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A taste of Belgium: Local food at its finest

Xavier Meur, artisan glacier
00:50 01/05/2021
Take your pick of regional specialities, pop-up markets and picnic spots around the country this summer

Customers queue to taste Xavier Meur’s artisan ice-cream (pictured above) in the village of Petit-Hallet on the Walloon Brabant-Liège border. More than 50 flavours include bold and natural ingredients, such as Chimay bleue, strawberry-pepper, exotic fruits and salted caramel. Served from the ivy-clad window of his atelier and savoured in the farmhouse’s wild garden.

More than a museum dining establishment, Restaurant Albert on the fifth floor of the Royal Library of Belgium in the centre of Brussels is a fabulous, stylish and still little-known rooftop restaurant and terrace. It also hosts cultural and culinary events and serves sustainable local produce. Entrance via Mont des Arts.

Strawberries (c) WBT/Bernard Boccara

The sweetest and juiciest strawberries in Belgium are grown in Wépion on the banks of the Meuse river. Pick up a punnet or two from one of the wooden chalets that dot the side of the road between Profondeville and Namur all summer long.

Bertinchamps, near Gembloux, has established itself on the brewing scene in the past few years. It’s also become a destination on the local gastronomy scene thanks to its bar and rustic restaurant dishing up fine regional produce. Enjoy one of the 5-18km walks from the farmhouse brewery to really work up an appetite beforehand.

Josaphine's

Josaphine’s, a food kiosk in Schaerbeek’s Josaphat park, offers something extra special: a no-hassle picnic experience. The ready-made picnic baskets leave nothing to be desired. Everything’s included, from culinary goodies to plates, cutlery, napkins and even a waterproof blanket for that unpredictable Belgian summer weather.  

Square Marguerite, next to Ambiorix park, is home to the capital’s newest food market. Stop by on Wednesdays from 11.00 to 19.00 for organic and local produce.

If you’ve spent the afternoon walking in the bucolic Lesse valley you deserve to put your feet up at the charming Li p’tit bambou terrasse à Ciergnon. Strategically situated on the Ravel cycling network between Houyet and Rochefort, the riverbank table d’hôte opens in the afternoons from Friday to Sunday for tasty local brews and light bites.

Glacier Zizi

Glacier Zizi has established itself as a classic among locals since 1948. The family joint in Uccle has been serving its artisanal, colouring-free and natural ice creams for four generations. Traditional flavours are juxtaposed with more creative experiments such as cuberdon and lavender. Don’t be surprised if there’s a queue!

While coffee from Antwerp roasters Koffie Verheyen can be found around Belgium, there’s nothing like stopping off in the family’s own shop. Run by the third and fourth generation of Verheyens, the shop is like stepping back in time. There’s more than coffee on sale; stock up on tea, biscuits and chocolate too. Because what’s coffee without them?

Hunt down the Polle goat farm on a country lane in Lichtaart, a district of Kasterlee, for fresh goat’s cheese, yoghurt, milk, croquettes and, yes, ice cream. Their charming little shop also sells other local products. Bring along some cutlery because there’s also a summer terrace.

La Fabrique has several outposts in Brussels, but its most charming is the one in the midst of Parc Egmont, a magical little oasis of tranquillity and greenery unexpectedly nestled between hotel and office towers. The cafe, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of the neighbourhood, is famous for its copious brunch buffets.

Pick your own fruit and veg at Jardins d’OO, a 50-hectare ecological site dedicated to biodiversity in Fernelmont (Namur province) that uses traditional practices such as draught horse ploughing. Alternatively, meet the farmers and pick up fresh produce at its Saturday morning market at Noville-les-Bois.

Ooidonk (c) Westtoer

The circular Ooidonk walking route on the outskirts of Deinze takes in the Oude Leie, a tributary of the Leie river. The area offers a wealth of idyllic picnic spots, and along this tributary is one of the best. It’s not exactly a secret, but there’s always enough space, even on a beautiful summer day. There’s ample parking at the start of the route or further along near Ooidonk castle.

As well as activities for children and schools, Ferme de Bousval in Walloon Brabant runs a busy farm shop, selling dairy produce (cheese, ice-cream, butter, yoghurt), pastries, jam, honey and juices. Open Friday and Saturday and Sunday morning.

Oysters

Taste the ocean at Brussels’ new oyster bar, Oyster’s Dealer d’Iode. With a fresh delivery every Wednesday from French seafood haven l’Île de Ré, the owners have teamed up with Michelin-starred chef Matthieu Jacri to serve up original seafood dishes. The counter is near the Cambre abbey and Avenue Louise; open Wednesday to Sunday until 31 July. On Wednesdays and Thursdays you’ll also find them at the huge pop-up Terrasse O2 in Chaussée de la Hulpe. Open until 31 July, it dishes up Sunday brunch between 11.00 and 15.00, with plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained.

If you’re visiting lush Annevoie Water Gardens or cycling the Namur-Dinant Ravel route, consider a pit stop at Le P’tit Resto Vintage Les Cousines in the Meuse valley. Savoury and sweet dishes, tearoom favourites, ice cream sundaes, local tipples and cocktails are all on the menu at this idyllic riverbank restaurant.

More from The Bulletin's summer travel guide

  1. Walk this way: Discover Belgium on foot
  2. Get your green fix at our favourite parks, woodlands and gardens
  3. Top spots for spectacular scenery
  4. The best culture this summer is outside
  5. Monuments and memorials to remember the fallen
  6. Delve into Belgium’s rich industrial past
  7. Local food at its finest
  8. Come on in, the water’s lovely
  9. The finest spots for a summer apero
  10. Big days out for all the family
  11. Seven cycling experiences to discover
  12. Top heritage sites for a fine day out
  13. Don't miss out this summer thanks to our agenda of events in Belgium
Written by The Bulletin