We really only had one full day in Bruges. And in the end it worked out well for us. The place was beautiful in the morning and later evening, when day-trippers left, but it was still rather crowded, and like I mentioned in a earlier post, you pretty much needed reservations for the better dinner locales. Luckily, the wonderful owner of our B&B managed to get us reservations at one of the restaurants that she said were among her favorites in Bruges. A place named Rock Fort. The reservations were for two bar seats which was fine with us. We were just happy to find a place to have a nice dinner.
We headed out early, happy to meander along the side streets, watching the ducks waddling along the sidewalks.
We soon found ourselves back at the City Hall Building. And decided to take a rest as the slow drizzle had petered out.
I noticed something a bit odd and pointed out these four young ladies in various costumes standing in the square.
I wasn't quite sure what this was all about, but we just had to stay and watch. Out popped another young lady with a video recorder and they did several takes of the four of them doing sort of a choreographed strut toward the camera. After finally getting it right, they celebrated with a group hug! What the objective was, who knows.....perhaps only they do? I won't even try to explain this one. Sometimes you see the oddest things.
Rock Fort is located not quite in the center of things, but just across one of the canals; where Hoogstrat turns into Langenstraat.
The façade is subdued and unassuming.
But the interior looks quite hip and very bright white. We entered and the very nice host said that since we were the first customers of the evening, if we thought we'd be done in 2 hours, they'd like to give us a table. Very gracious, the servers hit that balance between not being too stiff, yet professional and amiable.
As the evening passed, we saw quite a few "beautiful people, on several tables there were college aged young men with older women......a middle aged gentleman, dressed to the nines arrived with an entourage, sans reservations, one of the chefs came out to greet them. Apparently they had no reservations. After a short discussion, or should I say negotiation, they ended up sitting at the bar.
As we often will do when confronted with Tasting Menus; we'd work with the staff to get both menu items and the tasting menu, which was no problem here. The Missus had some wine, while I went for a beer....as I went down the menu, looking for something suitable, the cheerful young lady would nod a slight "no"....apparently she did not approve! Finally, I asked "La Chouffe".....she smiled brightly and said; "good choice". I loved this place!
I did think the buttery popcorn that came along with the cheese and bread was fun and different.
Instead of going thru the entire dinner. I'll go over the highlights. It was actually two choices from the menu that were really outstanding.
The Entrecote of Flemish Beef - wet aged for a month, cured for a month, then dry aged for a month was outstanding.
Topped with pine nuts; this aged rib eye served raw was amazingly flavored, a deep, yet clean beef flavor. The pine nuts added a nutty and slightly sweet flavor to the dish.
The Beef Tartar was also outstanding.
Loved the scallions in this, which added just the right pungency as did the roasted garlic, balancing the wonderful clean flavors. The watercress gave just the right amount of bitterness.
The Chef's menu was no slouch...I mean; there's foie gras, well prepared seafood, and pork belly.
And yes, touches of molecular gastronomy; foams, powders, and such, but nothing got in the way.
The presentation was nice....but nothing could top the two dishes ordered off the menu.
It was by far the best meal we had in Belgium.
Rock Fort Langestraat 15 Bruges, Belgium
As we took a stroll after dinner, we noticed groups of people making their way up one of the streets.
There was some kind of fair taking place.
After wandering about for a bit; we headed back to the warmth of our room at the B&B.
Our time in Bruges was coming to a close. While I'm not sure if we'll ever return; I can say that B&B B Guest was one of our favorite B&B's we've stayed at; just two rooms, close to everything, but with enough privacy, and a nice breakfast. We took away another thing from our trip. It seemed that just about every place we stayed at had a Nespresso machine. It was nice having a little pick-me-up in the morning or afternoon. We ended up buying one when we got home. Yes, the Missus is a coffee snob, but sometimes She just needs a nice shot of espresso.
We headed off to sleep rather early. The next day, we'd be headed back to Brussels.
It was on our only full day in Bruges where we really got to enjoy the city a bit. Earlier in the morning, on a weekday, we took a walk around Market Square. Even in the drizzly mist we were able to appreciate the Belfort (Bell Tower) which has risen over the square and Bruges since the 14th Century. We wandered around the courtyard and down some side alleyways.
The buildings lining the square, housing various restaurants and tourist focused businesses are built in Neo-Gothic style. This square is considered the heart of Bruges and was once the economical center as there was a canal that came right up to the square.
