SUGAR, DARLING?

BY NANCY WHITTINGTON-COATES

My weekend in beautiful Bruges - Part Two - Bruges Restaurant Guide


Another thing I just adored about Bruges was the fabulous food, it's just full of wonderful bars and restaurants and there's such a selection to choose from! If you just stick to the main square you'd be forgiven for thinking the only thing you could get was traditional Flemish food but we ate quite a variety of cuisines while we were there. 

The photos above are from a fabulous little place called Balls and Glory which exclusively serves a variety of filled meatballs. It was a great little place with rough unfinished walls and a big long communal table plus a few seats in the window. They have a variety of meatballs on sale for you to take away along with an excellent range of homemade pickles and sauces but if you'd prefer to eat in you can choose from two different hot meatballs with a choice of either salad or stoemp. The two varieties on offer when we visited were a chicken meatball with a spinach filling or a lamb meatball with a minted pea filling. 

I tried the lamb and we all decided to have salad as we were looking for something light rather than something stodgy and filling like stoemp. We sat down at the big table and were greeted by pitchers of water and mint leaves and cake platters covered with beautiful big grapes, both of which were free of charge which I thought was a lovely touch. The chap behind the counter starting making our salads from scratch, nothing was pre-mixed and he layered up all the ingredients - rocket, cherry tomatoes, watermelon chunks and cherry tomatoes - and lovingly dressed it with salt, pepper and olive oil before placing on our giant meatballs!

The meatballs themselves were fabulous, the meat was tender and delicious and liquid centre worked perfectly and was the perfect texture just like a yummy sauce. It sounds odd but the watermelon worked so well with the rocket and the meatball. I can't remember the pricing to be honest but I think it was around 8 to 10 euros so was one of the cheapest meals we had in Bruges.


On the Saturday evening we were lucky enough to snag an early booking at Bistro Refter, one of the more modern and fancier restaurants in town. It just so happens that both me and my dad had put this on our restaurant wish list and so we walked up on the Friday to see if we could get a table and it's a good job we did as you definitely need to book for this place!

The menu here was very impressive and I had a really hard time choosing what to have but in the end I picked the marinated salmon with a giant cous cous salad to start, followed by fillet steak with shallots, hand cut fries and salad and finished it off with a creme brulee and an espresso. Everyone's meals were fantastic but one thing I would say is boy do they need air conditioning in there! It was so hot that it was making me feel a bit off so I was glad to get out into the cool night air after we had finished out meal.

You'll need a good pocket full of pennies for this one, it cost about 60 euros per person for the tree courses and that didn't include drinks (a gin and tonic was 16 euros) but it was amazing food and I'm really glad we went there for our special meal of the weekend.

 
On our first night in Bruges we had no idea what or where we wanted to eat. We had tired feet and were all getting pretty grumpy due to lack of food when we wandered past The Olive Tree. It looked lovely and warm and welcoming and decided to head inside keeping our fingers crossed that we wouldn't need a reservation. Thankfully we got seated right away and were ever so pleased when we looked at the menu, everything sounded wonderful and they even served retsina which is one of my mum and dad's favourite drinks. I had a fabulous gin and tonic that they had added red peppercorns to - it added a fabulous extra note and was very strong, just how I like it!!!

We decided not to have a starter and went straight in for a main course. I chose the chargrilled marinated swordfish steak which came with rice, oven roasted potatoes, an amazing fresh green herby sauce, mixed salad and the best pitta bread I've ever eaten. Everything was cooked to perfection and so so fresh! I've never had swordfish better and I just can't get over how amazing the herby sauce was. We got talking to one of the waiters about our trip to Spetses in a few weeks and he was ever so lovely, he even said if we needed help when we were out there we could call the restaurant and he would help us get whatever we wanted!

Just as we were about to order our bill the waitress brought over two plates of portokalopita (greek orange cake) and told us it was on the house! How lovely of them! None of us had ever eaten portokalopita before but it is an amazing syrupy orange cake made with shredded filo pastry and greek yoghurt and was to die for! The waiter was nice enough to write down the name of the cake for us and I've found a recipe here so I'm going to give it a try this weekend.


Last but not least I wanted to share my favourite restaurant that we visited, Bistro Zwart Huis. The building itself is a late Gothic construction built in 1482 and was originally a rich merchant's house which has now been turned into a gorgeous restaurant and bar that features live music and an excellent background soundtrack of Jazz and Blues.

The atmosphere here was much more relaxed than any other restaurant we visited and it was great watching the waiters and bartenders singing along with the music as they worked. The relaxed atmosphere clearly wasn't carried through to the kitchen however as the food was just as wonderful and complex as everywhere else we ate. To start I had seared scallops with roasted leeks and a white wine sauce followed by a giant grilled piece of salmon with frites and salad and a bearnaise sauce. To finish I had the chef's selection which was a little chocolate mousse, a small piece of tiramisu cake and a delicious little vanilla ice cream. I washed it all down with Liefmans cherry beer which I developed a taste for over the weekend.

As you can see from the photos above the restaurant is just beautiful with some great quirky features like the carved fireplace, stunning light fittings and eclectic range of paintings. Another lovely part was when the owner came over to welcome us to the restaurant, plus he got extra points for looking like Jeff Bridges! I'd happily go back here time after time and it'll be my first stop if we ever go back!

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