Exploring the world one bite at a time

Category: Leuven / Louvain (Page 1 of 2)

Six ways to enjoy beer culture in Leuven

After my years as a student at the KU Leuven, I decided to stay for a while and enjoy the city and all it has to offer. Since Leuven is known as being the home town of the Stella Artois, beer has always been interwoven with the city’s history. Now I have to be honest with you, although I visited my fair share of breweries in Belgium, I do not really enjoy drinking beer. But thanks to my boyfriend who really loves beer, throughout the years I also got to know Leuven the beer city a bit better.

So here are my tips for beer lovers who want to learn more about beer culture in Leuven

  1. Once a year, on the last weekend of april, the Zythos Beer Festival draws people from all over the world to the tiny town of Leuven. The Zythos Beer Festival is the biggest festival of its kind in Europe and to be fair, the choice in different beers is quite impressive. I don’t find the surroundings (a big, dark industrial hall) to be very inviting, but each beer vendor does an effort to decorate his or her stand in a way that makes it nice and welcoming.
  2. Due to the success of the Zythos Beer Festival, this one weekend has been extended to a whole month. The month of April in Leuven is dedicated to the art of making and tasting beer. You’ll find restaurants that offer special menu’s with accompanying beers, beer tastings, beer walks, etc.
  3. If you just want to enjoy a nice beer, I can recommend two cafés with an impressive beer menu: M-café and Fiere Margriet. The owners of both bars are very knowledgeable on the subject of beer, so make sure to ask for suggestions.
  4.  You can go on a pub tasting tour or a beer- and foodparing tour. A great way to explore the Longest Bar in the World. You won’t be disappointed! Still not satisfied? Make sure to check out beerhop.be, which offers some beer experiences in the surroundings of Leuven.
  5. Of course, since Leuven is the home of the largest beer company in the world: InBev, you really have to join a guided tour of the Stella Artois brewery. The brewery is very modern (they recently modernized all of their brew kettles) and the guides are very good. At the end of the guided tour, you’ll get the opportunity to taste a perfectly poured Stella.
  6. Leuven has also some small breweries, brewery Domus being the most famous. The bar-restaurant serves their own home brewed beer, which you can enjoy with some typical local cuisine. Guided tours of the brewery are possible, but the tours require an advance booking of at least 8 people and a maximum of 30.

Feel free to add your own tips in the comments.

Etna Trattoria: “Lovely Sicilian food”

If you like authentic Sicilian food, you’ll love Etna Trattoria. The couple who runs this cozy restaurant in the heart of Leuven sure knows what they are doing. The beautifully tiled floors and nice bar with lots of Italian specialties give of a really authentic vibe.

The husband makes sure his clients are served well and is very helpful in explaining the menu. He also knows his wines, so do yourself a favor and enjoy a nice glass of Italian wine with your dish.

The wife is the master of the kitchen and seems to really enjoy her job. When going to the toilet in the cellar, I’ve seen her countless times singing and dancing to the music. It must be this love for the art of cooking that translates onto the plates. The Sicilian food really is a feast for the taste buds. Most of the time I just order the specialty of the day, because I’ve never been disappointed by the food they serve.

A gem of a place.

Sicilian, Italian restaurant Etna Trattoria
Tiensestraat 123
3000 Leuven
+32 494 377 344

Visited July 2017. You can find my review about Etna Trattoria also on TripAdvisor. My scores: value 5/5, service 5/5, food 5/5.

Best sushi in Leuven – Top 3

So, as you have guessed by now, I am a big fan of Japan and Japanese food. When I’ve had a hard day, there are a few dishes that will surely cheer me up. Naturally sushi almost always does the trick. Since most of my friends know how much I like sushi, I often get asked which is my favorite sushi restaurant in Leuven. The answer to this question is not straight forward. It depends. If you want your sushi delivered at home, I would recommend Saki Sushi or New Sushi Palace, but if you’re looking for a nice sushi meal with friends or the love of your life, I have a totally different top 3 for you.

Number 1: Wabi Sabi Sushi Bar
Perhaps not the best sushi in Leuven, but close enough. I like this restaurant, because the interior is very beautiful and stylish. The building which now hosts Wabi Sabi, belonged to an antiquarian before and it shows. Moreover Wabi Sabi is the biggest sushi restaurant in town: you’ll almost always guaranteed to find an empty table due to its sheer number of seating places. Even on a Saturday evening it is possible to find a table for two. In summer you can enjoy your sushi outside on the terrace in the Muntstraat and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. Service at times can be a little slow, but the sushi makes up for it.