It was Wednesday...usually market day, but there were bleachers set-up so we saw no market stalls. We did hear a bit of noise from the nearby Burg Square.
I guess the market had been moved here on this day to accommodate whatever event was happening in the Market Square.
It was still early; before 8 and the market didn't get going until 10am, so we just walked along the booths....
And vehicles.....we called this one the Cheese-mobile.....
I love the way this pooch manages to keep dry....under the table and in a box....
While checking out some of the cheese and charcuterie we had an idea.....
We'd ask the wonderful Caroline, who ran our little two room B&B if we could use the dining area and self cater lunch!
As we crossed over one of the canals, I saw a statue that looked familiar. It was Saint John of Nepomok! Remember him from my posts on Prague?
They call Bruges the "Venice of the North", so of course I had to include a couple of canal shots.
We headed back to the B&B and breakfast was served downstairs. It was quite a nice spread.
I'm not quite sure what it was...perhaps the sickly sweet smells that all the shops had; but I'd been avoiding waffles. I know heresy....you're in Belgium and no waffles? Until this morning. Caroline made us fresh waffles, her own secret family recipe and they were delicious.
Light, crisp and creamy, not too sweet.....just perfect. I loved them...and she made me another!
We had discussed having our own self catered lunch in the dining area with Caroline and got the green light. So we headed back out. On the way out, we passed this doorway. I stopped....this was the back entrance to the Old St John's Hospital. Which is now the Memling Museum. We hadn't visited any museums in Belgium and this one had artifacts and displays of medieval medicine as well as art. This is our kind of stuff. And we really enjoyed the Memling.
The painting is full of different vignettes of what patient care at St John's Hospital was like, from the Nuns that served as Nurses, to the fact that dogs were welcomed in the wards.
The ambulance? Well, it was a man powered sedan chair.....
Which I believe was this sedan chair.....
While checking out some of the displays, I heard the Missus go, "oh my....check this out. Those are some awesome stones" (it's not what you might think by what she said). Holy smokes! Check out those stones....kidney stones. My goodness, can you imagine the pain?
I'll not go into any great detail of how the stones were removed, but in case you're morbidly interested, here's an interesting link.
The main attraction of the museum is probably Hans Memling'sSt John Altarpiece. Dedicated to the Patron Saints of the hospital, this work was displayed on an altar situated at a height and distance so all beds in the ward could view this painting.
We then quickly returned to the market which was just starting to get into full swing.
We made our purchases, returned to the B&B, placed them in the fridge and headed off. It was still a bit too early for lunch, so we decided to grab....well...should I call it a "brunch beer"? At De Halve Maan Brewery.
You might recognize the names of the beer brewed by Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan....Staffe Hendrick and Zot. I went with the Staffe Hendrick Quad, the Missus a Brugse Zot.
I found the quad to have kind of a burnt sugar fragrance, though slightly boozy and mildly sweet. The 11% ABV sneaks up on you. Strangely, I recently had a SH Quad at Iron Pig and unlike my experiences with other Belgians it held up pretty good and tasted quite similar to what I had here.
They also have tours at this brewery but we decided not to take it.
De Halve Maan Brewery Walplein 26 Bruges, Belgium
After our liquid refreshment, we headed to a quite busy shop on the same street.
Dumon Chocolatier is quite popular.
So we decided to add to the collection of chocolates for my MIL.
Dumon Chocolatier Walstraat 6 Bruges, Belgium
We meandered a bit, then headed back to the B&B. Caroline had kindly set aside some plates and silverware for us and we had a nice light lunch.
After cleaning up, we headed upstairs for a nice afternoon nap.....
After lunch and doing a bit of chocolate shopping, the Missus decided that we needed to "stretch our legs a bit". So we headed in the direct opposite direction of the dwindling tourist crowd and followed the canals.
It seems that folks were heading for warmer and drier locales....even the horses!
Away from the crowds we could really enjoy the beauty of Bruges. Full of little quaint little streets, stately structures, canals, and wonderful churches, I could see why folks are charmed by the city.
We did find a spot we really enjoyed in Bruges, Burg Square. We'd have a seat on one of the benches in the park opposite the square and watch folks come and go. The buildings here are quite striking from the City Hall to the Basilica of the Holy Blood.
You almost get transported in time when a house drawn buggy passes in front of the gold gilded Old Recorders House.
Only to be jolted out of your day dreaming by the honking horn of a tour bus.......
Yet we really enjoyed just sitting here admiring the structures...like the City Hall Building.
