I went to Bruges last week and on my first evening wandered around the side streets of this beautiful old city – doing a bit of menu spotting as I went – and got totally lost. It was then I saw a very small restaurant (seats 12 at a time) with an almost vegan menu – plus some fish. It was beautifully appointed – linen tablecloths, sparkling glasses, etc – and so that was it for me for dinner. The oldish lady owner served an appetizer of hot spiced aubergine in crumbly pastry. First course was a neat, round quinoa salad filled with minute dice of tangy veg and beside it, grated raw beetroot, fennel and other things I couldn’t recognise with a wonderfully zesty dressing and beside it, warm marinated beetroot pieces on thyme skewers.
Main course was tiny whole carrots, baby new potatoes and a medley of other vegetables in a white wine sauce with a puff pastry lid. I hadn’t spoken to the owner at this point other than to establish what was in the dishes and when it came to pudding she said: “You won’t want any animal products in yours, will you?” It was an exquisite little round frangipane tart with sweet fruits in the centre. It was some of the best restaurant food I have ever eaten. And the price – 22 Euros. The average cost of a meal in Bruges is between 40 and 50 Euros without wine. I asked her if she was vegan and she said she was so I asked why she served fish. She said it was because of men – when couples came to dine it was invariably the woman who was veggie and the complaining man a meat eater. It was a survival strategy. I’m afraid that what I saved on the price of food I spent on wine (too much wine) and lo and behold I found my hotel immediately. The sad news was that she closes Monday and Tuesday – the two days I had left. It is called De Buhne, Sint-Salvatoorskoorstraat 6, 8000 Bruges Tel: 0032 50 34 66 49. No email or internet. Just thought you might like to know.