Flanders: From Fries to Chocolates

The northern and Dutch-speaking part of Belgium impresses with an almost Mediterranean-style enjoyment of food as well as a lively and creative gastronomic scene that is based on long-established traditions and draws on excellent ingredients.

27 May 2024

Dado Daniela

There are several reasons why Belgians have such a close relationship with good food. The geographical and cultural proximity to the culinary superpower France is just one of them. For example, its productive agriculture: although much smaller than Austria, it's much more densely populated and produces astonishing quantities of food. This includes an abundance of vegetables such as leeks and cabbage, all kinds of turnip and potato varieties, Brussels sprouts (also known as Brussels cabbage) and chicory.

© Tim Graham / Alamy Stock Photo

The excellent meat comes from various indigenous livestock breeds such as the so called White-Blue Belgian or the Red Flemish (beef). And fresh seafood, such as North Sea crabs or mussels, which are considered one of the country's national dishes (especially when served with the ubiquitous French fries), come from the North Sea coast, which is just 65 kilometers long. There are also numerous monasteries and abbeys, which are responsible for a brewing culture that's unique in the world, as well as producing some excellent cheese. And finally, Belgium is also home to excellent chocolates and innovative chocolatiers. 

left. Pieter D'Hoop, right Nathaniel Noir / Alamy Stock Photo

And so a trip to the kingdom is not only worthwhile to stroll through the fairytale old towns of Flanders and admire the paintings of Flemish masters. But it's also worth exploring the bubbling local gastronomy scene, for example in the lesser-known but still worthwhile Roeselare. In terms of culinary delights, the city has at least two attractions. Firstly, the listed brewery Rodenbach and its mythical red-brown beer. And secondly, there's Boury, which is one of two three-star restaurants in the country.

© Pieter D'Hoop 

Tim Boury spent seven years cooking for Dutch celebrity chef Sergio Herman before returning to his home town and moving into a stately home in 2016. Boury's wife, Inge Waeles, welcomes you warmly and accompanies you to the table in an appropriately dignified setting. What follows is an unforgettable firework display of a meal.

© Pieter D'Hoop 

Boury has mastered French and Asian techniques in equal measure and uses them to combine the best available ingredients in a convincing way. As in the case of his signature dish made from Osietra caviar, which reveals itself as a veritable symphony of flavors with North Sea crab, marinated strawberries and fragrant Asian pandan leaves.

"Frituur Tartaar" In Ghent


© StockFood / PhotoCuisine / Caillaut, Jacques

After a lunch like this, it's time for something down-to-earth in the evening - we recommend one of Flanders' ubiquitous fry-ups. One of the best of these is definitely the Frituur Tartaar in the medieval city of Ghent. Here, you can ground yourself with crispy fries accompanied by homemade tartar sauce and at the same time complete a compulsory culinary exercise for any stay in Belgium.

© Cavan Images / Alamy Stock Photo

We continue on to Antwerp, where The Jane is one of the most unusual and exciting restaurants in the country. It's housed in a converted former church; just like Tim Boury, head chef Nick Bril also cooked for the great Sergio Herman, as evidenced by the special lightness of the preparations. As is the case with one of his dishes: magnificent turbot smoked in Indian spices with curry, lovage and North Sea crab.

© Catarina Belova/Shutterstock

Bistrot du Nord, also located in Antwerp, is far more bourgeois, where chef Michaël Rewers offers classic French cuisine of a quality and precision that is rarely found even in the neighboring country. These include a wonderful hare pepper or the already legendary veal kidney stroganoff.

© provided

A trip to the North Sea coast is a great way to visit the last crab fishermen on the kilometer-long beach of Oostduinkerke. They sit on horseback on their massive Brabant horses and fish the coveted North Sea crabs out of the spray at low tide. You can eat their catch in numerous restaurants in Flanders, where it is usually only briefly boiled in salt water. It goes without saying that the iconic mussels with French fries and fish such as the delicate North Sea sole are also waiting for you here.

Alice Bown

But apart from fish and seafood, the coast has another culinary attraction to offer. Specifically in the seaside resort of Koksijde, where Hendrik Dierendonck runs Carcasse, a butcher's shop with an adjoining restaurant. The man is a star of his trade, supplies numerous top restaurants and offers dry-aged prime cuts as well as all other parts of the beef, which star chef Timon Michiels always processes in its entirety. And he is doing that in the spirit of sustainability.

© provided

Seasonal vegetables from local farms and selected beers and wines are also served. All in all, it's an amazing experience - as unique and convincing as Flanders' gastronomic scene as a whole.

This article appeared in the Falstaff TRAVEL issue Spring 2024.

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