Café In Choc, Ghent

Ghent certainly cannot complain about a shortage of chocolatiers. Right opposite the entrance to Gravensteen fortress on the fringe of the old town is Café In Choc, which specialises in indulgences of all kinds. Bascially, none of their dishes are what I’d call staple foods. You wouldn’t go there because you’re hungry. But if you’re looking for some good old comfort food, you’re certainly in good hands here.

The scones are very good and taste home made. What’s more, they actually have real clotted cream instead of whipped cream, which you tend to find very often on the continent.

Or you could also go with their pancakes In Choc, which is a dish of two pancakes with home made chocolate sauce and blueberries. So it‘s actually quite healthy, really…

Le Botaniste, Ghent

Le Botaniste is a small restaurant that serves only vegetable-based organic dishes. It’s located on a side street close to the canal. The service is nothing to write home about, it’s bascially self-service, but the staff are helpful and friendly. What I rather like about this place is that despite the fact that it’s all organic and vegetarian, it does not have the look and feel of a tree-huggers’ hangout. It’s just a normal restaurant where you can get decent, reasonably priced food without meat.

Restaurant LOF, Ghent

Introduction

The LOF is the main restaurant of the Grand Hotel Reylof on Hoogstraat in Ghent. It’s about ten minutes on foot from the centre of the old town. The restaurant offers a set menu with either seven, six or five courses and there is also a vegan option. The staff are very friendly and helpful, and it’s easy to swap one dish for another if there’s anything on the menu you’re not keen on. The sommelier will also put together a wine pairing for you for each dish.

Reservations are very much advised!

Amuse bouche

Parsnip with butternut cream, tomato and crispy baked kernels of rice.

Macron of blue cheese with ponzu gel & kroepuk with nori, red onion and wasabi mayo.

Multigrain bread with beurre noisette and onion crumble.

First course

Wild salmon marinated in red beet, with hoseradish cream and ponzu oil.

Second course

Scallop ceviche with parmesan cream and a kafir lime & passion fruit jelly.

Third course

Saitan on cauliflower cream and scorzonera, with vegan broth.

Fourth course

Monkfish with carrot, shallot and leek with an anchovy mayo.

Main course

Dorade with dashi espuma and topinabur.

To cleanse the palate

Gingerbread sorbet with citrus yoghurt and salted caramel.

Dessert

Jasime, verbena & green tea ice cream with lychee parfait and pear.

Tea

Selection of home made sweets.

Mint infusion.

Conclusion

I very much enjoyed my meal at the LOF. All of the dishes were nicely balanced and the mix of flavours was intriguing and surprising. The only dish I thought was just okay was the saitan, but that’s hardly surprsing given that saitan doesn’t really have much of an own flavour. All the dishes were nicely presented.

I thought the staff at the restaurant were excellent. They were all very friendly and relaxed, but not sloppy. As a result, the meal was nicely paced and did not feel at all rushed. The atmosphere was cosy and laid back. The saitan and dorade dishes were not on the original menu. I just asked if there would be other options because I’m not too keen on fowl and poultry. The staff were really great with my request and were happy to accommodate changes to the menu.

Ghent has some really excellent restaurants. It’s quite difficult, I think, to eat badly in this town. Even so, LOF certainly sticks out for the quality and creativity of its dishes and the friendliness of its staff. Next time I’m in Ghent I’m certainly going to make sure I make time for another visit!

Ghent

Ghent is the third largest city in Belgium and the main city of the East Flandres province. Much of the city’s medieval centre is still intact and has been meticulously restored.

Ghent is a lovely city that’s easy to navigate and that has a lot to see. There are coffee shops, tea houses and privately owned chocolatiers on every corner. At night most of the buildings in the historic centre are beautifully illuminated, and I can highly recommend a night-time stroll through the old cobbled streets – preferably a bit later in the evening, when the crowds have started to thin out.

Getting there

Ghent is easily accessible by public transport. There are several trains an hour that make the journey from Bruxelles Midi to Ghent nonstop in just 28 minutes. Just a word of caution though: Ghent is on the mainline to Ostend, which is Belgium’s main coastal resort. As a result, at the weekends – and especially if the weahter’s good – the trains heading up to the coast tend to be amazingly full, as in standing room only. However, if you’re not in a hurry and catch one of the trains that only run as far as Ghent or Brugges, you will find that these tend to be a lot less busy. From Ghent Saint Peter’s station you can then catch the number 1 or 2 tramlines to get to the historic centre, which is a ride of another 15 minutes.

Tickets for the train are best bought through the SNCB app, which is also available in English and shows the timetable as well as expected delays on the network. For public transport there’s the De Lijn app. In both cases you need to create an account. Tickets bought on the De Lijn app for busses and trams are valid for one year from the date of purchase. Before you board, you need to activate your ticket. Once it is activated, you have one hour before it expires.