The canal shots are wonderful. Like this one with the Church of Our Lady in the background.
We returned to out room, took a nice warm shower and had our ritual nap for the day.
After waking, we decided to head out to a Beer Bar that was recommended to us; t'Brugs Beertje. Unfortunately, they had just changed their hours and would be closed during our stay in Bruges.
We also found out first hand how difficult it was finding a dinner spot without reservations. Luckily we had one for the next night....but on this evening we were on our own and every spot on my list was booked solid. So, I decided on a place I'd read about serving good, unpretentious (although you could use that term for all of Belgium), hearty meals, named Bistro den Huzaar.
The place was rather cozy, perhaps the tables were a bit close together, but the folks here were quite friendly.
We ordered and some bread, herb butter, and a jar of pate was placed on the table.
The pate tasted a bit different; not overly livery, but it had a definite gamey flavor to it. I asked and was told this was Rabbit Pate....which made sense. A friend of mine told me that rabbit pate tasted faintly like urine....having never chugged "Cowboy Beer" I'll have to take is word on it.
Speaking of beer, well, this was Belgium so it made sense to have some with dinner.
The Missus ordered the Duck Confit which came with some bacon, salad, and potatoes.
It was rather non-descript. Not bad mind you, but roasted instead of seared off with crisp skin. Decent flavor and all that. What really surprised us was when a second bowl was delivered to the table...with another whole duck leg in it! So I guess you get two duck legs when you order the confit here.
I got the Lamb Stew, which was nicely flavored, good tomato, though not as rich as I would have enjoyed.
The flavor of the lamb was quite strong, which I enjoyed, though it was also on the tough side. Like the Missus, I was brought a bowl with more lamb stew in it.....
Bruges as a whole was more expensive than any other city we visited in Belgium...probably due to the amount of tourists. But at Bistro den Huzaar; you really couldn't complain about not getting enough to eat.
Bistro Den Huzaar Vlamingstraat 36 Bruges, Belgium
We basically rolled out of the restaurant and headed back to our room to recover......
It was overcast when we arrived in Bruges.....and the place was crawling with tourists. I was scouring my photos to find one, but as is the norm we try to take photos without too many folks in them.
We arrived by train and walked up to the B&B we were staying at. Located on a quite side street whose name reminded me of a certain item I used to partake of during my (much) younger days. The B&B, named B Guest had but 2 rooms and was located so close, but not in the middle of everything. Upon arriving Caroline explained a lot to us, especially the part about needing reservations for dinner. On this evening it was a bit too late, but she was nice enough to get us reservations at a very popular, up and coming spot the next night.
We then headed out to find some lunch.....
A few blocks away from the Markt Square, things seemed a bit quieter and I saw a place that was on my list. We'd been having some hearty, but also quite hefty meals in Belgium; so this little Belgian/Spanish Tapas restaurant named Quatre Mains seemed just the thing for us. I wasn't sure we'd be able to get a table, but we arrived early and was given one of the two tables that weren't reserved next to the bar.
This was actually the perfect place for lunch on this day. The menu had a nice variety of classic and not so classic tapas. The Missus enjoyed a glass of wine.
And our cozy little corner was perfect. We had a nice view of the dining area which started to fill up a few minutes after we arrived.
We could also watch folks outside on the street. People watching is one of our favorite pastimes on trips. Soon enough it started drizzling.....
We ordered a small variety of items.
We started with the Smoked Eel and Red Onion.
The nicely smoked Eel with pungent red onions, crisp toast, slightly bitter cress, and crème fraiche was quite nice.
The beef tatare was excellent.
Tender, refreshing, very "clean" tasting.
The only item we didn't care for were the Shrimp Croquettes.
The filling was basically a curry béchamel which was a bit too gluey and much too salty for us. It just wasn't our thing.
The foie gras on the other hand was definitely "our thing". Mild in flavor, but very light.
We finished off with the Beef Cheeks; which was more like a stew, as the beef had broken down.
Regardless, the flavor was intensely beefy with a touch of sweetness...almost like a cross of carrillada (Spanish style braised beef/pork cheeks) and carbonnade flamande.
The service, like most places in Belgium was quite laid back and gracious. It was just the perfect meal on this day.
Quatre Mains Philipstockstraat 8 Bruges, Belgium
After lunch, it was time for a walk......and some chocolate shopping......
There is literally a chocolate shop on every block......and we bought from quite a few of them...for gifts of course.
Knowing the Missus...there was much more walking to do.