Lille is a great choice for a food-focused city break in France. Its eminently walkable old town is full of pretty historical architecture, with plenty of delicious restaurants and places to enjoy a sweet treat.
Six Delicious Restaurants in Lille
Fondue – Le Broc du Vieux Lille
Our visit to Lille was during an intensely hot week in summer, so it’s no surprise that Le Broc wasn’t as busy as usual on the day we visited. Hot, melting cheese doesn’t appeal to everyone in that kind of weather. Me? I’m always ready for cheese, and loved the impressive range of fondues on offer on the menu.
We started with a shared plate from the summer season specials menu, Ricotta aux tomates confites, pain grillé a l’huile d’olive et aux herbes de Provence (ricotta with confit tomatoes, and toast with olive oil and Provencal herbs, €7.50).
Next we shared La Fondue Franche-Comté (a mix of Comté and Emmental cheeses with lardons, cèp mushrooms and chives, €18.60 per person) served with potatoes, tomato, green salad and mixed charcuterie. This was everything you’d want from a fondue; a huge pot of well-flavoured melted cheese flecked with mushrooms, ham and chives, and the perfect plate of accompaniments to dip and enjoy with it.
Even though we absolutely didn’t need it, we couldn’t resist an of Île flottante (€5.90) to share, a beautiful cloud of meringue over custard.
Traditional Flemish Tavern – Estaminet Chez La Vieille
French Flanders, like the Flemish region of Belgium to its north, loves its estaminets – old-fashioned taverns serving beer, wine and traditional regional dishes.
Lille has its fair share, including three run by the same owners: Estaminet Chez la Vieille, L’Estaminet du Welsh and La Vieille France, all located along restaurant-crammed Rue de Gand.
Keen to try local specialities, we ordered a slice each of two pastry tarts to start.
Goyère au Carré du Vinage (regional cheese tart, €5.50) features a full fat raw cow’s milk cheese, mixed with cream, and often a little brown beer, to create a quiche-like filling.
Tatin de Boudin noir aux Pommes (black pudding and pear tart, €5.95) combines the earthy flavour of black pudding with a layer of sweet apples.
Simple and hearty, these are also available as mains, though the starter portions are pretty substantial.
Never one to turn down more cheese, Pete’s Poulet au Maroilles (chicken gratinated with Maroilles cheese, €14.50) was a huge portion of tender chicken in a richly cheesed sauce, grilled to brown the surface. Served with an equally outrageous portion of chips, this would readily feed two people, let alone one who’s already had a starter. Delicious though!
My Carbonnades Flamandes (beef stewed in brown beer, spices and beet sugar, €13.80), served with fries was an excellent example of this popular stew, deeply caramelised to give a deep, meaty flavour, and tender too.
We really didn’t need dessert but felt like lingering so we shared L’Assiette Gourmande (miniature portions of crème brulée, speculoos mousse and violet ice cream, €6.40). I’m always a fan of this kind of taster plate for desserts, as all I usually want is a spoonful or two of dessert and that’s plenty. All three were decent.
Modern Flemish – Bloempot
Describing itself as a Flemish canteen, Bloempot offers an eyes-closed (“les yeux fermé”) menu; essentially a no-choice meal with all diners being served the same food.
Finding Bloempot can be a little tricky, as the entrance is through a subtly-marked blue door that opens into a cobbled driveway. The restaurant is at the end, with a few outdoor tables set up in the driveway itself. The restaurant space is rustic and open, with rugged wooden tables set with paper bags of bread.
During our recent visit, Bloempot offered a 3 course €25 lunch menu, but that’s no longer available. Instead, choose from “Taste of our kitchen” (€40) or “Our kitchen’s full experience” (€60).
First, a tartare of trout, with cucumber for cool crunch and dill for flavour, this was pleasantly light and fresh.
Next, a main that was described simply as “pork”, served with potatoes and seasonal vegetables. A beautiful piece of meat, deftly cooked to caramelise the surface without drying out the tender meat inside. Full of flavour
Dessert was a pretty bowl of creme brulee (custard with shards of caramel), red fruit and thin, crunchy wafers. Light, full of flavour and a great end for a delicious lunch.
