A day for foodies in Leuven

A few months ago I received a lovely mail from one of my blog readers. Klara lives in Leuven and she invited me to come and discover her city. She guides food and city tours and is very gourmande herself. Reading her mail I felt immediately we are kindred spirits in enjoying great food! A summer filled with home renovations made me postpone my Leuven visit longer than I wanted but yesterday I made the trip back to my old university town, armed with Klara's great tips!

I am not going to put a number on it, but a long, long time ago I studied in Leuven, so visiting it now is like discovering a new place. Leuven is a young, vibrant and cultural place, very energetic during school terms and more mellow during the summer holiday. I used to so love walking from square to square, passing the century old university colleges.

Update: {Dry Coppen is unfortunately closed its doors in 2015; you can now find the studio of tv chef Jeroen Meeus here}

In a town full of students there is bound to be a bookshop or two. The best bookshop - perhaps the best in the whole of Belgium - is the Dry Coppen. Set in an old townhouse this is a bookshop to spent hours in discovering new authors, great poetry and travel writing. The second floor has foreign language books and cookbooks and I am blushing with pride now, because our book lies there too. Downstairs are cosy sofa's and chairs where you can have coffee and cakes. An ideal spot to start reading that book you just bought. 

Aside from culture and study Leuven is a great shopping place too. The Mechelsestraat is one of my favorites, especially because there is a very appealing but expensive shoe shop on the corner, called Sumo. When I was a penniless student this was my dreamy shop window. I had a little peek there yesterday too on my way to 'Het Verlangen naar meer', translated: 'desire for more', a new coffee place a bit further up the street. A few cast iron chairs outside and inside a cosy living room atmosphere with wooden tables and sofas. The menu gives a great choice of original sandwiches, wraps and toasties, but it is especially the names given to the recipes that draw the attention. If you ever need inspiration for baby names, this menu might be a good starting point. I didn't come for the sandwiches however, but for the bread! They sell bread from Yves Guns, one of Brussels finest bakers. The choice of breads is great here, I went home with a yummie and healthy spelt loaf.

The Mechelsestraat has more foodie stops: across the road from 'Het Verlangen naar meer' is a fine Italian deli and next to it an artisan cheese shop. Very difficult to keep your purse close when you walk into these shops and smell all that great food. And only a few minutes walking is artisan butcher Rondou with the finest quality meat and hams. People come from far to buy their meat here, beef, lamb and pork. I can never pass their shop window without looking at the great meat products, from dry aged meats to glutenfree pat├ęs, this is a must for every meatlover.  

I didn't only shop for food in Leuven, there was a little side step to fashion shopping too: in Hippo Royale in the Parijsstraat is a carousel with vintage inspired dresses. How much fun would it be to have that at home instead of a wardrobe: you just spin the carousel and where it stops is your dress of the day. I am a fan of all that retro glamour and the accessories, jewels and shoes you find here are as colourful and vintage.
Next door is the 60ies and 70ies interior design shop Living Lounge and two doors further you find Luz de Lux. Every Leuven fashionista will have a few Luz de Lux dresses hanging in their wardrobe. Yes, the Parijsstraat is worth a walk to!

I felt a little hunger pang by now, but I wanted to keep it healthy so when I passed a door that said 'vegan cuisine' I had to try it. It was the taro croquettes that drew me in, I only had them them once years ago in Asia, but I remembered how good they were! At Loving Hut everything is vegan, from the spring rolls and croquettes to the fingerlicking desserts: vegan tiramisu or vegan ice cream anyone? There is a small card with pasta, wok and noodle dishes and the nice thing is: this is all take-away too! You are next to the Stadspark here, on a sunny day it would be a shame to sit indoors for lunch. 

One of Klara's top tips I definitely wanted to try out is Gelateria Decadenza. If she hadn't told me I would have passed by it, thinking it is another ice cream parlour on a touristy spot. Opposite the University Library and in between some brasseries is the best ice cream I have ever tasted. I would take the train to Leuven just for this. Klara had written to me that you shouldn't call it just ice cream, It is 'gelato'. The young couple who own it went especially to Bologna to get 'gelato training'. They make the gelato fresh every day so there are no additives and the flavours are exceptionally original, what is more: every day they are different! I was so, so lucky that they had frangipani when I was there. Yes, you read that right, that is frangipani like a scrumptious cake but in ice cream format. I almost fainted with the first taste. If I ever make a list of best food ever, this is going on it! 
They only make 12 flavours and one tub a day per flavour, to keep everything fresh. But no worries all the flavours sound so good, from chocolate cherries to cheesecake and basil. Klara told me that they like to experiment with new flavours and locals can make suggestions. Sometimes they have ice cream that tastes like bubblegum. They also serve lactosefree and glutenfree sorbets and one day a week there is soy ice cream or sugarfree ice cream. See the full list on their website

Now it was time to finally meet my Leuven guide! Klara had picked the best lunch spot in town: Dewerf. On a quiet square in the centre of town hang colourful lanterns in the trees and soft fleece blankets over deck chairs. It feels like an oasis in the city, the places just oozes coziness. And then I hadn't seen the menu yet, which is the biggest attraction. They have a choice in breakfast small, medium and large size but it was the large size option that caught my eye: it comes with fried apples and sausages. I saw the fried apples and sausages back on the appetizers page and already know now what I am having next time! I liked their choice of teas and hot chocolates (white hot chocolate!) but also the option of ordering a thermos flask of coffee (0,5L) and why not? In most places you can ask a pot of tea, but why not a thermos of coffee? 
This menu definitely put a smile on my face. One of the hot drinks is a warm apple juice with cinnamon and I could just see myself on the terrace on a cold day wrapped in that fleece blanket sipping one of those. It's a great place to go to with children, there is a corner with toys and a separate menu for all children until the age of 99! The clever Werf staff knows how to avoid menu arguments because they offer both tomatosoup with 'ballekes' (little meatballs) and 'ballekes' with tomatosoup: no more fighting over who gets the most 'ballekes'. When I saw the list of salads and that they all come with a special matching dressing I knew here was a chef in the kitchen that loves his or her food!

For those of you who want to see also the cultural side of Leuven: there is a great Museum called 'M' and a cultural centre with theatre, music and contemporary dance perfomances called 'STUK'.
(They like their typography in Leuven)

What a lovely day I had in Leuven. A big, big thank you to Klara and her top tips!


De Dry Coppen
Schrijnmakerstraat 11

Het Verlangen naar meer
Mechelsestraat 17

Artisan Butcher Rondou
Pensstraat 5

Hippo Royal
Parijsstraat 44

Loving Hut
Tiensestraat 65

Gelateria Decadenza 
Monseigneur Ladeuzeplein 4

Hogeschoolplein 5

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