Beer In Bruges: Beer Matching Dinner at Den Dyver
It’s fair to say that Bruges is an expensive city. You’d be lucky to pay less than €20 for a bowl of mussels. However the most extravagant thing we did whilst we were there was to have dinner on our last evening at Den Dyver, a fine dining restaurant with a focus on matching beer and food, which has previously been featured on The Hairy Bikers.
The restaurant looks minimalist from the outside but inside has something of a mediaeval tavern feel, with hanging lamps and some gothic/churchy fittings, although this isn’t overdone and is offset with some pieces of modern art on the walls. Despite this, it definitely had the quiet and refined tone of a fine dining restaurant, but with a certain warmth.
Rather than having a beer list for you to choose from, each dish is matched with a particular beer in what Around Bruges In 80 Beers describes as a “dictatorial” approach, but is perhaps more accurately described as “prescriptive”. There is a similar approach to wine, should you opt for that instead. There is a short a la carte menu but Kate and I both opted for the three course set menu. She chose a fish starter and main whilst I went for the least ethical options: a foie gras starter and a veal main.
The night started with a champagne flute of the house beer, which is from Brouwerij Van Steenberge, who also brew the house beer for De Garre, which I think the founders of Den Dyver previously owned. It’s a similar and similarly excellent beer, although I don’t think it’s the same one, as I’ve read in some places online.
With the bread came some crispy sea bass goujons and a dipping sauce, which went well with the blonde hoppy beer. We also received an amuse bouche: mussels on a herby mash, a shot glass of gazpacho and a piece of (raw? cured?) herring. Everything was a little treat in itself and a great start to a very special meal.
Kate’s starter read as follows:”Redfish filet. Spider crab. Broad beans. Leek. Oca leaf. White radish. Parsley flower.” This came with a bottle of Petrus Blond from Brouwerij Bavik.
Mine was: “Baked goose liver. Pata Negra. Grilled green asparagus. Pearl onions. Avocado pear. Westphalia rye bread.” This came with a bottle of Kapittel Pater from Van Eecke, a soft dark beer to match the rich dark flavours of the foie gras and the crisp asparagus.
I thought it worked well, although the starter was so delicious I had to remind myself to drink. The only criticism I would have is that there seemed to be two starters, really: the asparagus and ham wasn’t really needed alongside the foie gras, although all were very lovely. You could extend this criticism to the main courses but they probably sat together more convincingly.
Kate’s main course was: “Grilled monkfish. Rosemary potatoes. Palissons and lemon lentils. Broccoli and lettuce. Ratatouille.” The fish main course similarly came with a blonde beer, but this time the hoppier Gouden Carolus Hopsinjoor from Brouwerij Het Anker. It was an excellent beer and she was very impressed with the fish.
My main course was “Baked veal. Ravioli of calf’s head and chanterelle mushrooms. Swiss chard. Sour-salt red cabbage. Celery and lavas.” This absolutely delicious plate of rich, slightly autumnal food was well-matched with another dark beer, a Gusto Ruby Red from Brouwerij De Koninck.
This beer was more interesting than the first and really very well suited. The veal, which I choose to believe was ethically sourced, was really very delicious. Kate didn’t like the ravioli when she tasted it and although I did, I can see why: it was slightly offally, but again this was a good match with the beer.
Kate opted for the dessert whilst I decided to go straight for the cheese. She had: “Fresh red fruit salad. Yogurt mousse. Basil biscuit. Lime-honey popcorn. Ugandan dark chocolate sorbet.” This looked absolutely superb and came with a glass (not a full bottle) of Goudenband from Brouwerij Liefmans.
This was Kate’s favourite course. The fruity, sour and sophisticated beer (an Oud Bruin) was a good match for the bitter chocolate and light tart berries. I’m not a massive fan of desserts but this one looked and tasted great.
I can’t remember the name of the cheeses on the cheese course but I do remember that they were wonderful, and were matched with some chutney, nuts and a St Bernardus Pater 6. This was a great beer, although I had actually tried a few other St Bernardus beers earlier in the day and thought the rich cheeses could have coped with their Abt, but there’s probably something to be said for a level of sweetness so that you can fully appreciate the flavours of each cheese.
After our final course we had a final little amuse bouche of pannacotta. It was one of the more expensive meals that we’ve had recently, although certainly less than the Devonshire Arms. I really felt that it was worth it though, with some very special food and wonderful beers. If you’re looking to really treat yourself on a holiday to Bruges, I would recommend a visit, although be sure to make a reservation as it was full even on a Monday night.