I’m not a foodie. Being a vegetarian has made it even more difficult to become one. When I go overseas, I try to look for vegetarian counterparts of any cuisine and had to look for comfort food at the end of the day. Or worse, find an Indian restaurant to have idly or dosa. Of course, I love idly and dosa, but I would rather have them in Chennai, where they taste the best.
But Ghent was different. Ghent is called the Veggie capital of Belgium and not without reason. You will be surprised to find quite a number of vegan and vegetarian restaurants there that offers not just ubiquitous cuisine like sandwiches and burger. I never expected to find so many in Europe, considering they are connoisseurs of food, especially meat.
“But in Ghent, people are more environment conscious,” I heard a native say when I thought out aloud. This is the reason why places like Komkomertijd, an exclusive vegan buffet restaurant, are thriving. The restaurant is packed on most weekends and is popular among the people. Here for 16 Euro you get to experience an exhaustive spread of dishes from vegan starters to dessert not to mention even drinks are vegan. But take care, beer there tastes a little bitter than usual, which I do not care for.
My dinner companion, who has been living in Ghent for six years said, “Many have gone organic and even large number of people here are turning vegans. This is one of the reasons for burgeoning vegetarian restaurants here.” The city even has ‘Veggie day’ to stress the importance of vegetarian good.
Vegetarian food is not the only thing that Belgium has to offer. You could try the famed indigenous waffles and fries the country is known for. You get them everywhere. All you had to do is take a walk around any city in Belgium, where syrupy waffles with strawberries, fresh cream and caramel and piping hot fries just call out to you. At that time you should just forget about calories and answer that call.
Waffles and fries aside, soup is another popular dish in Belgium and you can find eateries that specialises only in soup like Soup’R. I loved it. There are four vegetarian options and the menu changes weekly. This was my everyday lunch place when I was in Ghent. The place is packed between 12 and 1 with office goers and students, after which the crowd begins to trickle down.
There is a spot near the window, where you can rest your back and even stretch yourself. Since this spot overlooks the shopping district, it is a great place to just look at what people are upto. But then again, the problem is you can hardly combine observing and eating when it is crowded right? Nevertheless, drop by during non-peak hours and enjoy the view.
Apart from indigenous cuisine, you will find other restaurants like Selis Noodlebar that offer sufficient vegetarian options. I just loved this place. It was small, cozy and lively. We went there as a party of three, two of us vegetarians. Considering that it was a Chinese restaurant, I found good vegetarian options and ordered a customary beer to go with noodles. Needless to say it was a good combination. It was over two hours by the time we finished and the weather was getting colder despite it being summer.
One of the best things to do when it is even too cold to stand is to have a scoop of your favourite ice cream. It was a pure coincidence that there was a crowded ice cream bar in the vicinity. While one of my dinner buddy ordered a cappuccino, another friend and I got ourselves a scoop of lemon sorbet. We walked back home shivering eating sorbet as the cold wind grazed our barely concealed legs.
Last but not the least, your food walk is never complete if you never had picnic by the riverside in Ghent. For one, it is an amazing pass time. On the other hand, tranquil riverside calms you. On one such fine surprisingly warm summer evening, I decided to have a picnic by the river Leie in Ghent with my sister. The day just seemed to call for it. But by the time we left home, it was 8.30 p.m. when most shops with takeaway close. After a long walk, at least a good one kilometre away from the river was Basic Italian that was open till 9 p.m.. Here for 8 euro, you get a bowl of simmering pasta of your choice for takeaway. Again taking the long route back to the riverside, my sister and I chose a less crowded place and settled in.
The river, people sitting beside and dawning dusk, the scenery was mesmerising. There were variety of people who had come by that night – couple who had eyes only for each other, friends with bottle of beer, elderly on their evening walk and tourists taking in the beauty of Ghent.
My spinach pasta, just seemed to go with it. Even after I finished my pasta, I just sat there gazing. I thought it was just great place to end your evening.