Burger – Le Comptoir Volant
We love a good burger, and the burgers at Le Comptoir Volant in the old town are very good!
The menu is short, with three or four different burgers at any one time; they switch and add new variations on the menu regularly.
The Original features aged cheddar, fried onions, pickles, mustard and ketchup. Most customers opt for a meal of burger, fries and a drink, for approximately €12.50.
Burgers are juicy, and full of flavour. Fries are excellent.
Note that most of the seating is upstairs via a very narrow, and somewhat rickety spiral staircase, not for the fainthearted!
Crêpes – La Crêperie de la Vieille Bourse
When the weather is good, it’s lovely to enjoy a meal outside, especially if the street is pedestrian only. So it is at La Crêperie de la Vieille Bourse, just off the Grand Place.
There are tables inside too, but be warned, this place is busy and many of the tables are booked in advance.
The menu offers savoury and sweet crepes, as well as pizzas, both very popular.
We enjoyed a Crêpe Salée Fermière (Reblochon cheese, potatoes, onion, and smoked ham, €10.90) and a Crêpe Salée Merguez Emmental Oeuf (spiced sausage, Emmental cheese and egg, €8.50), all washed down with cider and beer.
Pizza – La Bottega Pizzeria
La Bottega Pizzeria is a sister restaurant to a delicatessen, a pasta factory (which they call a laboratory), and several additional restaurants, all Italian.
Located on Rue au Péterinck, in the old town, just a few paces away from the pretty Place aux Oignons, La Bottega Pizzeria offers indoor and outdoor seating, and has several larger tables for family groups.
After an aperol spritz and cold beer to recover from the summer heat, we ordered a Terrona pizza (organic tomatoes, mozzarella, spicy Napoli salami, parmesan cheese grated over after cooking, €11.50) and a white Testa pizza (cooked with mozzarella, then topped with buffalo mozzarella balls, organic cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and grated parmesan cheese after cooking, €14.00).
We didn’t really need dessert but shared the Caffe Goloso (miniature portions of classic tiramisu, speculoos tiramisu, panna cotta with red fruits, with an espresso, €7.50).
Sweet Treats in Lille
You may need to eat out for lunch and dinner to enjoy all the great restaurants of Lille but don’t miss out on my recommended places to stop for a few wonderful sweet treats between meals.
Aux Merveilleux de Fred
There are four branches of this store in Lille; one near La Vieille Bourse (the old stock exchange), another in Lille old town, one in Lille Flandres station, and the fourth on Rue Léon-Gambetta, just opposite the Wazemmes Covered Market.
Although the chain is also known for their cramiques (brioche breakfast breads), it’s their merveilleux for which they are truly celebrated.
These small cakes traditionally consist of two light meringues sandwiched together with whipped cream, and coated in more whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Frédéric Vaucamps developed additional flavours such as coffee, cherry, praline and many more.
“Melt in the mouth” is such a cliche of an expression and yet it’s hard to think of anything for which its more apt than these pretty puffs of deliciousness.
Buy a selection in store; it’s cheaper in a regular box rather than the gift “coffret” and enjoy quickly, while fresh.
One of Lille’s much loved institutions, Meert was established back in 1761, quickly becoming known for waffles, chocolate and ice cream. The beautiful and flamboyant architecture we see today was created in the 1800s, by architects Charles Benvignat and Alphonse Alexandre Leroy.
Although there is a restaurant on site, we went for tea, coffee and some of Meert’s sweet treats including their famous waffle.
Le Roy René
Calissons hail from Aix-en-Provence in the South of France, and happen to be one of my favourites.
These leaf shaped treats are made from a paste of candied fruit and almonds, with a thin layer of royal icing. Imagine marzipan with fruit flavour mixed in, and that little sugar kick of icing on top.
Famous brand Le Roy René have a store in Lille where you can pick and mix from the many flavours on offer, paying by the weight. They last well so are a great gift to bring back home.
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