. Instead of using a hearty red wine like the French do, in Belgium it is made with beer instead.
It is a sweet-sour sauce and the main ingredients are beef, onion and mushrooms. The type of beer used is really important, thankfully if there’s one thing everyone seemed to take seriously in Belgium it was how to choose a good beer. The right beer to make this with a good brown beer or a Flanders red beer. I’d recommend washing it down with a lighter lager beer so that one doesn’t overpower the other.
It’s usually served with a good portion of chips, which just about everything in Belgium is, and a portion of salad. Delish.
Seafood Stews and Soups
Belgium is made up of several different regions each with their own influences, tastes and cuisine. Belgian cuisine reflects both the diversity and distinctness of its regions as well as the countries French, Dutch and German heritage and neighbours. But all of the regional cuisine do have a few things in common. Chocolate, waffles, seafood, beer and chips are ubiquitous across the country.
Being closer to the sea, and home to the port of Zeebrugge, Bruges is home to some great seafood and fish. Belgium is famous for its mussels, Moules-frites or mussels and chips are often seen as the national dish of Belgium. Most of Belgium’s mussels come from the North Sea, off the coast of the Netherlands. They are in season from September to February, but you’ll get mussels served year round.
I had a couple of great seafood dishes in Bruges. One was a seafood stew and the other a seafood soup. I also had to have more mussels and chips which, whilst pretty good, weren’t as good as the brilliant ones which I had back in Brussels. I wish my phone had some battery at the time and that I’d been able to get a snap of them!
Croquettes are a little bite of heaven. They come in so many shapes and sizes and seem to pop in cuisines all around the world. I remember have croquettes made with tomatoes and courgettes in Greece which almost moved me to tears – take a look here! I’ve made them at home and even had the frozen ones you can get in supermarkets.
But for me the best croquettes come from Belgium and the Netherlands. In Bruges you’re in the Dutch influenced part of the country and this comes across in dishes like croquettes. They appeared as either a starter or a side dish on most restaurant menus. Most places served the classic cheese croquette – kaaskroketten or croquettes de fromage.
Inside the crispy outer shell they are filled with a thick and creamy bechamel filling. Delish.
You couldn’t go to Belgium without having a least one good waffle. You can pick them up just about everywhere and they are a great street food. Perfect for a quick snack, light lunch or a naughty treat. I had one piled high with a mountain of fresh strawberries.
Stay tuned for upcoming Belgium travel posts on
Belgium in beer
Two days in Brussels
What to see in Bruges