Tagged by many a Gentenaar as his or her favourite daytime hangout, Simon Says, located just outside the historic Patershol district inside a 1904 Art Nouveau building in screaming colours by Belgian architect Geo Henderick, is hard to miss. Simon’s place is a bustling breakfast spot, cosy coffee corner and welcoming B&B all in one. Admire the golden mural paintings by contemporary artist Panamarenko as your coffee drips from the authentic Faema E61 machine – what the owners like to call ‘the beating heart’ of the place – and you choose from several breakfast formulas.
Cosy armchairs, light pastel colours and walls in chalk paint that sum up the day’s homemade suggestions – Gust’s interior suggests a mind that’s keenly aware of what the brunch-hunting Gentenaar likes. Owner Evi, a communications major, is no less savvy in the food department. Your craving for granola bowls, simple sandwiches or homemade American pancakes topped with maple syrup or fresh fruit can be jotted down on the little notepads lying in wait on the tables. Gluten- and lactose-free dishes are always available, as are takeaway boxes for when the fairly intimate café is full.
Thanks to Eric de Wagenaere’s mom, the Ghent brunch crowd has a special place to imagine oneself in Paris during its bourgeois heydey. It’s the nostalgic kitchen stylings from his youth that the chef whips up in Alice, an endlessly chic eatery-cum-tearoom in Onderbergen. The gold-lined plates, life-size paintings and other ornate details are so consuming you’d almost miss the counter full of glorious cakes winking to you from across the room. They’re from the hand of David Sobrie, grandson of the eponymous legendary Ghent patisserie. Sunday’s rich brunch buffet is an experience to be booked well in advance.
Fans of Belgian artisans find a fine address in Pain Perdu, where weekday breakfast is served with a smile from 9 AM onwards. The over 20-year-old establishment has a nose for the authentic, both interior and food wise. For the latter, that means an outspoken affinity for small-scale Flemish produce, such as Karen Depoorter’s Callas Confiture jams, coffee from Ghent roasters Den Draak, and bread and coffee cakes from a traditional bakery in Wijlrijk. Breakfast is available until 11:30 AM, but from 10 AM onwards, the lunch menu becomes available to peruse for hearty brunch options as well.
Brunch. All. Day. Long. It’s the success formula of FranzGustav, the one-year-old brunch Valhalla in pleasant neighbourhood Ham, located outside the city centre. Your brunch can either be mini or maxi, salty or sweet, enjoyed at 10 AM or late in the afternoon. It can be an indulgent start to the day, or function as the sumptuous cure for a mean hangover. Ex-politician Jan Roegiers has picked a gorgeous red-brick corner building to fill with old-school chairs, sansevierias, a cheerful team, and cheesecake to die for.
Huize Colette is a quaint coffee shop that has carved out reading nooks with great big armchairs to sink away in and relax. Co-owner Aline has combined two heavenly professions: chocolatier and patissier. This fact is very evident on the menu: chocolate milk comes in four rich variants, a homemade chocolate spread accompanies the sandwiches, and the scones and croissants are baked to perfection. Shelves lined with second-hand books (readable and buyable) make the place even homier, plus even more tempting to stick around for that second serving of speciality cocoa.
Replace one letter in the name of Tom Coone’s breakfast, brunch and cocktail nook, and you’ve got ‘Nen Hoek Af’, a Dutch idiom for someone who has got a couple of screws loose. Conveniently, ‘hoek’ also means ‘corner’, as Den Hoek Af finds itself in a lovely corner building on the Vlaanderenstraat, already a great lane for foodies. Inside, it’s a cosy clutter of thrift store furniture, but their homemade ice teas and fresh juices are best enjoyed on the sunny street-side terrace. The cakes are courtesy of renowned artisan bakers Les Tartes de Françoise.
Number 13 on the Kraanlei qualifies as the Promised Land of pastries. Julie Stampaert has been baking up such a storm in her snug ‘house’ that she had to open up a second shop – without a tasting room this time – near St Peter’s Station to keep up with demand. A breakfast of homemade granola, muffins and jams here can’t help but be followed by a colourful cupcake or piece of pie for good measure. Those with dietary restrictions get treated to another part of Julie’s repertoire that includes vegan Nutella cheesecake and gluten-free chocolate cake.
Star chef Kobe Desramaults has quite the number of foodie ventures to his name, but De Superette, his grocery-turned-bakery-slash-pizza restaurant, is among the finest. Behind its wood-fired oven and manning its open kitchen, you’ll find Sarah Lemke and Rose Green, two fierce ladies with a passion for making sourdough bread and other artisanal creations the old-fashioned way. Everything on De Superette’s card has been carefully sourced, and contacts with local suppliers – whose names are displayed on the menu – is a firm priority. On Thursday and Friday mornings, you can pop by for a loaf or sit down for proper breakfast without reservations. On weekends, the place fills up with families and friend groups that come to share either breakfast or a hearty brunch.
Delicious eggs benedict in a quintessentially kitsch interior pretty much sums up Maison Elza. Named after and inspired by owner Freddy’s grandmother, this quirky place in Ghent’s historic core boasts retro picture frames, mannequins in 20s garb and flush pink chairs. Brunch in this curiosity cabinet is classically English, with options such as the previously mentioned eggs benny and scones with jam. Afternoon tea with the necessary finger food is also one of Elza’s strengths.