5 x Els Sirejacob's favourites in Ghent

Els Sirejacob in Ghent
Els Sirejacob

Els Sirejacob is a classically trained chef who works as a recipe writer and food stylist for several Belgian food magazines. Born and raised in 9000, Ghent, her favourite thing to do is travel the world in her camper van together with her partner and her dog – and preferably her kids too. Els shares this passion for camper-van travelling with her partner in crime, food photographer Bram Debaenst. Their latest adventure took them all over Italy, each with their own family, and – lucky for us! – they are sharing their culinary and other discoveries in a beautiful book: Camperfood and Stories - Italy. The book is packed with tasty recipes and stories about camper-van travelling, with all of its ups and downs. Cover image: (c) Titus Simoens

1) Vandekerckhove

A Ghent classic, Vandekerckhove is a coffee roastery that has been around for five generations. The roastery itself recently moved to a new location, but you can still find the coffeeshop in the same spot. Here, the best baristas serve up their delicious blends. Don’t leave here without buying a pack of their coffee. Another Ghent fixture is Mokabon, the first coffee roastery in Ghent where you could enjoy a freshly roasted cup of coffee on the spot. The interior has remained pretty much the same since 1950, which is what makes it so unique.

Bar of Vandekerckhove coffee roastery in Ghent

© Els Sirejacob

2) The bakery

Joost Arijs, the pride of Ghent and the best chocolatier and pâtissier in Belgium. This is the place to buy the very best chocolates to give as gifts or, better yet, to keep for yourself. Joost recently opened a bakery right next door to his chocolate and pastry shop, where you can enjoy his delicious treats in a design interior, made in Ghent. With the title of ‘Belgium’s best pastry chef’, the bar is set pretty high, but rest assured that your expectations will be met. The pastries are indescribable, and just thinking about the croissant praliné, escargot pecan and anything with feuilleté is making my mouth water. The absolute best!

Pastries from the bakery by Joost Arijs

© Els Sirejacob

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3) Home Linen

I have a soft spot for lace. Whether lacemaking originated in Flanders or in Venice isn’t for me to say, but Ghent has a beautiful bobbin lace tradition. Back in the day it was mostly used to decorate the hems of clothing, nowadays you mostly see it as table decoration. Home Linen is a tiny shop that’s filled to the brim with handmade lace and linen. Always worth a visit when I’m in the centre, and perfect for buying gifts, too.

Lace doilies at Home Linen

© Els Sirejacob

4) Café Damberd

Just as difficult as selecting one coffee place, is picking just one cafe, so I won't! Café Damberd is a legendary multicultural jazz joint that regularly hosts live performances, and is a Ghent institution. Also a great place to play chess. Also worth a mention is Café Gitane, located on a tiny little street and boasting an extremely cosy 1930s interior. The terrace is also a great spot to hang out. It’s one of the oldest brown cafes in Ghent, serving many artisan beers by small-scale breweries and a selection of natural wines. Last but not least, there’s Hotsy Totsy, a laid-back cafe with a rich history. One of Hugo Claus’ masterpieces was presented here: The Sorrow of Belgium (Het verdriet van België). It’s a place where poetry, jazz and comedy come together. And they have a pool table!

Stage and door to bathrooms at cafe Het Damberd in Ghent

Café Damberd © Els Sirejacob

5) Steamy Windows

Ghent is an absolute paradise for foodies, with so many good spots to choose from. For a quick lunch in the heart of the city, I can highly recommend Steamy Windows, a dumpling bar serving homemade dumplings and tasty drinks in a colourful interior. Be sure to pop by the clothes shop Shelter just next door. For a fun evening out, try Astro Boy. Serving a Japanese-inspired menu with small sharing dishes and cocktails, it is located in a quieter part of town, just outside of the busy centre.

a table full of dumplings at Steamy windows in Ghent

© Els Sirejacob

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