I recently returned from a short break in Bruges, Belgium. Bruges is an absolutely beautiful city – chilly, drizzly weather and all. In fact, the weather gave a certain moodiness to the city; it looked amazing with the skyline disappearing into thick mist and cobbled streets slick and shiny from the rain.
The Christmas Markets added to the wintry atmosphere with wooden huts lining the streets, the scent of mulled wine filling the air and fairy lights twinkling through the night.
Bruges is a city full of stunning architecture, beautiful canals and quaint chocolate shops. It is not, however, a city full of vegetarian cuisine…
It is always a shame to not be able to sample the local cuisine but I do like to use it as an excuse to try as many vegetarian restaurants across the globe as possible. We relied on our usual travel food bible Happy Cow to find somewhere to eat on the first night. It didn’t start too well… After attempting to have dinner at Bruges’ only vegetarian restaurant, De Bron, we discovered it was closed in the evenings (it did say this on the Happy Cow page, we just didn’t pay attention).
Out of desperation, we headed back towards our hotel and settled on a pretty safe option: burgers. Ellis is a gourmet burger chain reminiscent of the UK’s Byron or (a slightly more upmarket) GBK.
They had two vegetarian burgers on their menu – the Portobello and the Soy Classic (also available as Soy & Cheese). I went for the Portobello burger sans mayo. It was nice enough but pretty stingy on the fillings aside from the mushroom.
You can’t have a burger without sides so we also shared some French fries and onion rings, which were delicious because they were French fries and onion rings.
Prices were pretty standard with the burgers for €9.50 and sides at €3.50 each.
The following day we headed back to the now open De Bron for lunch.
De Bron is the only vegetarian restaurant in Bruges. They offer soup and a single dish of the day, which is available in three sizes. We both ordered medium.
Unfortunately, the best I can describe the meal as is food on a plate.
It was a strange mix of rather bland hot and cold dishes, some of which really didn’t feel like they belonged together on a plate. Beetroot salad with (what I think was) steamed leeks and rice? It was a bit like someone else had filled up my plate at a buffet. I’m not a fan of cooked carrots or peas and I can’t stand noodles hot, let alone cold so they were all left behind. The rest of the food was… fine. Not good, not bad; just fine.
The restaurant – which was much bigger inside that anticipated – was packed the whole time we were there so perhaps I’m in the minority with my opinion on this one but I just don’t think it’s doing the image of vegetarian cuisine any favours.
At €11.50 for a medium plate it didn’t break the bank but it wasn’t exactly cheap for what it was.
Later that day we headed to an adorable little tea room claiming to be “The place to be to drink the best hot chocolate”. We couldn’t let a claim like that go untested.
Fortunately, The Old Chocolate House did not disappoint. At the top of a rickety old staircase above the cute street-facing chocolate shop are the lovely tea rooms. From the choice of milk, dark or white hot chocolate, we both went for milk. We were then presented with a bowl-sized mug of steaming milk and little chocolate-filled chocolate pots!
You are given a little whisk and you can choose to drop the entire pot of chocolate in to your mug or slowly build up the richness with the chocolate drops. I used about half a pot of chocolate… and ate the rest! It was honestly the biggest hot chocolate I have ever seen. And no, I didn’t finish it.
Because we were in Belgium and it seemed rude not to, Matt got a waffle with strawberry jam as well. It was also on the massive side and it was sufficiently waffle-y.
Bruges is known not only for its waffles (and beer) but also for its hand-crafted chocolates. There are streets teeming with chocolate shops and plenty more solo chocolatiers dotted throughout the city. I lost count of how many we went into, mostly just to look at the beautiful displays.
And finally, here are a few of my favourite non-food-related photos from the trip.