Tuesday, 15th December 2015 – Bruges
A travel day but with added Belgium! We had checked the timetables carefully to ensure we didn’t face a rerun of Saturday’s ridiculously slow journey from Brussels to Bruges. We checked out of the Medici and loaded our shopping and luggage into the taxi that the receptionist organised for us. We were quickly at the station and dragging our luggage across the cobbles to the correct platform. We had plenty of time for a coffee before we climbed aboard an express train to Brussels, scheduled to take around 2 hours to reach the Belgian capital. It was slightly late arriving but not too bad and so we checked our bags in at the left luggage office and headed towards Grand Sablon in search of lunch, because I will never turn down a chance to eat in Belgium. Finding nothing that really grabbed us we wandered so we crossed the street and headed up Rollebeekstraat, fetching up at l’Estrille de Vieux Bruxelles, a restaurant that as far as I can tell has been there pretty much forever. It was all done up for Christmas and looking very fetching when we arrived.
This is an old-fashioned place in terms of food and obviously sees no need to deviate from a winning formula. As a result it’s heavy on the meat dishes with the emphasis on game and red meats at this time of year.
We started with foie gras with toast, apple and onion jam for Lynne. It was a classic variation on the dish and very good.
I opted for the great Belgian stalwart of croquettes, these made with grey shrimps. Lovely, lovely things they were too.
Next they wheeled out the big guns. There was rabbit in Gueze beer, a proper solid dish, warming and delicious for a Winter lunchtime, served with the inevitable potato croquettes, which had lovely crunchy coatings and were fluffy as they ought to be on the inside. This isn’t necessarily high-end cuisine. This is just good, solid peasant-style cooking. Sometimes that’s just what is needed.
The other main was venison, served with what the menu described as hunters’ mousses. There was a chestnut based one, a pumpkin mousse, a potato mousse and a carrot mousse. They were brilliant for mopping up the rich, sticky sauce that came with the meat.
As we had every intention of trying to stay awake on the train we stopped short of dessert, and after a coffee made our way back to Brussels Midi to catch the train to London.
Once we had our luggage back we checked in, enquiring as we did so about the possibility of getting an upgrade for the return journey. The man at the counter said we could, but that he didn’t recommend doing it in the station ticket office as they would charge us around €120 each. He said we’d do better to go through to the platform when we were called and speak to the train manager. That seemed like a good plan to me.
We did as advised, were told that there was room in first class, and that it would be €35 each. We were told that we should pay on the train when they did the ticket inspection. We settled in and enjoyed some champagne, and a light snack of cheese and some chocolates to complete our lunch and waited to be asked to pay.
It never happened. No one came round and we disembarked in London still with the cash to cover the upgrade in my back pocket. It was a very nice present and a great way to end a great trip.