MEANDER THROUGH FLANDERS - DAY EIGHT
Market day in Aalst, and it was heaving. We squeezed our way into another of Tim Webb's recommended cafes, the Kastanjehof, which was just round the corner from our hotel. Packed to the rafters, this is another excellent bar. The beer list of around 60 has plenty of good choices. They have a bewildering collection of 'stuff' - for example there must be well over 100 old gas lamps hanging from the ceiling down the back, plus loads of other interesting items and curios. The café has great character and I would happily return for a longer session.
However, today we had other business to attend to: we were going back to Brugge and then meeting Joris and Lut again for our final field trip of the week!
On arrival back in Brugge we found the canals now 99% frozen, and looking spectacular. Lunch was in Het Bargehuis, another of Tim Webb's new entries. This one is right on the canal not far from the station, so its a bit from the centre. It has a teddy bear theme and lots of kiddies facilities. It was empty when we were there, so its hard to tell what its really like, but on the strength of this visit we were not particularly impressed. We had a pretty average (read: well below average) lunch. The beer list is around 90, but does not sparkle. There was something not quite right about this place, which I cannot quite put my finger on, but I would be very interested to hear others' views.
After coffee in Den Ovene, another decent beer café with around 50 beers which is coming along very nicely, it was back to 't Brugs Beertje. We arrived about three minutes after the 4pm opening, but there were already 4 customers ahead of us. By 4.15 the Beertje was completely full, and there was a steady stream of other visitors who came along but couldn't get seated. If this is what its like mid January, what is it like in the height of summer? Despite being so busy, yet again Daisy went about serving everyone with her usual efficiency, charm and good humour. I really do not know how she does it, but yet again we were staggered by how Daisy runs this superb café. We had time for an Avec Les Bons Voeux and then another draught Stille Nacht, before we said goodbye and wandered off to get our train.
Joris and Lut picked us up at Aalter just after 6, and we headed straight for Heeren van Liedekercke. This was our first time there, and after all the rave reviews, I was really looking forward to this evening. My impressions? Yes, this is a great place with an amazing beer list. It is certainly one of the best cafes in Belgium, there is no doubt about that. Heeren van Liederkercke is a very smart, fairly large restaurant/bar all freshly done up in wood, which Joris tells me came from the Czech republic. The interior is pretty cool, yet has quite a homely feel. There is a small bar area and more tables downstairs in a smaller cellar bar.
However it is, in my opinion, definitely more of a restaurant than a beer café, at least that is what it felt like on a busy Saturday night. Now, there is nothing wrong with that, but it makes it difficult to compare with a place like the Kulminator or 't Brugs Beertje. In fact I think the best thing to do is not to try to make comparisons and just enjoy each place in its own right. At Heeren van Liedekercke, that is certainly the best option, for this is a great place both to eat and drink.
To demonstrate the choice of beers, here is what I sampled:
Lindemans Unfiltered Gueuze
Meesters Bier Tripel
Termoere Bier (De Dolle Brouwers)
Mort Subite Fond Gueuze (the great one not the crap one)
Malheur Millennium - a great way to round off a great evening.
All of the gueuzes I tasted were great, but the Moriau and the Mort Subite were exceptional. The Termoere is a DDB beer based on Oeral, according to its label, which features a water rat holding a beer glass and a large spade: typical DDB! We ate very well too, with T and me both having delicious, well presented steak and frites. All the food was cooked and served to the highest quality.
After eating we moved to some sofas in the middle of the main room, and chatted and drank late into the evening. In fact it was around 1am when we finally realised we had consumed enough, and we left to find our way back to Aalst. Joris and Lut dropped us off at our front door and we said our goodbyes. The two evenings spent with them were undoubted highlights of the trip, and we very much look forward to the next time. We would like to record our thanks to them for taking us to three superb cafes and for being such great company.
Photos: Brugge, Gent, Aalst and De Haan
Photos: De Gans, 't Kroegske and Heeren van Liedekercke
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