Late last night we arrived back from our Easter-time jaunt which involved us razzing around Belgium with Steve and Jeni. The first part of our lovely holiday was a trip to Groezrock Festival in Meerhout. Although super dooper fun, foodwise there was rather little to report, unless you really, really like chips thrice-fried in animal fat with lashings of mayo.
The second leg of our journey saw us arriving in all our smelly post-festival glory in the picturesque town of Bruges. Now when I have been to festivals in the past, I have always looked forward to coming back to a stodgy, home-cooked meal and a lie down. On arrival in Bruges, we knew we had to attempt to recreate the same delicious post-festival ritual while remaining on a budget (considering that Bailey's wallet containing all our Euros was somewhere in a dusty festival field in Meerhout).
We were therefore pretty lucky to have picked up a sort of "young person's" tourist map of Bruges which recommended an inexpensive locals' restaurant called Brasserie Medard which was just off the main square of the city centre down a lovely wee road. The main attraction of the place? Apart from its untouristy, rustic charm: huge portions of spaghetti for 3 euros (5,50 for a large!)
On our first evening in Bruges, we were delighted to find this wee place and greedily ordered large spaghettis all round, except for Jeni who went for a simple tuna nicoise baguette but did help Steve out with his pasta. Super impressed with the ridiculously generous portion sizes, deliciously flavoursome spaghetti sauces and relaxed atmosphere (apart from the noise which interrupted our meal at one point of the owner screaming at his misbehaving children, although this sort of added to the charm), we decided there and then that we would be returning for the exact same meal the very next day.
On our return the next day, we strolled in to discover all the tables either full or reserved! Eek! We thought our spaghetti dream was over. Luckily, the moustached owner managed to free up a table for us next to the spot on the wall adorned by generations of family photos of the restaurant's owners. Very cute.
By this time, we had been hyping the restaurant up to ourselves for so long that there was almost an air of competition in the air. Would everyone be able to finish their meal this time (Bailey had let the side down the day before as he had been unable to finish his spaghetti unlike greedy little me)? Who would be able to put away the biggest volume of pasta? So imagine our reaction when I put in my order for "A large vegetarian spaghetti and a mixed salad" and the owner of the restaurant simply said "No." Um... what?
Turns out the moustache man took one look at me and thought I would never be able to put away an entire large portion of vegetarian spaghetti. Hohoho! Clearly this lovely gent had no idea who he was dealing with! We politely corrected the man and the order for a large spaghetti was accepted. This also made me more determined to demolish every bite of said large spaghetti.
Apart from Bailey who fancied a change and went for cheese and ham tagliatelle we all went for the veggie spaghetti again, with Jeni and I ordering mixed salads to go with our pasta.
Once again, our meal at Brasserie Medard was an absolute corker, enjoyed by all and with the bill coming to a mere 30 euros for the four of us, an absolute bargain. So what was it that made it so damn good?
The spaghetti, aside from being absolutely MASSIVE (don't think you can just go in and wolf this bad boy down in five minutes) was really yummy. The sauce was really flavoursome - full of veg and sweet tomatoey goodness - certainly a spaghetti sauce that had been made with love. Eating it really made me want to learn to make the perfect spaghetti sauce but I feel that it would be the sort of thing you would have to simmer and reduce down for hours.
The salad I ordered was also amazing.
It had all the most crunchy and fresh and yummy salady bits you could hope for on your road to recovery after a festival. The creamy dressing was also absolutely scrummy and it was the perfect accompaniment to the huge bowl of spaghetti.
Bailey also really enjoyed his tagliatelle. He commented that in a similar style to the spaghetti, it was a hefty amount of thick, well-cooked pasta swimming in a super cheesy white sauce. Before ordering he was slightly concerned about ordering Belgian ham and was worried it might have been too fatty or raw "à la the French"... but it was actually very light and delicate. Delicious indeed.
Now, onto more important matters. Who was able to eat the most pasta on this occasion? Well I am very pleased to announce that the lovely Miss Jennifer Hall was able to devour her entire bowl of pasta as well as her salad with absolutely no problem. Well done Jeni! Here is a photo of her looking rather full.
As for me, well as I had so effortlessly eaten my entire large spaghetti the day before, I thought it would be a doddle the second time. Unfortunately this was not the case. Here is a photo of my bowl of pasta at the moment when I first realised I was beginning to feel a bit full:
Oh dear, oh dear. I think the problem was that, particularly as it was quite a hot day in Bruges, eating said volume of pasta caused my body temperature to rise considerably which made eating the pasta slightly difficult / unpleasant.
However, I'm not one to turn my back on a challenge (unlike some people) and I powered through until every morself of spaghetti had been consumed...
...even though it meant I had to losen the strap on my dress, Homer Simpspon-style.
Sadly, Mr Doyle was not so lucky on this occasion. Perhaps his mistake was that he made the mistake of going for the delicious white bread that was provided to go with our meal.
Around two thirds of the way through his meal he also began to experience the same difficulties as me - finding himself far too hot to eat the remainder of his spaghetti.
How embarrassing for him. I know that Bailey feels Steve's pain from the previous Akbar's incident which we will never let him forget. We hope that Steve will recover from this humiliating experience in time for the large barbecue we are planning to have at the weekend so he can get back to being one of the best eaters I know.
So, in summary this is a fantastic place to visit if you are ever in Bruges, have a hefty appetite and fancy a no-fuss, no-frills meal. This place was really amazing value and I felt like we were experiencing somewhere really authentic and miles away from the touristy side of Bruges. They also really inspired me to get better at making spaghetti sauce.