Vuvuzela

Feeling a bit adventurous on Tuesday, Eve and I decided to take a 30-something minute bike ride to the Vuvuzela in Ham. Once we had a handle on how we supposed to order drinks, and after the food had finally turned up, it was all very pleasant.

The service did feel quite slow and, while they certainly weren’t speedy, I may be being a little unfair here.

With Tuesday being a public holiday, we’d had quite a late breakfast and, consequently skipped lunch. As such, we were both more than a little peckish by the time we arrived. Then we realised that the couple at the next table had ordered a stone-grilled steak. This is where you get the raw meat and a hot stone so you can cook your own — and it smelled so good…

Some of the slowness was probably also a reflection of the fact that this is primarily a fiets cafe — somewhere for cyclists to stop for a drink. I’m guessing, therefore, that they would normally expect you to order food at the bar and are struggling a bit with the switch to table-service that the coronavirus restrictions have imposed on them.

This has left them, however, with the maddest compromise possible.

While someone will come to our table to take our food order, and to serve the food once it’s finally ready, we are still expected to traipse into the bar to order and collect our drinks. It would probably be a bit saner to accept that things will be a bit slow and let the waiting staff handle the drinks as well.

That said, the drink selection was rather good — with much of it on draft as well. They have several very local beers, including their own Vuvuzela Bier. This was okay, but I much preferred the Cuvée Clarisse, a strong dark ale from Brouwerij Wilderen.

The food itself was very Flemish, which is no bad thing, and sitting on a terrace with a beer and burger is one of the better ways to spend a summer evening.

The cafe itself is situated in a large outdoor area with plenty of space for walking, cycling and mini-golf.

The kids should all be able to manage the bike-ride there, so we will certainly go back to explore further. Although next time, I will be very tempted to order some snacks along with our main course, just to keep us going while we wait.

Takoda and the mad menus

This is a bit of an addendum to yesterday’s post where I briefly mentioned that between the fun day out and the disaster of the drive in, we stopped for dinner.

The Takoda restaurant and ice cream parlour is located directly opposite Alden Biesen and appears to do quite a roaring trade. We’d booked a table and I was rather glad that we had when I saw that they were already having to turn people away at three o’clock in the afternoon. I suspect that they’ve removed about a third of their tables in order to comply with social distancing rules, but I was still surprised at just how quickly the restaurant filled up.

On the subject of viral changes, many restaurants are now using disposable menus. The menu is printed on a plain sheet of paper which can be simply thrown away once everything that can be ordered has been ordered.

The Takoda had a slightly different approach and, I have to admit, that I don’t know if this is in response to the coronavirus or if they’ve always done it like this. Instead of having a physical menu, there are a couple of QR codes on the table — one of them takes you to the main menu, the other to the desserts and ice-creams.

This approach works reasonably well if you have a decent internet connection and a QR code reader installed on your phone — everyone else had to borrow mine — but was undermined a bit once our orders were placed and the water reappeared with drinks and place mats. On the place mat was printed, of course, the menu.

The food, though, was superb. The boys all went for burgers (they had quite a variety) and the waiter was impressed that the twins had managed to eat everything placed in front of them. I was less surprised as the burgers did look spectacularly meaty — so much so that I momentarily wandered if I should have gone for the same. The mixed grill soon put that thought out of my mind, though, because it was glorious.

In fact, the food was so good that I decided to risk an Irish coffee. This is something which, when done well, is fantastic but which is so often no more than a coffee with a shot of whiskey and a blob of squirty cream.

Luckily for me, the Irish coffee at the Takoda is done very well indeed. So much so that I would be willing to go back for this alone.

Now I just need to find another excuse to go back to Bilzen.

Camp

This week has been a bit different as all three boys have been away at camp. They are members of a youth group and the week long (ten days for the oldest) summer camp is how they end the season.

So Eve and I delivered the twins to a field last Sunday (Macsen, being older, was part of the group that cycled there the previous Thursday).

Duvel at the Kamp

This left us wondering what to do with ourselves now that we were suddenly kids-free for a week. On Monday, we stayed in but on Tuesday we went out for sushi.

Leffe at Koji Sushi

We have been here before with the boys and, while they enjoyed the presentation they struggled a bit with the food and we haven’t taken them back. So this week seemed a good time for another visit.

I like sushi and the Koji sushi restaurant does a fantastic meal for two delivered, spectacularly, on a boat.

On Wednesday we went out again, this time to Volt, a restaurant we have been to multiple times.

Tripel Karmeliet at Volt

Volt is a reliably good restaurant and probably the only place locally that has a range of international foods on the menu.

The thing about Belgium is that, while the local food is very good, there isn’t much interest in anything beyond the borders. Which is odd given the extent to which Belgian food is a result of the country being stuck between France and Germany.

And so to Thursday when we decided to try something different and went to Het Atrium.

St. Bernadus at Het Atrium

The outdoor seating here is really nice and, while the menu is largely the usual Belgian fare they did have one addition — the Atrium Burger. I would never have believed that I could rave about a burger, but this was absolutely fantastic. It’s a sizable chunk of meat, along with a generous serving of bacon, an egg, and other stuff and it really was exceptional.

I will definitely go back for this again.

On Friday it rained and we went back to Volt.

Chimay Blauw at Volt

Today is the last day of camp and we are about to go and collect the twins. And then I shall have to make peace with my credit card.

Fun at The Forum

A week ago, we were in Geel on a mission to complete some urgent gift shopping. Once the mission was accomplished, though, we were able to relax a little and treat ourselves to some dinner at Het Forum.

Some of us were able to relax more than others…

Tripel Karmeliet

Tripel Karmeliet I haven’t talked about beer on these pages for quite some time. However, De Met is now serving guest beers so this may change. Right now the guest beer that they have is Tripel Karmeliet from Bosteels Brewery.

As the name suggests, it’s an abbey tripel and in this case the Tripel part of the name not only refers to the in-bottle refermentation but also to the fact that the beer is brewed with three kinds of grain: wheat, oats and barley. And it’s lovely.

I’m not normally a huge fan of tripels, but this is one that I would quite happily go back to. It’s clear and has a huge creamy head and tastes light, fruity and refreshing.

I’m ready for the summer now.

Irish Coffee

So after the beer, we went on for dinner. And when you’re in a French restaurant in Antwerp, what better way to round off the meal than with an authentic Irish coffee.

The blue flash in front of the chef is the flame…

Irish coffee being made

And it was watching him pour the cream that convinced us to give it a go…

Irish coffee being made