Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Trollekelder - Ghent

You know the mustard is hot when it causes your eyes to stream and your nose hairs to drop off one by one and fall in to your beer. Expletives arrive unbidden on your tongue and are driven out by their inability to tolerate the heat. A gulp of beer helps but time is the only healer, and you wait patiently for your breath to return.

But let's go back a few hours or so...

Trollekelder (For some reason I want to call it Trolle-n-kelder and I don't know why?) sits in the shadow of Saint Jacob's church. And when I say shadow I mean in the descriptive shadow before some pedant tells me it is south of the church.

The neon sign on the building seems at odds with the medieval looking trolls that stand guard in the window, grinning and gurning manically at the passersby. The theme continues inside with more trolls, bottles and beer paraphernalia decorating the timber and brick clad interior, which instantly makes you feel at home and content. The split levels, that include the cellar - kelder - where the trolls presumably live(!), give the place a suitably disjointed feel and at the time of our visit there is some extension work going on in the upper level.

We sat at a table on a raised area just inside the door with a view of the street and the church. Service is quick - mind you it is quiet - and we are presented with the most attractive beer menu I've ever seen. It's more of a magazine or a work of art than a menu and is full of beers I'd promised myself I'd try to source on this trip including some from Troubadour and Struise - but no Black Albert unfortunately.

We went for Troubadour Westkust which had a sharp, dry stoutlike flavour backed up with bitter hops and a dash of cocoa, Verhaeghe Barbe Noire a sweetish, strong stout and the Kasteel Hoppy, which had some bitterness and was OK but didn't suit my palate as much as the other two.

We were joined by a young couple we had spied through the window who had been drinking copious amounts of Westvleteren at a table outside on the street. She was Canadian and he was from London. They were over on a wine excursion to France and had detoured to Belgium to stock up on some beer and visit some breweries. They were pretty merry and in good form so we chatted about the beer scene in London, French wine and Belgian brewers. My only issues was that our new Canadian friend had a slightly unnerving habit of touching your arm every time she spoke and was somewhat obsessed with our Irish accents...

We were in our stride by now and while chatting I had a superb Struise XXXX (Not what I ordered, which was the barrel aged Tripel, but I had it anyway!) that tasted of rich honey with plums and prunes followed by an equally excellent Struise Tsjeeses Reserva PBA, a big 10% beer that tasted of spicy sultana and Christmas pudding.

We all left at the same time, the couple we met stocking up on more Westvleteren - carried out of the bar in an undignified manner in white plastic carrier bags - and we headed back to the hotel to freshen up.

A few hours later after getting food and touring the city at night we ended up back in Trollekelder again for a nightcap. I ordered another Troubadour, Obscura this time, which tasted like milky treacle but in a good way and we decided we were still a little peckish. The bar man suggested the staple fare of every Belgian bar, a platter of cheese and salami, which arrived with a small bowl of brown mustard and a shaker of celery salt. The salt with the cheese was a revelation in itself and as for the mustard, well that's back to where I started isn't it?

Trollekelder is a great bar with great service, beer and atmosphere. It was our favourite of those we visited in the city centre and only narrowly beaten as the best we visited in all of Ghent by De Planck. Having said that we didn't get to all the bars but we did get to most of those rated on websites or listed on beer tours of the city.

It's definitely high on our list for next time we visit.

We might take it easy on the mustard though...

(Visited 11th September 2014)

(Apologies for the lack of pictures.)

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