I grew up on a hilltop farm in Tasmania….next stop ANTARCTICA!  In winter,  biting  winds and sleet often prompted my  father’s diary entries to  begin, “Very rough day!”  No wonder we appreciated  my mother’s  ‘comfort  cooking’ ; rabbit pies,  rich beef stews, pastries  and steamed puddings.  I still choose suet dumplings over sushi, and consider salads acceptable only in temperatures above 40 degrees.

Clearly  the peasant style cuisine of Flanders was  going to appeal to me.  On a recent to visit to Lille my partner Rob and I had  lunch at Au Vieux de Vielle, located at 2, Rue des Vieux Murs. It was a beautiful day, so we sat  among tubs of flowers  in the courtyard.  Rob chose a well known dish called La Carbonade Flamande.  It consists of beef shin   stewed very slowly in Flemish dark beer with spiced bread and brown sugar. Oh my word, it was superb!

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I tried their special sausages. I was very amused at the printed message on the menu, which roughly translated as;   ‘Please do not pester the staff for the recipe, they know nothing!’

The restaurants featuring regional  Flemish food are called Estaminets.  It was fortunate that we arrived early  at one called  Les Compagnons de la Grappe, because soon afterwards at least a dozen people  were waiting for tables.  A mature fig tree in the  courtyard  added to the atmosphere, and I had to hook an errant grapevine around an umbrella beside our table. On this occasion Rob chose pan fried duckling,  served with a  potato and cheese souffle.  It was a hot day, but true to form I thoroughly enjoyed my succulent lamb shanks in a white wine sauce flavoured with  rosemary.

Lunch at Les Compagnons de la Grappe

Lunch at Les Compagnons de la Grappe


Relaxing in the vine filled courtyard at Les Compagnons dl la Grappe

Relaxing in the vine filled courtyard at Les Compagnons de la Grappe

Another popular dish at Lille eateries is  Welsh Complet, which appears  to be based on the original Welsh Rarebit. It’s a very rich blend of melted  cheeses poured over ham and  beer soaked,  French bread…topped with an egg! (I think the latter  represents  the ‘complet’ bit).   Oh yes, and I should mention Potjevleesch, a triple white meat terrine in aspic.  I tried the rib sticking  Welsh and left Rob to sample terrine in aspic! Both were excellent.

Welsh Complet

Welsh Complet



My favourite meal was at  Estaminet ‘Rijsel, where we both chose very  rustic  food. I loved my Lapin aux Pruneaux (Rabbit with Prunes ), in a rich, red wine sauce.   Somewhat to my surprise Rob bravely  ordered  Andouillette, a sausage made with pork intestines seasoned with pepper, wine and onions.   A French politician called Edouard Heriot  once  famously quipped;  ‘Politics is like an andouillette – it should smell a little like shit, but not too much.’  Oh my God!  I don’t think Rob was overly impressed to be honest.


Lapin aux Pruneaux, with herbs and red wine.

Lapin aux Pruneaux, with herbs and red wine.

No room for desserts, just a pot of coffee to finish the meal before we went off to enjoy  more of the city.

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I loved the decor of T’Rijsel, all very cosy with old pots, pans  and  jugs.

T'Rijsel, full of quaint bic-a-brac.

Estaminet Rijsel, full of quaint bic-a-brac.

We didn’t sample the desserts at any of the restaurants we went to, preferring to enjoy cakes from patisseries such as the renowned Meerts. I chose this one, called (appropriately) La vie en rose.

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Mind you, it was a difficult choice. Look at that delectable raspberry confection on the right  with the macaroons and  meringues!

Window Display - Meerts.

Window Display – Meerts.

What are your favourite memories of French food?  Or did you make a memorable mistake? Do leave a message in the comment box, but don’t forget to scroll down and complete the anti-spam sum before you press SUBMIT.

Hold on…it  occurs to me that I have not included a photograph of lovely Lille itself, so here is a shot of Grand Place.

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  1. Am booking my trip to Lille NOW!

  2. You outdid yourself with this one, now I am so hungry I can’t think straight. Have to go get ice cream, now!


    • Pauline

      Glad you enjoyed the post Nancy.Thanks for leaving a message.

  3. Oh dear I am envious of all that lovely food. I am afraid I cannot remember any of the French names of the meals I have eaten in France but I do remember visiting the Blue Mountains of NSW and having a delicious French meal of Lamb Shanks cooked in red wine.
    The memorable meal was cooked by Rob Conolly. The atmosphere was wonderful as we were dining cosily in front of an open fire and drinking a nice bottle of red whilst the mist of the mountains swirled around outside.
    Rob Conolly is mostly famous for his photography but his culinary skills are fine as well.

    • Pauline

      Are you sure it was Rob who cooked that meal Vonnie?? Hmmm…..probably was!

      • Yes I am sure Rob cooked and served it! I recall that you made the desert. It was a pecan pie I think but I cannot be certain.
        Rob also made the coffee and you served the chocolates .

        • I’m conjuring up all sorts of images by now; of the competent Chef, and his helper who’s probably wearing a frilly pinny as she hands out the chocolates on a doily covered plate. Is my imagination running away with me?

          • Pauline

            A PINNY?!! The truth is that I do all the behind the scenes work (sans pinny!) and allow Rob to take the credit. The coffee…well that is all his work, yes.

        • Pauline

          Godmother Vonnie….Pauline bought that pecan pie!! Love, Editor Des. xxx

          • Well at least I didn’t slander by accusing someone of BUYING the pecan pie, mentioning no names of course!

          • Pauline

            I can’t say that I remember ever making a pecan pie, so I have a dreadful feeling that (though I hate to admit it) Des might be right!

          • Des, my dear little godson sometimes it is okay to tell a little white lie. I did not want Pauline to feel embarrassed because she had bought the pie so I pretended to believe she had made it.

          • Pauline

            Oh, I see. Des. xxxx

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