For years it was slim pickings out there for Bruges’ vegetarians. Historic as it is – and an extremely popular traveller destination because of it – the Belgian town with an old soul took a while to get with the increasingly meat-free times. Luckily, a few veterans plus a whole gaggle of new establishments are now meeting those needs, so we’ve decided to highlight seven of them to give Bruges-headed vegetarians and vegans a fighting chance.
Given that Réliva works with what the seasons naturally provide to local farmers, its menu is in an everlasting state of change. Organic meats and responsibly sourced fish are part of it, but also gourmet-level vegetarian dishes. Where vegans are concerned, Chef Lien Vandeputte has no trouble whipping up original three-course meals such as gazpacho with melon, eggplant and zucchini lasagna with vegan cheesy sauce, and raw cheesecake with pistachio for dessert. An unexpected joy is the courtyard terrace in the back, a peaceful cubby in the middle of Bruges with a splendid view of the St Salvator’s Cathedral, best enjoyed alongside a glass of Réliva’s locally produced wine.
For a long time, De Bron was the lone ranger holding down the vegetarian fort in Bruges. A quarter of a century of yummy meat-free dishes at democratic prices (ranging from 15 to 20 euros) has made this cosy place a staple in the vegetarian Bruggeling’s lunch schedule. Anuschka and Philippe serve their platters in different sizes, suitable for anything from baby pangs of hunger to ravenous ones, with organic crudités, warm vegetables and heaps of healthy grains. This place fills up fast, so you may have to spend a little time waiting in a line that spills out onto the curb. Vegans’ needs are met upon request.
A veggie menu at Frituur Royal | Courtesy of Frituur Royal
For a budget-friendly vegetarian option, Frituur Royal takes the cake. While Belgian friteries are often a no-go zone for vegetarians or, heaven forbid, vegans, with their counters packed with all shapes and sizes of meats waiting to be picked out and tossed in the fryer for an indulgent companion to your fries. Ann from Frituur Royal is taking a different tack: her vegan burgers, vegan sandwiches and veggie balls have made her the favourite barak of vegetarians across town as she goes about making Bruges’ fast food scene a little more veggie-friendly.
Pretty plates are guaranteed at Hashtag Food | Courtesy of Hashtag Food
With a name like Hashtag Food, you can be sure owners Dave and Emmanuel have committed to composing picture-perfect plates. Currently moving from their original space in Oudburg to the Scheepsdalelaan a little ways outside of the old town core, the vegan- and vegetarian-friendly eatery has made a habit of using sumptuous sauces, colourful vegetables and fresh salads to paint edible canvasses that encourage a smile from their sizeable lunch and dinner crowd (reservations are recommended). The burgers, a local favourite, feature homemade buns and patties that run the gamut from beef to chickpea and even an insect variant. Homemade lemonades, edible flowers and pasta with a twist round out their seasonal menus in style. Their reopening is slated for November 1, 2017.
In good graces with both bookworms and vegetarians, Books & Brunch comes with shelves swimming in second-hand novels and excellent organic breakfast and brunch options. Look towards the chalkboard next to the counter for suggestions. There you’ll find either Tabitha or Jos hard at work, carving up rustic bread, ladling homemade soups into bowls, or whipping up original combo croque monsieurs. Though this homely place lies in a rather peaceful part of town, news of its superb coffees, cheesecakes and cosy upstairs salon have spread among locals, meaning a reservation is never a bad idea. Gluten-free options are available.
Newcomer De Plaats has show a fondness of hearty vegan meals | Courtesy of De Plaats
Illustrator Frow opted to switch gears in 2016 by opening a vegetarian restaurant-cum-lounge with her husband, Piet. Taking the place of De Lotus, a previous veggie stronghold, the couple now runs one of town’s few exclusively vegetarian eateries. Pulling inspiration from all corners of the world, they’ve so far shown a great knack for meat-free comfort food, including cheesy lasagnas, flavourful quiches, Lebanese and curry stews – the list goes on. In a welcome change, most of the menu is made up of vegan options, and gluten-free meals are fixed with a smile when requested.
NOMAD’s dishes are fuelled by honest produce straight from the owners’ organic farm and local suppliers. Over a year ago, Margaux and Bram traded in their South African bed and breakfast for NOMAD (No Ordinary Meals and Drinks), an instantly popular breakfast and brunch bar on Bruges’ Het Zand, a breath of fresh air amongst the square’s plethora of student cafés. Scandinavian in look and serving homemade bread straight from the oven, this trendy place embraces its hipster leanings: for once, the word isn’t shunned but actually put on the menu, under a little section titled ‘Hipster healthy’, which includes buckwheat pancakes and the unavoidable granola mix of the house. Veggie burgers, meat-free quesadillas and ‘power lasagnas’ leave its half-open kitchen in rapid succession.