Fanny Du Coq

Posted on May 18, 2011

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Our first bar of call was the ’Terrastje’. My Beer Guide book described the ‘Terrastje’ as ‘a little gem… a small one-roomed café with friendly service and a beer list more imaginative than most’. We happily walked and talked the half a mile or so it took to reach the bar, ready to begin our assault on Bruges’ finest beers.

Closed, read the sign, for a private party.  Not a great start.

It was time for plan B. After a quick scan of the beer guide, we found the ‘Gezelleke’ bar – named after the Flemish poet and priest, Guido Gezelleke, who once lived nearby – which was a mere 400 metres away. Being gentlemen of quality, we resisted the almost overwhelming urge to run this classic sprint distance. I think we did break into a dignified canter at one point but that’s by the by. We found the bar and the bar was open. It had a lovely warm glow to it, the sort that marked this out as a cosy local bar. Champion.

More bad luck awaited us, though. The bar had changed hands a year or so ago and the beer list was now on the slim side. Strangely, there was no sign of ‘Guido’, a beer brewed to celebrate the life of the aforementioned poet, on this list. It was all a bit depressing really, but we sat down and ordered a beer all the same. Stuck for inspiration I asked the barmaid to suggest a beer. She kindly recommended the Keizer Karel Bruin; a Belgian dark ale tipping the scales at a robust 9.0%. A couple of sips soon restored the natural order of things along with the realisation that even prosaic Belgian beers are a world away from the anaemic generic lager crap we get at home.

We soon settled back into our rhythm. Next, I thought I’d mix it up a bit go for the Keizer Karel Blond; a Belgian Strong Pale Ale coming in a shade lighter than its bruin counterpoint at 8.5%. I would love to wax lyrical about its colour, taste, aroma, finish and so on but I was a little tipsy now and forgot to take any notes. Let’s just say it was nice and it tasted beery. I finished off by downsizing to a 6% Belgian Dark Ale called Tongerlo Dubbel Bruin. I did manage to jot down a couple of taste notes on a beer mat for this one – colour ‘reddish-brown’, taste ‘moist’.  I think that says it all really.

In summary, the beer and the bar were good enough. This bar, however, will live long in the memory for it was here that we met with a woman called Fanny Du Coq.

Now Fanny is married to an Englishman, meaning she understood the potential hilarity of such a name. Steve and I got talking to Fanny at the bar. Before she introduced herself, she made Steve and I promise not to laugh at her name. I met her reveal with customary dignity and tact; Steve laughed like a drain.

Now our Fanny was a bit of a character. Perched by the bar, she dispensed homespun philosophy while drinking white wine as if it was tap water. She eventually spilled onto our table just as we were discussing what food to order. Someone, I cannot recall who for the beer was working well by now, suggested the scampi and pasta in a creamy sauce might be nice. This suggestion revitalised a somewhat sozzled Fanny, who embarked on a passionate monologue about the English and our shabby treatment of this shellfish. How could we take something so beautiful, coat it in breadcrumbs and then fry it to death, she asked. This led us to consider one of the great questions of our time: what in God’s name is scampi? Is it a prawn? Is it a type of lobster? Is it re-formed bits from several fish?  We had no idea. After a great deal of postulating, an exasperated Fanny shrugged and ventured that “Scampi is…. scampi”. Rather like the point of human existence, perhaps we must ponder this question and learn to accept that we will never know (or care).

Our food soon arrived and what huge platefuls they were. As an aside, the scampi looked like prawns to me and tasted real pretty.  I swiftly extricated myself from the conversation to concentrate on eating my food. Moreover, I could see Fanny was getting very lubricated, as it were, and becoming more random and a little chaotic, so it was time to raise my antisocial defence shields. Fanny did manage to squeeze out one last useful piece of information before she took her leave and returned to her perch. She suggested we take a trip to the Dutch border town of Sluice. It is a beautiful town, she said, and it had a naughty secret, too. We thanked Fanny for her time and said our goodbyes. We popped into our personal bar back at the B&B for a brace of Duvels and a few hands of Leffe before retiring to our luxury room. We all went to bed tired, drunk and happy.

In the next blog, we set sail for Ostend and possibly the best bar in the world.

Posted in: Beer, Belgium, Cycling