Monday, August 17, 2015


Time is flying by, and the 5 year anniversary of our trip to the Netherlands and Belgium is fast approaching (and with it, our aspirational goal/self-imposed deadline for posting trip recaps). When we last left off, we had eaten a snack in the Grote Markt before heading off on a canal cruise to explore more of Brugge. The canal cruise was great. We took tons of pictures of the interesting architecture and enjoyed exploring the city from the water. Once we got off the boat, we wandered around town a little bit, but mostly we were off to find lunch.

I hadn't been able to find a ton of casual, affordable spots in Brugge when doing restaurant research, so when we were thinking about lunch, we decided to rely on a recommendation from our Rick Steves guidebook. He recommended L'Estaminet as a good spot for light meals. Sounded good to us!

We arrived at L'Estaminet, which seemed to be on the "outskirts" of the old part of town (we always got turned in circles in Brugge, so that's how it felt but don't rely on our descriptions as far as a map goes) next to a nice park. They offered us a table in their "outdoor" seating area, which though outside was also enclosed, so we happily took that. It was nice and bright from the natural daylight, which made us happy because we love to see what we're eating.

We both got a beer with lunch (in Belgium, you have to pay for water in restaurants, so might as well drink beer). A went for the Brugse Zot, the local Brugge beer which they made right in town at a brewery that we were going to visit later in the day. The beer was a Belgian pale ale, and it was crisp and refreshing. It had a subtle sweetness in the first taste and ended on a drier hoppy-er note. I got a Stella Artois. It was fine, better than the Stella in the States because it's "fresher," but that doesn't really need a photo. It's just Stella.

For our lunch dishes, we mostly focused on the section of the menu called "toasts." Since everything started with the word "croque," we figured, based on our basic knowledge of the croque monsieur, that the toasts were probably sandwiches. Sounded good for lunch to us. A chose to get the croque monsieur, which the (current online) menu describes as a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. The sandwich also came with a very robust salad on the side, filled with tomatoes, onions, pickles, corn, and another pickled item that we could only identify as rakkyo. It was a pretty impressive salad.

The sandwich when it came out surprised us with the way it looked. We were expecting more of a traditional croque monsieur, thick bread, covered in bechamel, or at least something that resembled an actual sandwich. This was more like a turnover or a really stuffed pie filled with creamy ham and cheese. That's not to say it was bad. It wasn't. It just wasn't what we thought of as a croque monsieur at all.

Overall the sandwich had a rich, buttery flavor to the bread portion while also being paired with the rich, creamy ham and cheese stuffing. It was a hearty "sandwich" and very filling. It was also very delicious. A bit of crispness from the toasted bread ended up melting into the gooey, salty cheese and ham.

I opted for the croque shoarma. There was no description on the menu when we were there, but the current online menu describes it as a "toasted sandwich with shoarma spice mix of cumin, coriander, garlic, various kinds of pepper, ginger, and cinnamon." Just like with A's toast, we were expecting this to look more like a sandwich, but it looked just like A's. The plates generally were virtually identical except I had an extra sauce on the side (can't remember what it was) and instead of all that rakkyo, had some chopped up red peppers.

This was stuffed with chopped up chicken flavored with all the spices you usually get with shawarma (not used to spelling it shoarma). This many years later it's a little hard to describe each aspect of the flavor in detail, but it was similar to a really good spiced chicken pie (English style) or patty (Jamaican style). The spices were really wonderful. That, I do remember. We liked both of our choices for lunch. They may not have looked like the sandwiches we were expecting, but we were pretty satisfied with them.

There were a few other tables in the outside seating area while we were there, and we noticed that almost every single person was eating spaghetti bolognese. We already noticed the day before the prevalence of spaghetti bolognese in Brugge (although we still weren't sure why), so we decided that we would have to try to come back to get the spaghetti. After all, it had seemed like it might be their specialty since everyone got it and they weren't all tourists, we don't think. (I don't remember reading it in the Rick Steves book back then but he does recommend the hearty spaghetti. Perhaps we did it read it then but just didn't go straight for spaghetti since we had it the night before? Don't remember.) We were pretty happy with our lunch at L'Estaminet and definitely wanted to try to come back the next day!

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