If you visit more than a couple of restaurants in central Bruges you'll soon discover that many will happily relieve a couple of 120 euros for a meal of mussels, Belgian beef stew, Waterzooi or steak with a starter and a bottle of average wine. This will be executed with the well-oiled dexterity of a business that knows they'll get away with serving up average food at grossly inflated prices in a lovely old building simply because the place is always rammed with new tourists fresh for the fleecing.
Fortunately there are exceptions to this and De Stove is one of them. Situated a short walk from the main square the restaurant eschews the traditional dark wooden interior for a light, smart but relaxed environment with tables generously spaced for the comfort of guests and ease of service. The menu has a gentle fish bias but there are enough choices to suit most palates.
Our hotel (The Duke's Palace) found us a table for Sunday lunch (something I suspect I might have failed to do if I'd phoned personally the day before). I started with a Carpaccio and foie gras plate and my lovely partner went for the scallop risotto. Both dishes were beautifully executed but the sweet scallops and rich but delicate rice of the risotto won the course for me. This was followed by lamb and duck fillets, each cooked deliciously pink (we'd been advised of this when ordering) and served with a light dauphinoise of potatoes with simple vegetables. We both chose the chocolate tarte for dessert (in Belgium it would be rude not to go for the chocolate option!) which had a deep, rich flavour and perfectly melting texture.
The Maitre(sse) D' managed everything front of house and while I suspect that there was just one person in the kitchen there was the air of quiet, confident efficiency that I love to discover in small restaurants. When we lunched at De Stove two of the ten or so tables were empty despite the restaurant advertising as being 'Complet'. Their clear commitment was to the quality of their offering rather than the number of diners they could cram through the doors.
Negative points? Well, being picky, what we eagerly anticipated as being amuse-bouche turned out to be more of a surprise-bouche; a small dish of popped corn and pretzels but that was just a momentary disappointment.
So, if you can resign yourself to Bruges prices and seek somewhere that takes pride in the quality of its food and service I doubt that you'll be disappointed with De Stove.
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