Land of delicious local delicacies
During your visit to Meetjesland, you will undoubtedly also want to discover what the region has to offer in terms of culinary delights.
It's well worth it! Numerous local producers put their best foot forward to conjure up fair and delicious regional specialities. You can of course taste them extensively in the many high-quality restaurants and cosy pubs in Meetjesland.
Eel, smooth gold
The ultimate regional dish of the Meetjesland is undoubtedly eel. Especially in the creek area near the Dutch border, this particularly tasty oily fish, packed with healthy omega 3 fatty acids, is ubiquitous. 'In the green' or 'in the cream': every chef has his own eel recipe with one or more secret ingredients that he does not reveal to anyone. Why is eel so popular here? In days gone by, the creeks were truly bursting with them, fishermen just had to scoop them up, so to speak. Nowadays, the eels served in restaurants are usually of farmed origin. But don't let that spoil the fun!
Eel invariably has a prominent place on the menu of these leading restaurants in Meetjesland: De Roste Muis in Waterland-Oudeman, In 't Stadhuis van Raverschoot in Adegem, Brasserie Middenstandshuis in Eeklo and Tuincafé De Engel in Watervliet.
If you visit Sint-Laureins, be sure to sample the local pride: pickled eel. Buoyed by chef Ronny De Wever of restaurant Polderzicht (Sint-Jan -in-Eremo), this unique dish even made it to the status of officially recognised regional product. This gastronomic heritage dates back to the days when the supply of eel was so great that a creative solution had to be found to preserve the delicacy longer. After all, freezers did not yet exist. At some point, someone came up with the idea of cooking the fish in chopped pieces in broth. And with some gelatine, vinegar and a slice of lemon added, it was poured into a stone jar, goblet or weck jar. Super simple, but oh so delicious! As a snack, with a sandwich, in a salad or with some fresh French fries: pickled eel simply tastes good anytime.
Nowadays, Meetjesland is also increasingly known as a region for real foodies. In Aalter alone, five restaurants made it to the Gault&Millau Belux 2023 guide.
With top chef Broes Tavernier of 't Vijfde Seizoen, Meetjesland already has a staunch ambassador, who calls his local suppliers his 'heroes' without batting an eyelid. Using fair and delicious local - preferably organic - seasonal products to prepare unexpected delicacies: that is what he wants his kitchen to stand for.
't Vijfde Seizoen, Stationsstraat 9, 9880 Aalter, firstname.lastname@example.org,T +32 9 351 74 60
Another Aalter top spot - on the same street, even - is restaurant Calla's. It found a home in a beautiful Art Deco building near the railway station, a former notary's house from 1930. Chef Niels De Landtsheer brings a creative, seasonal interpretation of French classics. An additional asset is the beautiful garden, which is a great place to relax when the weather is nice.
Calla's, Stationsstraat 250, 9880 Aalter, email@example.com, T +32 9 328 52 09
A little further on, in Lovendegem, chef Davy Devlieghere of restaurant Julien is also in excellent form. Gault&Millau not only gave him the highest score of the entire region with 15.5 out of 20, but also named him 'Flemish young chef of the year'. Passion, Simplicity, Purity, Product and Warmth are, in his own words, the key concepts behind his partly classical, partly internationally inspired but always refined cuisine, characterised by cleverly dosed and subtle flavours.
Restaurant Julien, Grote Baan 6, 9920 Lovendegem (Lievegem), firstname.lastname@example.org, T +32 9 324 43 11
We also recommend: Fou du Goût, Woestyne, De Lieve's Bistronoom, La Maryse, Chef & Zus, Sies, Tafel Twaalf, Diederick van Assenede, Oogst, Laan 7. For all these restaurants reservations are advisable.
Straight from the farmer
Would you like to meet some of these acclaimed Meetjesland producers for yourself? Then a visit to Kaprijke's weekly Farmers' Market is an excellent idea. Every Saturday you can visit from 9:30 to 12:30 for a wide selection of local, ecological and fair trade products. A traditional goat cheese dairy, a greengrocer, a farm butcher, a farm shop, an artisanal baker, a coffee producer, a microbrewery with luxury beers ... They all sell their wares on a cosy little square under the trees.
During the year farmer's and local communities organize a lot of cosy markets and events in Meetjesland.
Farmer's market, Voorstraat 1, 9970 Kaprijke (next to the Old Town Hall)
Beer here! Hopspot and Brewery Van Steenberge
Finally, Meetjesland is also the birthplace of many excellent regional beers. With the independent family brewery Van Steenberge from Ertvelde (founded in 1784, now the sixth generation of master brewers is at the helm) as the best-known example. Beers such as Augustijn, Gulden Draak and Piraat garner high honours in prestigious competitions worldwide. With an assortment of abbey beers, monastery beers, special beers, lagers and old brown, Van Steenberge is nothing if not versatile. Traditional brewing goes hand in hand here with the latest technological evolutions.
They recently opened their own experience centre, Hopspot, where you can learn more about the brewery's products, other local delicacies, craft and rich history.