Visit the Called to the bar site

I spent most of last week in Ghent researching a gastronomic travel feature that included a visit to Gruut (love the fabulous Brune), various restaurants, churches, bars, sweetshops and a ‘nibbling’ tour, but here are five things that make me love Belgium so much.

  • In the Belga Queen, after I have finished my glass of Boon Kriek (memorably matched with cured trout and a blue cheese sauce), the waiter asks if I would like a glass of draught Rodenbach because it comes from his home town. ‘It would make me very happy if you had one.’ And it made me very happy and went well with the shrimp croquettes, while the Boon Mariage Parfait was a dream on the right side of the bed with the Charolais tartare.
  • Then there are the two middle aged women in the Surinamese restaurant Faja Lobi where I go for a restorative lemongrass soup — one is drinking Westmalle Tripel and the other is drinking Orval. No big deal, no need to go on about women and beer, it’s a given — where did we go wrong in this country?
  • Then there is the guide who takes me on a gastronomic tour around old Ghent on Tuesday morning and tells me how her grandmother is a big lover of Westvleteren and that she uses two cars (and two separate license plates) so that she can get two cases of beer when they are available; about how her dad comes from Poperinge and likes Hommel and about how her mother loves Westmalle Tripel and might have had one not long after she was born (the guide that is). At 11am, after we have visited a butcher and a cheesemaker and she says how about a beer…
  • When I arrive at my hotel, the manager is having a drink which is Chimay Bleu, I don’t see many hotel types in this country doing that (oh and isn’t having a coke with a meal a sort of infantile breast-sucking gestural reaction — I noticed a couple of English-speaking corporate types doing it).
  • A man and his marital problems and his lovely dog buys me three Rochefort 10s in the pub and that is what pubs/bars/whatever are about — stories, beer and instant friends.

Oh and on the way home at the Raven in Bath, the landlord goes around offering a meat pie free because an order was mucked up. Art Brew’s Monkey IPA is a decent English-style IPA as well.