Restaurant Snapshot: ‘T Molenhof Review in Oostvleteren, Belgium
One of my favorite movie quotes of all time comes from Spike in the movie Notting Hill. William comes home to find his eccentric roommate wearing a scuba costume. Bewildered, William asks, “Incidentally, uh, why are you wearing that?”
“A combination of factors, really,” responds Spike, like he hadn’t given a second thought to the ridiculousness of his outfit.
Deep. I know.
But that exact quote describes my day from hell as I journeyed from the Loire Valley in France to Oostvleteren in an attempt to visit De Struise Brouwers during the short window their tasting room is open each week. Due to a combination of factors, I arrive only minutes before the tasting room closed.
Luckily for me, ‘T Molenhof, a restaurant and bar across the street from De Struise, offers a fair amount of Struise’s exceptionally crafted beers alongside hearty Belgian fare and a variety of other distinguished beers from across Belgium.
Let’s pick up the story where Brewery Snapshot: De Struise Brouwers leaves off.
After carefully sampling a few beers at Struise, I headed back to my hotel to check-in and drop-off my car.
My fortunes were starting to improve (beer helps with that) and I had made a date with some of the staff from Struise at ‘T Molenhof. I planned to meet them for a promised walk through of their portfolio beyond what my limited time at Struise allowed.
I planned to walk from my hotel, Hotel Het Heilig Genot, as the Belgian countryside is quite safe and drinking and driving is never acceptable, but was happy to learn that my hotel had an agreement with Molenhof. The hotel offered a shuttle to Molenhof and the restaurant would take me home.
Unfortunately, the hotel owner assured me that obtaining a reservation would be quite difficult and eating in the bar area, the Old Post Office, is not acceptable. Still, she gave them a call and secured a table for one at 9pm. That was fine as my appointment was at 7:30.
>>>Book a room at Hotel Het Heilig Genot – One of the few hotels in the area.<<<
The inside of ‘T Molenhof was quite charming.
As I mentioned above, the restaurant and bar is located in an old post office. Both the exterior and interior maintain the quaintness one would expect from a historic building. A good amount of breweriana tastefully decorates the restaurant along with rich wooden beams, worn brick fireplaces, and classic country furnishings. It was the kind of place where one immediately drops their shoulders and feels at home.
The crowd inside – a mix of locals and tourists alike – was quite lively. It seemed like everyone wanted to offer me advice on what to drink, as I am not very familiar with Belgian beer. Thankfully, Molenhof offers 10 beers on draft and over 100 bottled beers to learn from. Still, even with the assistance of the growingly rambunctious crowd, navigating a foreign beer list can be quite daunting.
This is where Bjorn, the beer server, excels. He was recently honored as the Best Belgian Beer Schenker. It’s easy to understand why after experiencing his deep knowledge of beer and approachable manner of explaining it and offering food-pairing suggestions. He has also mastered the art of properly pouring and serving beer. A skill that I have yet to find in the United States where craft beer is still chucked across the bar in any old pint glass.
The beers Bjorn guided me through – and forgive me because my memory is hazy – included Rodenback Grand Cru, Vleteren Bruin 8, Oscar Blond, Ypres Reserve 2011, and Struise Pannepot Reserve 2009 with dinner. Bjorn selected each beer to enhance my evening, from opening my palate to the ideal pairings with my appetizer, dinner, and after dinner beers. Most impressive – he really seemed to care.
>>>Headed to Europe? Check out my popular European Packing Guide!<<<
‘T Molenhof is also known for their food.
Even though the restaurant side of Molenhof is rather new, owner chef Pascal Rubben is quickly winning acclaim across Belgium. He was invited as one of the chefs to participate in 2015s Great Belgian Beer Dinner in Leuven, and he has enjoyed media appearances on TV and newspapers throughout the country.
For my starter, I ordered a mixed portion that included sausage, shrimp, lobster meat, and bread. The saltiness paired beautifully with the refreshing Oscar Blond. The older, Belgium customers sitting next to me made sure I knew to suck the juices out of the heads of the shrimp when I was finished.
My dinner was a tagine of pork cheeks and chicken smothered in Pannepot beer. It was hearty, it was rich, and it paired perfectly with the 2009 Pannepot. It was the kind of dish dreams are made of.
>>> Book a hotel in Oostvleteren, Belgium!<<<
‘T Molenhof is the type of restaurant and bar I long for.
Sure, I had fun getting loud, and maybe a little tipsy, with my new friends from Struise. At the same time, there was a deep respect for beer. The proper stemware was always used. The pour was slow and delicate to achieve the perfect head and retain some of the yeast strains in the bottle. The food was offered in alignment to the seasons from both ingredient and beer perspective.
‘T Molenhof in Oostvleteren was exactly what I needed after a rough day as the beer, food, and ambiance lifted my spirits tremendously. If only I could replicate Molenhof back home for when I have another day full of factors that leaves me wearing a scuba outfit in the middle of the city.
Have you been to Molenhof? What did you think?
In my Restaurant Snapshot Series, I review a restaurant that really captured my attention. The series is meant to provide a brief overview of what the kitchen offers and why you need to eat there.