Chocolate, Chips and Cordon Bleu in Belgium – Part 1
After exploring the city of Brussels all day, and fighting off the urge to splurge on chocolate and waffles, (see Weeing Boy, Waffles and Chocolate) I was looking forward to my dinner.
We ate in the Chou de Bruxelles, which translates as the Brussels Sprout.
Before the meal we were given a glass of sparkling wine, and plates of nibblies on bread.
Then the bread basket arrived, and I couldn’t resist it. Fresh, locally-baked bread; an absolute treat for me with my commercial bread allergies!
I had carpaccio, or thinly-sliced raw beef with a dressing, to start with.
Then I’d chosen duck breast in a sauce.
I love duck, and I’ve never in my life seen a duck breast that size. It was huge, and very tender. What a shame that I’d filled up with so much bread!
Somehow though, I managed to find enough room for the chocolate mousse.
The Choux de Bruxelles specialises, like a lot of Belgian restaurants, in mussels.
They have 30 different kinds on their menu.
When they bring out the hot, steaming bowl, they also provide a large bib!
There’s a big piece of the old Atomium as an ornament, taken from the strange-shaped building when it was renovated.
In the morning we had breakfast in the Steinburger Grand Hotel where we were staying (rooms from about £66 a night, up to over £5,000!) from the substantial buffet selection.
In Ploegsteert, known as Plugstreet, and famous for the WW1 Christmas Day truce between the British and the Germans when they played football, we stopped for lunch in l’Auberge de Ploegsteert.
This is what they say;
The Auberge Ploegsteert, in the middle of the woods, stop and enjoy a good meal in a place filled with history
The restaurant can be found at Ploegsteert in the area of La Hutte, in southern Flanders, close to the French border on the road from Armentières to Ypres.
It faces the British Memorial to the missing of the Great War of 1914-1918 and is surrounded by the woods of La Hutte and Le Gheer.
These woodland areas were at the centre of many of the actions of that war, and the numerous military cemeteries sited in and around them bear witness to the thousands of men who gave their lives in this sector of Belgium.
We sat at long wooden tables and, of course, the delicious local bread arrived first.
The menu was a fixed menu, so we all had the same; a very flavoursome vegetable soup, followed by potatoes, vegetables, and thick slices of beef, perfectly cooked; not too pink and not too brown.
As we were eating, the chef came out with large plates of more slices of beef. They looked so tempting, but I just couldn’t manage any more!
Lunchtimes, the Belgians usually have coffee instead of a sweet.
We drove to the Hotel, the Castel du Pont-a-Lesse, in darkness. It seemed to take ages, driving in the middle of nowhere. But in the morning it was only about five minutes from the town of Dinant.
I liked it. It’s only a 3-star Best Western hotel, but it’s set in acres of parkland, and has a swimming-pool.
Our dinner was, a starter of Serrano ham with Parmesan, then a soup, followed by chicken breast with potatoes, and a mini-quiche. And for sweet, a home-made jelly, so light that it slipped down easily.
The breakfast was another serve-yourself buffet, with hot food as well as the Continental choice.
Our next stop was the city of Liege.
After taking photos of their new state-of-the-art railway station, we had lunch in the Duc d’Anjou.
Again it was a set menu for us. We had a famous Belgian/Liege dish, Boulets with Sauce Lapin.
Boulets are cannon-balls. And believe me, the meatballs were the size of cannonballs!
Sauce Lapin means Rabbit Sauce, but there aren’t any rabbits in it. Strange!
The main ingredient of the sauce is Syrop de Liege.
See recipes at the end of this article.
To follow, we had Café Liegois, formally known as Café Viennois.
It’s a coffee with creamy ice-cream, and it’s lovely!
We spent the night in the Hotel Leo, in Bastogne, Belgian Luxembourg.
What a strange hotel! It’s unmanned as all the staff are working in the hotel’s restaurant, a few doors away, and in the other branch of the hotel, next to the restaurant.
It reminded me of Beauty and the Beast or Dracula, where tables were laid and meals, etc mysteriously appeared when nobody was watching!
The bedrooms are huge. So are the bathrooms. It’s not classy, but it’s perfectly adequate.
I was at the back and I slept like a log. But some of the others were at the front, and found it noisy all night.
We ate in their restaurant, Wagon Leo. The front of it is an old railway carriage.
Again, we were given sparkling wine to start with, and a trio of starters followed by fish with crab ravioli and a fish sauce.
Then it was the most tender cut of entrecote, white asparagus wrapped in dried ham, and an Argentinian sauce.
Finally came an apple tart.
In the morning, all the tables had been laid up. The breakfast was a cold Continental choice, although a toaster was available.
Andy, one of our group, managed to burn his toast and set off all the fire alarms, and worryingly, nobody appeared to check that the hotel wasn’t on fire!
Two of our group finally peeped round the door to find out what was going on, but there was still no sign of any staff.
Someone went to inform them in the restaurant, and an electrician appeared. But he couldn’t fix it, so he had to call his boss.
Meanwhile we finished our breakfast amongst all the clanging bells, and went upstairs to finish packing, then we left to catch our coach.
I hope they’ve managed to turn it off by now!
Back in Brussels, we caught the Eurostar to St Pancras.
It’s well-worth paying a bit extra to travel Business Class. We had more legroom and a table, plus a plug for our phones, free drinks and a meal.
Part 2 to follow