Blog: Flanders food feast

Catherine Sleep | 28 June 2004

I spent this weekend in Oudenaarde, a small town in East Flanders, Belgium. We did all the usual relaxing holiday stuff, such as a long cycle ride through beautiful countryside, a tour of the picturesque city of Ypres/Ieper and a mooch around the waterways of the area. But onto the food….

Naturally we sampled a few of the infamous Belgian beers and tasted a few chocolates, for which the country is also known. We weren’t disappointed by the excellence of the goods on offer, although I don’t think I’d ever get used to a 10% ABV beer. But what really struck me was the quality and value of the regular food served in the many local restaurants. Seafood and fish were prevalent, as was a range of meat and many beautifully prepared vegetables and salads. Service and presentation were also uniformly excellent. There’s clearly a lot of competition out there which is keeping standards high and prices down.

It made me wonder whether the British public’s overwhelming devotion to ethnic restaurants, Indian in particular, has stunted the growth of English cuisine in the UK. While Indian and Chinese restaurants are two-a-penny in most British towns, you’d feel pretty excited to come across the standard of home-grown restaurant that was the norm in Oudenaarde, especially with the reasonable price tags we experienced.

I love Indian and Thai food, and relish the richness of the foreign cuisine to which we enjoy easy access in Britain, but perhaps we are paying a price in that the development of our own cuisine has lagged behind.

Town of Oudenaarde


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