Sweet treats, plenty of foam and chicory in Lille

Encouraged by charities like Mange Lille!, the city’s locals are leaving their preconceptions at the door and rediscovering beetroot, pork, endives, and more local produce, taking as much pride in their food as they do in Flanders itself. New restaurants, cosy bars, brasseries, and reimagined institutions today offer a satisfying alternative to mussels, carbonade, and potjevlesch. So where’s good to eat in Lille right now? Here’s our selection...

The sweetest: Meert

Those with a sweet tooth have been swooning over the windows at 27 Rue Esquermoise as far back as 1761. Before indulging in the famous vanilla waffles, head to the back of the store, which occupies a listed building. There, Tom Truy-Courties – not even 30 years old – is busy tantalising taste buds with his sardine rolls, onion tatin with vergeoise sugar, and roast pig with smoked eel... So many successful combinations of flavours, served beneath the mirrors of the red and white neo-baroque interior. For dessert, you just have to try the vanilla and pecan crumble.

The booziest: Echappée Bière

Founded by a trio from northern France, Echappée Bière brews big: it organises paper chases all over France for people to get better acquainted with the brewing industry. And this is a place where they’ve been fermenting grains since the first millennium. There are two to choose from: “Gambrinus’ Tankard” in Old Lille, and the “Three Windmill Brewery” in Saint-Saveur. The daily events include blind tastings, puzzles, and surprises. The map that comes with the game also highlights points of interest, like the street art around the Jean-Baptiste Lebas gardens, for example.
- L'Echappée bière (External link)

For the fries: Bierbuik

Florent Ladeyn’s fries with their Maroilles foam dip are on-trend and perfectly cooked, and going down a storm at Bierbuik (Flemish for “beer belly”), that can seat 80 hungry diners. Larger groups can even share flamiche or wood-fired pork at an accessible price. The beer brewed here may even contain oyster shells or potato peelings... nothing is thrown away. And then some chicory for a chic finish.

The wildest: Jane

Leopard-print walls, golden palms, and saffron seating all set a scene somewhere between Tarzan and Visconti. Jane is hidden away on the ground floor of the former Polish consulate, now the ultra-chic Arbre Voyageur Hotel. The chef loves to flambée linguine with Burgundy truffles or shrimp, all in a whole parmesan cheese. Heartily sated, you can then pop into the delicatessen for a spot of shopping.

Back to nature: Vagabond

Twelve covers, four dishes, and a slim chance of getting a reservation. After a spell at Clarance, Nicolas Pourcheresse now serves up his cuisine in a little venue on Rue Saint-André. With his wild hair and ginger beard, the chef preps, cooks, and serves. The vegetables all come from his vegetable garden, the fish is sustainably caught, and the wine biodynamic. Freed from his former etiquette as the youngest Michelin-starred chef in France, his dishes offer an environmentally-friendly taste of the classics.
Restaurant Le Vagabond (External link)

For the croquettes: Barbue d’Anvers

Ah! Sand shrimp croquettes just like in Knokke-le-Zoute... For when you’re dreaming of pan-fried cat’s tongue (it’s a cut of beef) or beer sorbets. Barbue d'Anvers isn’t new by any means, but it will never bore your eyes or your belly, and that’s what really matters.