These are my absolute favorite places not to be missed in Bruges, starting with Greet Verbeke, an antique store chock full of style moments.
Greet Verbeke is the store’s owner as well as its name. Her eclectic mix of antiques are styled impeccably. This wax fruit under glass was once a Victorian wedding bouquet.
I adored these two pairs of bud vases…there’s something so charming and unusual about a pair. Picture them on a table, filled with delicate flowers, and interspersed with candles. Très chic.
Here’s a few of the vignettes displaying her interesting finds.
On the other side of town is Depot D’O, equally as remarkable but with a more contemporary, and humorous, twist.
Their tagline is “Putting the O into interior.” I have still not figured out what it means (any theories?) but I love their unique sense of style.
As for lunch, I must confess that I ate at De Belegde Boterham (don’t ask me how to say it, but it means “open-face sandwich”) the first day, and then every day after that.
As someone who likes to read while they eat (when I’m alone, of course), they won me over with the bin of magazines just inside the door. (And check out the cool door stopper…a canvas sack filled with sand and with a ring handle on top.)
Of course, the real reason to go there is for the food. They serve delicious homemade soup, and the open-face sandwiches, but their crowning glory (in my opinion) is their salads. I decided to store the “recipes” in my brain for future use: Start with a basic foundation of red and green leaf lettuce, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots. Then add the yumminess: Chicken with mango, cashews, and a mint & citrus dressing, or Parma ham with warm goat cheese, plum chutney, and speculoos* cookie crumbs on top.
The salads are served with homemade wheat bread that is sliced on a machine that stands in the corner of the room.
On the second day I noticed a dessert being served to the woman next to me and said, “I’ll have what she’s having.” After that, they just brought it to me without asking. It was the best dessert I’ve ever had. Within a paper thin pastry, pears, plums, and raspberries are layered with custard on top of a soft speculoos cookie base. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Last, but not least, is the famous Belgian chocolate. There was a chocolate shop every five steps, but this particular chocolate shop, B by B, for Babelutte by Bartholomeus, is not only exceptional for the quality of their chocolate, it’s a designer’s dream.
Michelin star chef, Bart Desmidt, is the creator of this original chocolate concept. The title, Babelutte, comes from a type of caramel that Belgian fisherman used to take with them on their long journeys, for its nutritious qualities. When Desmidt obtained the secret recipe, the Babulette ice cream and pralines became a signature dessert in his restaurant. It was only a matter of time before the B by B store was born.
So this is the cool part: It’s like chocolate by Pantone. Twenty-two different types of chocolates are divided into seven families. Each family has its own color, and each chocolate has its own number. It’s a beautiful thing.
Then there’s the delectable chocolate itself, made in simple rectangular bars. Here are just a few exotic and delicious examples:
#8: milk chocolate, gingerbread, and orange
#14: dark chocolate, cherries, and cinnamon
#25: dark chocolate, strawberry, pepper, and lemon
#71: white chocolate, strawberry, and samba tea
The B by B specialty is the famous babulette, mixed with coffee, sea salt, hazelnut, or peppermint, and encased in dark or milk chocolate.
So the meticulously numbered chocolate bars don’t seem too serious, there’s an added touch of humor: The big and small “boobies.”
To top it all off, the chocolate is packaged in impeccable white square boxes and tucked into stylish black and white shopping bags worthy of a fashionable Parisian shop. I’ll say it again…this is a designer’s dream of a chocolate shop. Perfection!
In every city, there’s always those off-the-beaten-path shops and restaurants that give the experience an extra dose of character. They’re not always easy to find, especially in the winding cobbled streets of Bruges, but they’re there…don’t miss them.
De belegde boterham
Kleine St-Amandsstraat, 5
B by B
*Speculoos, or speculaas: Traditional crispy Belgian cookie flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper.