We went on a holiday to the north of France and got to see beautiful Lille. If you are up for it, how about a virtual coffee with me and you get to get a small glimpse into what we experienced? I have to warn you though, a lot of pictures and a lot of culinary recommendations, however none of them are sponsored. You can’t deny that I am married to a foodie and probably am one myself by now 😉 By the way, travelling with a dog was super easy, all restaurants we visited allowed Hazel to be with us, she usually got fresh water and was petted by waiters a lot, so don’t fret, Lille seems to be a dog-friendly destination.
Have you ever been to Lille? I have not and I somehow believed it to be a pretty bleak and boring. Lille was once known for its textile industry and mechanical engineering. So I imagined it to be similar to the German Ruhrgebiet, the mostly populated area of all Germany. But man, was I mistaken! Lille has a lot of impressive buildings and you can tell that it has a high population of university students with lots of cafes and bars. Being a French city, you will find an abudance of bakeries and patisseries. Lille is not far from North Rhine Westphalia where I grew up. If you live in Cologne, it will be about 3 1/2 hrs drive. Why did we never vacation in Lille I wonder now. Regardless, I may have come late in life, but this doesn’t mean that I won’t return! I was also unware that Lille is directly at the Belgian border, Bruges is only 70km away, Ghent is reachable in less than an hour. You can definitely feel the Flanders influence in Lille. This starts with the simple fact that it has a Flanders name as well and is called Rijsel. It’s nickname is the capital of Flanders.
You can probably imagine that my main goal was to try French patisserie (and they have so much more to offer than only croissants!). Oh, I got to try so many things! The featured picture shows a “merveilleux”, imagine meringue sandwiched together with whipped cream or chantilly and then dunked in chocolate shavings. What I liked best was the fact that you can actually watch them make them right in front of you. Everything is made from scratch, check this reel and sold on the very same day. Proper craftsmenship is something I miss in Germany sometimes. All bakeries seem to use old recipes passed down for generations with no extra chemicals or additives, everything was so delicious! So what I would recommend for Lille is the following (for some impressions, you can also check this reel)
1 Place des Buisses 59800 Lille (this is where we were) as well as 336 Rue Léon Gambetta 59800 Lille
the merveilleux, they have different sizes (mini, regular, one for four people, but I believe 6 or more can easily eat from it) and different flavors. The traditional one is the chocolate one pictured. You may also try the raisin bread named cramique; they also have one version with chocolate drops. Try to imagine brioche with chocolate chips, yum, so good. By the way, merveilleux translates as “wonderful, or “awesome”, this is like eating a fluffy cloud.
A tartelette au citron as served in Méert
Méert is definitely worth a visit
25-27 Rue Esquermoise, 59000 Lille
Since 1677 (!) they have been making perfect French patisserie from scratch. Most famous are definitely the waffles or “gaufres”, which are sold with different fillings. You can probably tell that I was very much impressed, I had to take so many pictures. I like the gaufres with raspberry filling best.
The waffles or “gaufres”, as sold in Méert, crunchy on the outside and with a soft filling
Even though I have a sweet tooth, I was surprised how much I also enjoyed the local cuisine. Mussels are very famous and are offered with many different sauces. Below you will see the most traditional pictured “moules marinières et frites”. The mussels simmer in some white wine and are served with parsley. The famous flea festival “Braderie” offers mussels at a discout, you will see mountains of empty mussles piled up on the sidewalks. Unfortunately, we missed this event, it takes place the first weekend of September and we only came in October, but regardless, I would definitely recommend trying mussels when you are in Lille.
Moules marinières as eaten in Aux moules de Lille
My favorite in the savory category was carbonade flamande (pictured below), which is a stew containing gingerbread the meat is steamed with (see the bread on the right). As the meat is glazed in beer, you can imagine that it has a sweeter taste, similar to Boston baked beans. I found the taste amazing, but you need to prepare yourself for a sweeter version of a stew. It is served with fries (duh) and a Belgian beer. Again, you can tell that this city has been Belgian and is influenced a lot by its neighboring country.
Carbonade flamande as eaten in Le barbier quie fume
Since Belgium is so close, we had to make a visit to Bruges. No wonder this town has become so famous, I am not kidding you, you will smell waffles and chocolate wherever you walk. Not too hard to sell this to tourists, don’t you think? Yes, of course we tried waffles, I mean, Belgium is famous for its waffles. We also tried Belgian chocolate and had to walk the pittoresque city with houses from the middle ages. I can’t speak for the summer, but it was still pretty full and touristic when we came beginning of October. We didn’t mind too much.
I learned that there is no such thing as a Belgian waffle. There are at least two basic types, the one called Brusselles or Liège. The Brussel’s one is the one Americans mostly associate with Belgium, it has the square shape and is thick and soft. Usually it is prepared with yeast. The one called Liège contains a special pearl sugar, which makes it harder and denser as well as with a taste of caramel. Normally this type is eaten plain, however, I assume that tourist get to choose toppings because why not. I went for the Liège one and got to eat it with banana and chocolate. My husband tried the Brussel one. I have also a recipe for the typical rectangular waffles from Belgium on the blog. We ate these amazing waffles in House of Waffles. I felt like in a fairy tale, the waiter spoke five language fluently and wanted to take our dog with him. Yes, this is how I imagined Bruges to be.
If I would come back to Lille? Yes, definitely. Why Lille somehow is never recommended? I have no clue. My French from high school may be rusty, but j‘aimerais visiter à nouveau cette charmante ville. I still have this dream of mine where I take part in a patisserie class in France for serveral weeks, bien sûr!