Tag Archives: Belgium

A Tale of Two Stations

14 May

I like St Pancras station.

I do not like Brussels Midi station.

St Pancras station has a lovely roof.

Brussels Midi has concrete and washing up bowls catching the rainwater as it leaks through to the basement.

This is not a poem!!

Brussels Midi does serve this beer in one of life’s more preposterous receptacles though. Every cloud!

Preposterous

Het Velootje Pilgrimage Quashed

6 May

Pilgrimages are all well and good if you’re  religiously insane but what about the rest of us?

A recent beer pilgrimage of mine was a funky little trip to Ghent to visit the legendary Het Velootje bar or pub or whatever they call their drinking establishments over yonder. I’d looked forward to this for some time because, like the religiously insane, I too enjoy long trips of hope and expectation. Only in my beer pilgrimage, I was to actually get to meet a slightly disturbed man with long hair, a beard and dirty fingernails! Better still, I would be able to have a beer with him or at least have a beer served by him. See, we’re all a bit mental!!

Sadly, while the arduous journey through some of the hardest terrain known to humanity (Belgium on the Eurostar) taught me to love myself and to respect other people (allowing other people off the train first), it did not prepare me for the crushing disappointment that was to await me when I found the place.

Het Velootje is situated in the Patershol district of Ghent, a very pretty historical area and the building must be quite old. It is in all the guidebooks as a weird bar with a weird owner and the latter is certainly true.  It’s a bar crammed with bicycles and junk with a roaring fire (by all accounts). I arrived there early in the day just so that I knew where to come later in the day and found a small but lively little street. The place was closed but I was happy that I would be back there later on in the day.

Het Velootje

Great bin location. What looked like a bunch of Romanian cleaners
had just shut themselves inside before I took the photo.

I went back. I dragged the Profesorette. We rocked up and were pleased to find a bevy of lunatics outside. I was beside myself with joy until I found out from the horse’s mouth that, because of problems with the electrics, the fire department had decided to close them down for the time being. What? Seriously? Well, I can’t tell if they were having me on to this moment. “It ish alsho political, oh yes and the neighboursh” is what I was told.

She holding the veggie box, He holding my hopes and dreams in his tool box

Well, I was happy to have met the madman and his friend, who seemed lovely, like a Belgian Pam Ayres. There was another particularly mad fellow who was trying manfully to translate what the creator was trying to explain. Unfortunately, he had to disappear on his bike either for a trip to the dentist or to get his grey roots dyed so I never had the chance for a photograph.

The bar

When all was said and done, I wasn’t really disappointed. I came away content because I’d had quite the most bizarre conversation outside the place of pilgrimage with the legend himself. I didn’t get in for a beer but it just sets me up for the next time. Assuming it is still there that is*. And after all, it’s not every pilgrim who gets to meet the man with the beard!!!

*Apparently, people should write on his website about how much they want to visit, and how disappointed they were that their visit was in vain because the comments are being compiled into some sort of book that will be delivered in front of the powers that be, or something like that, I didn’t understand every cryptic remark that was shot my way!

Classy Beer Cuisine Denderleeuw

12 Mar

Over on the other side of the world, this lady was making Beer Jelly. Why didn’t I think of that?  Through all my pickling frenzies and jam marathons it had never once crossed my mind to make a jelly with beer. I’m intrigued and will be experimenting in the near future. Beer is a decent ingredient in food and I try to pop it in a recipe when I can, mussels, batter, stews, fish, chocolate puddings… I’ll pop a few recipes up when I get round to it.

Belgians, of course, are masters of your beer cuisine. They’ve been doing it forever and with some style too. There are restaurants there that use beer in everything they cook. This is also true of a couple of places around the UK but they tend to be very few and far between and in England pretensions sell so you are unlikely to find the kind of place I was taken to by a Belgian friend sometime back.

De Heeren van Liedekercke is a name I couldn’t even begin to pronounce but the beauty of the internet is that I don’t have to listen to myself talking bollocks, I can just write it. It is also a restaurant specialising in Beer Cuisine. I’m quite jealous that this kind of restaurant doesn’t exist over here to tell you the truth. Why? Well, apart from the incredible beer list and the incredible food (I had a salmon tartare complete with a syringe full of Gueuze ready to be injected) and the friendly independent nature and the reasonable prices (for Belgium) and the courteous staff and the laid back atmosphere, there were local families with kids enjoying themselves alongside the beer nerds and the teenagers. There was no sense that this establishment had been marketed hard at any particular AB1 or 2 social grouping such as would undoubtedly be the case over here. It concentrated on the important things, food, drink and being an asset to the community, which it appeared to be. It wasn’t pandering either, to its growing international reputation among beer cuisine tourists. It just was.

I was completely charmed by the place and not least by the female owner who gave me some of their own house beer, a lovely spicy number it was too.