Muntstraat 10, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
+32 16 74 77 54

Number 2: Inari
Inari sushi was the first sushi restaurant that opened its doors in Leuven and it remains one of the best (but sadly also one of the most expensive). After all these years it still exists, which in itself proves that Inari has a loyal audience that loves coming back for more. The sushi is really great, although due to its popularity, the restaurant can get rather busy and loud. Tables are put a little too close to each other to my taste, so make sure not to share a big secret over your sushi boat. (Yes, I know, no Japanese sushi chef in his right mind will even serve sushi on a boat.)

Parijsstraat 18, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
+32 16 43 38 43

Number 3: Sakura
Sakura is a more spartan restaurant: simple tables in a mostly white, rather narrow restaurant. It is possible to sit outside on the terrace in the Muntstraat, but there are only a few tables available. The sushi is very good though, although waiting times can vary. Due to the simplicity of this restaurant and the fact that upon entering the first thing you’ll see are the sushi chefs at the counter working their magic, this restaurant has the most authentic Japanese vibe to me.

Muntstraat 21, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
+32 16 22 26 28

The three restaurants mentioned all offer take-away. Sadly none of them has a delivery service. Be warned though: in Leuven you won’t find any sushi restaurant run by Japanese people. If you prefer your sushi prepared by a Japanese chef, you’ll have to travel to Brussels or Antwerp.

If you have other recommendations, please let me know in the comments.

La Cucaracha: “Authentic Mexican food”

La Cucaracha is one of those restaurants in Leuven that have been around forever. La Cucaracha serves authentic Mexican food in a relaxed atmosphere. The restaurant is decorated with very colorful wall paintings, so when eating there you’ll have an instant holiday feeling. Be sure to make reservations though, because certainly in the weekend it can get very busy.

The food at La Cucaracha is very good, I have been there multiple times and never have I been disappointed. The service is also very friendly (although they don’t always speak Dutch). Last time when I ate there we got served by a lovely Spanish lady. So nice to be able to practice my Spanish a bit!

Only complaint: sometimes it takes a bit too long before the food arrives on your table. So make sure, that you have enough time, when you visit La Cucuracha.

La Cucaracha, Tiensestraat 21, Leuven 3000, Belgium
+32 16 23 44 68

Visited May 2017. You can find my review about La Cucaracha also on TripAdvisor. My scores: value 5/5, service 5/5, food 4/5.

ViaVia: “Dreadful service”

The ViaVia in the Parkstraat lays a bit further away from the touristic heart of Leuven in a neighborhood where there aren’t that many restaurants. The concept of this bar and brasserie is the same as the one in Leuven: a relaxed place where you can enjoy drinks or order some daily specials (written on a chalk board).

I have to be honest, it has been a while since I met a waiter that was so rude and unhelpful. When asked if we could have a look at the menu, he at first declined to bring one and just pointed at the chalk board, saying to my friend: “You have been here before, you know we only serve what’s on the chalk board.” But I was the only one who wanted to order food, my friends just wanted some drinks. So then my friend asked: “So can you please tell me what beers you have?” The waiter let out a big sigh, turned around without saying anything and brought back some drink menus. We were quite taken aback by his attitude.

I was contemplating just leaving right there and then, but since it was such a beautiful summer evening and I was very hungry, my friends and I stayed. The first dish I tried to order was sold out (not that the waiter made an effort to erase this dish from the chalkboard), so I went for the chicken tandoori. The chicken tandoori was fine, I guess, nothing special and the meat was a little bit dry. But the dish wasn’t that expensive (15 euro), so no complaints there.

When we wanted to leave the ViaVia, it took us some convincing before the waiter brought us the bill. I guess he must have had a really bad day? O yeah, he also couldn’t be bothered to clean our table. Such a shame, because the patio is a great place to sit outside for drinks in the summer.

ViaVia, Parkstraat 146, Leuven 3000, Belgium

Visited May 2017. You can find my review about ViaVia also on TripAdvisor. My scores: value 4/5, service 1/5, food 3/5.

Fidalgo: “A disappointment”

My boyfriend and I expected more of this restaurant. We were looking forward to enjoying a nice romantic evening and some good food. Alas, the reservation we made, got booked on the wrong date by the restaurant. I received e-mails from the restaurant confirming the date I had written in my calendar, so it was there mistake. We drove all the way from Leuven to Tienen to learn there wasn’t room for us. We had to return home with empty stomachs and eat take away food instead of the meal we were looking forward to.

