Reader, you find my confined to my flat, on my second sick day this year. So I’ve decided if I can’t do anything else, I’ll at least catch you up with all of the travel blogs I’ve been dying to share with you.
Today I've been working on a few more ideas for places to bowl into when you’re a vegan travelling in Belgium and Brussels, as well as some thoughts on living with omnivore pals for a few days, and the fact it doesn't have to be a battleground.
*Lol that I’m calling a lot of my friends ‘omnis’ here, but it is the term I’d rather use instead of meat-eaters as I’d rather not define them in that way… if there’s a better term, let's definitely discuss that!*
Back in May my BFF Amelie invited a crew of us over to Brussels to celebrate her 30th birthday. We sandwiched a trip out to her family’s home near Namur with a few days in the city either side. We essentially hung out for five days straight drinking either espresso, kir royales or Belgian beers. There's basically nowhere else I'd rather be. Long-time readers might remember that my boyfriend and I went with Amelie over to Brussels to stay with her sister Delphine a few years ago - I wrote about it here- but it was great to come back and try some more of the vegan options that have been popping up in Brussels.
-Click on the name of the restaurant or cafe to visit their website-
Fin De Siecle is one of Amelie’s favourite restaurant in the city, and this time around she’d also heard they’d started doing a vegan option (Amelie’s sister, Delphine, is a vegan cook, and you should definitely check out her Insta because it’s gorgeous). Reading around online, Fin De Siecle is known for its generous portions, simple, home-coming Belgian food, and the fact that it’s always busy. If you hadn’t seen your family for a few months, it’s that kind of rich, heart-warming food you envisage on the journey home. No menus, just big blackboards with daily specials, and, what Richard, Joe and I had been waiting for: the vegan moussaka. Honestly, after a hungover day of travel and drinking on terraces (it’s a hard life), this was perfect. Looking through their geotag on Instagram, it’s also great to see a lot of other vegans loving this dish too. It really made me think about how easy a vegan option can be to have ready on a menu- even if it’s just one meal that’s clearly labelled - you really are catering to a loyal crowd that usually just want a fuss-free option they can rely on- especially when they’re part of a larger group.
I’d really been looking forward to coming back to Belgium because I knew if all else failed, Exki would have my back. If you imagine a health food-focused chain that’s like the veggie side of Pret, you’re looking at Exki. Richard and I both picked up this little pesto sandwich to have as a quick lunch before the rest of the group went to eat in a meatier pub (hey, you do get to save dollar sometimes too!) and I also found vegan soups to have as a snack, and an incredible virgin pina colada for breakfast before we got on our train to Namur.
You’ll find Exkis all over Belgium and in Brussels. And in a country where the chips are STILL always fried in beef dripping, it’s a meal-saver.
Half-way through our first day in Brussels, Amelie got a call from her Dad asking if we all wanted to go for dinner- of course we said yes! So Amelie's parents really kindly treated us all to an amazing meal at Al Barmaki, the first Lebanese restaurant in Belgium. I don't have any photos from the meal as we were all a bit too involved with eating ALL OF THE GREAT FOOD and fam timez. But the menu includes lots of falafel, hummus, foul (a dip as great as the name is bad), tabbouleh and fattoush. It was one of those brilliant meals where more plates seem to be arriving all the time in a drip-fed fashion where somehow you're still able to try just the tiniest bite from every serving.
Getting ahold of vegan supplies
When we headed out to Namur we managed to stop by a health food shop in the station (?!) which had a multitude of vegan sausage options- Joe (one of my rlly good friends that’s also vegetarian) and I stocked up on some smoked tofu hot dogs, which meant when we came to eat dinner at Amelie’s parent’s house, we could stick a few in a pan and make our dawgs. A few years ago I would have been so worried about cooking extra things at a family party and what other people would think, but if you go with a plan, people are just happy you’re not going hungry.
Whilst in Namur we explored the gorgeous market they hold on Sundays. I picked up some vintage enamelware while Keelan bought us strawberries before we started on the beer drinking once again. It was a wonderful slouch of a Sunday after a Saturday night celebrating Amelie's birthday- I'll remember Namur and Amelie's family home as a blend of strong coffee, fresh baguette bread, great jams, wine, prosecco and a lot of tofu hot dogs. Oh, and the late-night delivery of Chimay that Amelie's Grandfather brought over just as the party started to quieten down. < 3 < 3
In an omni crowd
The title for this blog must be the nichest area for vegan lifestylez ever, but I think there are some things worth discussing around the idea of living with omnivores, and especially when those peeps might not be used to sharing a place with a vegan. I went away with six friends- so there were two vegans, one vegetarian and three omnivores, and we shared the majority of our meals together. And while I was there, sat at our multiple breakfast tables (and staying in Sasha's beautiful home), I realised I wanted to write about the good forms that can take, because I know there are plenty of bad forms. The more I think about it, the more I think NO ONE deserves your judgement of their plate. And that’s part of an idea I’ll save for another blog post, but for now, I’ll just say my friends were ace at being mature about having a mixed crew. We all come from very places with our relationships to food, and we still managed to have all our mealtimes together, that weren't marked by division or undertones, but just enjoying sitting next to each other. I know to a lot of people that will sound like a basic meal time, but I also know to a lot of vegans that can sound like a world away when they've dealt with a less open-minded crowd.
I know it can feel daunting and I seriously understand that uncomfortable vibe of knowing there’s going to be eggs frying in the kitchen where you’re eating, or maybe ham, cheese… and that’s only breakfast! But I was so impressed/ happy with how great my friends are at being chill over having vegan pals in their friendship group, and I think that’s worth saying.
As well as translating non-stop for us, Amelie did a lot of (basically constant) research to make sure we could all eat at the same restaurant, despite a lot of our crew wanting mussels or steak, as well as needing a vegan option. Considering Belgian cuisine is very heavy on cheese, cream, meat and butter, I think we did really well. I don’t want to share photos of non-vegan food on here (I haven’t ever needed to so why start now, right?) but the way up top photo is my breakfast plate from the omni meal we put together for Amelie’s birthday breakfast. Richard and I went for soy milk and coffee, fresh baguettes, strawberries and avocado, while the omnis had pastries, cheese and eggs. But we all got to eat at the same table with relatively little fuss, and not one person had a problem with it- that’s how easy it can be.