We end our tour in the centre of town but a bit off the beaten track, away from the overfull terraces of the Grote Markt. De Ruyffelaer is located in a quiet street across from Sint-Niklaas church, which houses the city’s Education Museum.
Brick walls, beamed ceilings, tile floors, wood-burning stoves and antique furniture give De Ruyffelaer its nostalgic atmosphere. So imagine our surprise when owners Christian and Delphine tell us how they created the restaurant from a gutted building only nine years ago. We were under the impression that it had been spared the bombs and stood here for 200 years.
Our eyes are bigger than our stomachs after the bike ride, so we order two starters before the meal: a Roquefort and bacon salad and a bowl of onion soup. In the meantime, we’re happy with the little rounds of toast with ham and mayo spread that come with our drinks. We go as local as possible, with two West Flemish beers: a dark brown St Bernardus and a strong blonde Watou Tripel.
The salad, served on a grey slate platter, includes white cabbage, witloof, grapes, raisins, kiwi, passion fruit and the always infallible combination of creamy Roquefort cheese and salty bacon. My friend is enjoying his soup, too: soft, sweet onions in a nice beef broth, topped with a thick slice of bread covered in cheese. It would be improved by being au gratin, the French way, but it is tasty nonetheless.
The menu lists such hardy main dishes as beef tongue in tomato sauce, rabbit in bacon and beer sauce, cod and St Pierre fillet in white wine, beef bourguignon and more. But we’re in the mood for pork, and we order two choices: braised pork belly and pork knuckle in mustard sauce. The roasted pork knuckle is a generous chunk of ham on the bone, slow-cooked until perfectly moist. The taste is sweet and smoky, its mustard sauce balancing out the dish with its pungency.
My dish is a plate of long, thick slices of pork belly meat, fat-on for ultimate flavour. Underneath are stewed veggies like carrots and courgette and a smooth, salty sauce with spicy pepper grains. Both dishes share a side of creamy, herb-infused potato puree.
We cleanse our palates with two lagers while enjoying the soft background music, mostly bagpipes and other Celtic sounds. The bill comes to a very reasonable €50.
Gustave de Stuersstraat 9, Ypres; 057.36.60.06
Thurs-Sat, 17.30-21.00; Sun & holidays, 11.30-14.30 & 17.30-21.00
Good, filling grandmother’s cuisine in what feels like great-grandmother’s house