We rebooked our dinner (we had to, because we used a gift voucher, otherwise I wouldn’t have returned), expecting some kind of compensation for the trouble we went through. We didn’t even receive a free drink. Very disappointing and not what you would expect from a restaurant with such a reputation.

The food was also disappointing. Not that it was bad, but I found the dishes unimaginitive. The venison wasn’t that great and served with very basic vegetable and potatoes. Was expecting something more out of the norm, to be honest. The skrei with shells was fine, but again, a very basic dish. The desert from cherry and dried apple was a more complicated dish, but I found it to be a bit of a mismatch. All in all the food, of course, was enjoyable, but no dish could really wow me.

Fidalgo, Outgaardenstraat 23 Tienen, Tienen 3300, Belgium
+32 475 61 21 55

Visited February 2015. You can find my review about Fidalgo also on TripAdvisor. My scores: value 3/5, atmosphere 3/5, service 4/5, food 3/5.

Bistro Tribunal: “Outstanding beef restaurant”

If you like beed, Bistro Tribunal is definitely for you. The meat (delivered by the famous butcher Rondou) served here is really outstanding. You can choose your own piece of meat at the refrigerated counter. The cook will give you lots of information on the meat, so you can choose wisely.

The meat is served with fries and a simple salad. When you order the specialty (the Royal Tribunal) you can choose four different kinds of meat, which are served with four different kinds of sauces.

If meat is not your thing, don’t worry, they also serve lobster and a little bit of fish. The wine selection is nice and you can always ask to try one of the wines if you’re undecided on which one to choose.

Staff is really super friendly. Went here twice and twice I was greated like family.

Atmosphere is relaxed and cosy. A little bit of and old fashioned vibe. Very friendly, indeed.

Highly recommend this restaurant.

Bistro Tribunal, Vaartstraat 9, Leuven 3000, Belgium
+32 16 89 66 55

Visited December 2014. You can find my review about Bistro Tribunal also on TripAdvisor. My scores: value 5/5, atmosphere 5/5, service 5/5, food 5/5.

University Library & Bell Tower: “Stunning view on Leuven”

The university Library looks like an old historical building, but don’t be mistaken, this libary was built after WWI. The construction was funded mostly by American money. A visit to the tower gives you an overview of the tragic history of Leuven during both World Wars. The rather small exhibition shows some historal images of the destruction.

The highlight of your visit is the gorgeous view from the tower balcony. Absolutely stunning. Be mindful though, you are quite close to the tower bells and the sound they produce can be very intense.

University Library & Bell Tower, Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein 21, Leuven 3000, Belgium
+32 16 32 40 10

Visited March 2014. You can find my review about University Library & Bell Tower also on TripAdvisor.

M – Museum Leuven: “Beautiful architecture, interesting exhibitions”

This museum is rather new (it opened in september 2009). When you are visiting Leuven, M is a must see. The building is a stunning compilation of old and new. Combining old buildings with modern architecture. When it is sunny you can relax in the peaceful garden with the lovely tree.

The exhibitions change frequently, so make sure to return now and then.

M – Museum Leuven, Leopold Vanderkelenstraat 28, Leuven 3000, Belgium
+32 16 27 29 29

Visited February 2015. You can find my review about M – Museum Leuven also on TripAdvisor.

De Kleine Kauter: “Family friendly restaurant with great staff”

We visited this restaurant because it was close to our friends house. From the outside the building looks like nothing special, but inside, you’ll find a nice, cosy and classical interior. We went there during christmas seasons, so the rooms were nicely decorated with christmas trees.

Our company consisted of six persons and a small child. There is a seperate room for the children to play in, so they won’t get bored. Staff was super friendly and really helpful. One of our friends had some allergies and an other friend was pregnant, so when we opted to go for the menu, we had to make some modifications. This wasn’t any problem whatsoever. Our excellent waiter even offered the allergic friend a totally different menu for the same price. Included with the menu came a bottle of red and a bottle of white wine. Both were of good quality.

The menu consisted of four courses, which were all excellent. The food was very nice and prepared with care. Not fancy, but just nice and honest food. Portions were huge! I especially loved the lobster. One slight remark: my entrecote wasn’t saignant as I ordered, but cooked a point.

The four course meal was just too much, so I couldn’t finish my desert. Really, really impressed by the friendlyness of the staff and the quality of the food.

De Kleine Kauter, Leuvensesteenweg 82, Boutersem 3370, Belgium
+32 16 72 09 44

Visited December 2014. You can find my review about De Kleine Kauter also on TripAdvisor. My scores: value 5/5, atmosphere 5/5, service 5/5, food 4/5.

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