MEANDER THROUGH FLANDERS - DAY ONE
We had been checking the weather forecasts with interest, as, after a very mild December and completely NOT white Christmas, we had heard that an intense cold snap was on its way. This was good news, as last time in Brugge it had been mild and wet - no chance of snow or frozen canals last year. So this looked promising, and we arrived with temperatures already falling fast. In fact, the temperature wouldn't get above zero Celsius (32F) all week, and on many days it got nowhere near zero……
After a quick lasagne and Rochefort 8 in the Boterhuis café across the street from our hotel, we went to the Markt and found the Christmas market and ice skating in full swing, first time we'd seen this in Brugge. It was great to see the ice rink in full use, but the Christmas market was a little disappointing, being much smaller and with a pretty ordinary selection of goods on sale than we had anticipated.
We then shuffled up to 't Zandt square, also resplendent in its Christmas décor, to check in at Dickies. This bar was new the year before last, and it has quickly established a reputation for a beer list growing in both quality and quantity. It is named after the owner's dog, which, as you will soon see from my photos, would be a perfect companion for Ludwig.
Dickies improves with every visit, and since last year it has had a complete makeover. Its now smart and more modern, with more wood everywhere, but I am not entirely sure about the direction of this latest makeover. Is it just me, or is it now leaning towards fake Irish pub décor? The breweriana is also quite inconsistent, with some odd selections for a Belgian bar. Anyway, the important thing, the beer list, goes from strength to strength. On this visit we just had a Gouden Carolus Christmas, which was warming and tasty. My only complaint about Dickies is that the beers are served too cold. You need to let them warm up for ages before drinking if you want to taste them properly. And why does he persist in throwing the entire bottle into your glass and retaining the bottle once he has done this? That is very annoying! However, the owner is a nice guy, and his wife is particularly friendly. We would be back for more later in the week, but now it was off to the Erasmus.
The Erasmus was a priority for us, as it always closes for holidays from mid January for a month. Hence, on four of our previous five visits to Brugge, it had been closed - but not this time. We quickly settled in and chatted to Tom, the owner, and his wife, who have an excellent beer list of around 80 choices. The ten beers on tap were mostly Christmassy, so I had an Avec les Bons Voeux followed by a Girardin Kriek.
It was soon time for dinner. We had booked a table at Den Dyver, which, despite all our previous trips to Brugge, we were to be eating in for the very first time. The reason for this is that, like Erasmus, they close during January, and it too had been closed on four of the previous five years. We were first customers in, at 7pm, and first impressions were good. Den Dyver is in a stunning building, with wooden beams, a roaring open fire and heavy wood everywhere. There were superb Christmas decorations adorning the already impressive interior, and the atmosphere quickly built as other diners arrived.
However, we soon discovered that the actual building and the setting it provides is the best thing about this renowned restaurant. You can choose a 'beer menu' - three courses with a small beer sample given with each - or you can go a la carte. We didn't fancy the food on offer in the beer menu, so went a la carte, each of us choosing a starter and a main course. On ordering, I asked for the beer list. I was told there was none, so I asked what beer was available. Ah, they said, 'we will choose the beers for you'. So I explained that I did not fancy the beer menu with the various samples, I just wanted to choose a la carte, and hence I would like to choose my own beer to go with that, thanks very much. No way, they said, if you have any beer, we will choose. As they wouldn't tell me which ones they had in mind, and as I prefer to choose my own beer, I had no beer. What a bizarre way of doing business, completely ignoring what the customer is requesting! As they were serving up many samples of Kerstpater and Pere Noel to the beer menu people, it would hardly have killed them to give me a bottle of each. The one beer they did allow you to have was an unnamed 'house blonde', which I thought sounded risky. Theresa was thirsty, so she gambled, but between the two of us we drank less than a quarter of it - you should save yourselves the bother and go without.
I didn't like this attitude and the food portions, being posh, were far too small. I left hungry despite spending E90 for the two of us. The service is way over the top, with the waiters - all very charming and pleasant - just being a bit TOO charming and pleasant. For example, every time you visit the loo, one of them hurries over and refolds your napkin perfectly. After a while me and T were deliberately scruffing the napkins up and seeing what happened - it was that sort of evening. Anyway, Den Dyver is a very classy restaurant, but I guess its just not my sort of place. But what on earth is all that about not having a beer list or letting you either know what is available or allowing you to choose? - nonsense if you ask me. We will not be back.
Keen to get another beer in, we visited 't Zolder, which is now in its fifth year. It was busy and had a great atmosphere, and we were pleased to be allowed to choose a St Bernardus Abt to round the evening off! We knew the next day would involve a lot of beeriness, so we were pleased to call it a day……
Photos: Brugge, Gent, Aalst and De Haan
Photos: De Gans, 't Kroegske and Heeren van Liedekercke
Day 2 |
Day 3 |
Day 4 |
Day 5 |
Day 6 |
Day 7 |
Day 8 |