L'Ecume des Jours

Ghent, Belgium Book from

Reviewed by Laura Dixon
Beautiful city B&B meets classy cultural homestay in a 1913 house beside Ghent’s Citadelpark
When Michel and Sophie bought this old house in the Millionaire’s Quarter of Ghent, it was on the understanding that they would look after it in the right way. What is the right way to look after a part Art Deco, part Art Nouveau house, with polished carved wood stairs, stained glass doors and windows, and period tiles and details everywhere? Just like this: you invite artists to show their work here, stage classical and jazz concerts, host specialist cooking classes, and invite guests to enjoy its top-floor suite and roof terrace.

Staying here isn’t like staying in a museum, however - you’re greeted like an old friend and invited to enjoy the house and its artworks as well as your private space. In the first-floor salon, bright contemporary sculpture and an apple-green Eames rocking chair sit alongside the original carved staircase, and this mirrors what you’ll see from walking around Ghent: ancient and modern can work together to the most beautiful effect. L'Ecume des Jours will give you a unique take on this underrated city: borrow a bike and cycle into the centre, talk to your hosts about Ghent's art, architecture and history, and seize the opportunity to learn cooking techiques from a world-class chef.

Highs

  • A great location in a tranquil area of the city - ideal for Ghent’s art galleries, and an easy walk to the centre through the lovely Citadelpark
  • Twice-weekly cooking classes led by Bruno van Assche, who has cooked in numerous Michelin-starred kitchens
  • The suite (there's only 1) is enormous, with a clawfoot bath, stained glass doors leading out to its balcony, a living area with a coffee machine, and a stunning shower room
  • Lovely details include a hand-stitched quilt and a huge bottle of L’Occitane bath oil
  • Your generous and welcoming hosts, who will put you on the insider track to Ghent and recommend local restaurants

Lows

  • With only 1 room you might worry about feeling exposed as a guest, but Michel and Sophie will put you instantly at ease
  • Lots of stairs - this is a typical tall Belgian house
  • There’s a little traffic noise from the busy road outside
  • It’s not right in the centre of Ghent, but it's not too far to walk and there are bikes to borrow
  • You have to pay to park on a meter across the road, but it's a small fee

Best time to go

Ghent is best in the spring, summer and autumn, and around Christmas for the ice-skating and festive markets. August is very busy with tourists. The early part of the year can be quiet as students are not back in town, but spring can be rainy, so bring an umbrella.

Our top tips

  • Don’t stop at 2 kisses when greeting people in Flanders - traditionally, they go for 3 here!
  • Great for...

    Foodie
    • = Recommended
    • = Best in region
    • = World favourite
    • Boutique B&B
    • 1
    • Breakfast (+ other meals on request)
    • 1 baby allowed
    • Open all year
    • Pool
    • Spa Treatments
    • WiFi
    • Pet Friendly
    • Disabled Access
    • Beach Nearby
    • Off-street Parking
    • Restaurants Nearby
    • Air Conditioning
    • Guest Lounge
    • Terrace
    • Garden
    • Gym
    • Bicycles Available
    Room:

    Rooms

    There is just 1 suite: a double bedroom with a divinely comfortable and romantic bed, plus a sitting room with a large plasma TV, a coffee machine and a sofa, and a large bathroom that opens to a roof terrace with a table and chairs. There is also a superb shower just off the bedroom.

    I loved the place. It could easily have been made into a self-contained apartment, with a kitchenette and private entrance, but that would depersonalise the experience, which is like staying with friends with excellent taste. You have so much space and the rooms are beautifully furnished and decorated; there may be 59 stairs up to this floor, but the climb is definitely worth it.

    I liked the details best - the pair of little brass birds sitting on top of antique books, the vintage coffret of silver grooming products, the original clawfoot bath positioned perfectly so that you can open the stained glass doors to the terrace and see out, but nobody can see in. There’s a lovely light in the bathroom too, where 10 white-winged lightbulbs fly out from the centre like little angels. And I slept really well on the plump French bed.

    Features include:

    • Cd player
    • CDs
    • Coffee maker
    • Cots Available
    • Dvd player
    • DVDs
    • Satellite tv
    • Toiletries
    • WiFi

    Eating

    You’ll find a lavish breakfast in the downstairs salon at a time that suits you, with eggs to order, local cheeses, ham, yoghurt and fresh bread and pastries.

    L'Ecume des Jours is essentially a B&B, but they do offer a table d'hôte lunch or dinner on request. They are delicious and imaginative: think zucchini soup with thyme and honey; haddock with sweet potatoes, a lemon butter sauce and pistachios and capers, then candied pineapple with coconut ice cream and a mousse of cheese.

    You'll want to eat out as well though: Ghent has nearly 400 restaurants to choose from, counting Michelin-starred fine-dining palaces and edgy student cafés among them, so dining is a joy. For Flemish cuisine (currently undergoing a renaissance) try Café Theatre, a large brasserie popular with locals in the centre. Among others The House of Eliott is recommended, particularly for its lobster. Just beyond the city, Hertog Jan has been awarded 3 Michelin stars, making it one of the best restaurants in the world. Michel and Sophie can help with further recommendations and bookings.

    There are twice-weekly cooking classes held at L'Ecume des Jours, led by Bruno van Assche, a private chef who has trained under Peter Goossens and cooked in numerous Michelin-starred kitchens. I joined him for a course in cooking with forgotten vegetables (Brussels sprouts, salsify and kohlrabi included), and would thoroughly recommend it. Courses span Japanese cuisine, knife skills and traditional Flemish food, and are taught in the kitchen. Contact Michel for a list of upcoming classes.

    Features include:

    • Bar
    • Breakfast
    • Coffee maker
    • Dinner by arrangement
    • Lunch by arrangement
    • Restaurants nearby
    Eating:
    Activity:

    Activities

    • Book a fantastic cooking demo class (reserve your space in advance; they take place on Thursday morning or Tuesday evening). Private chef Bruno van Assche speaks perfect English and cooks anything from easy Japanese to classic Belgian dishes
    • Borrow Michel and Sophie's bikes and visit the 2 art galleries in the Citadelpark. S.M.A.K. is a contemporary space with Warhols and temporary exhibitions, and MSK has predominantly 19th-century works. In the summer, order a deluxe picnic basket from the café in S.M.A.K. (it includes a bottle of Cava) and eat lunch in the park
    • If you prefer older art, the cathedral in the centre of Ghent has a Rubens and a van Eyck. Both are unmissable, as is the square itself
    • Take a walk along the canals and admire the buildings. Look up - even the McDonalds in the centre has a medieval façade above the neon lights. The view of the old harbour from the bridge in the centre of town is beautiful
    • Ask Michel to organise an architectural guide for an exploration of the city. Just across the road you can see examples of Art Deco and ultra-modern styles next door to each other, and the city is teeming with architectural wonder
    • A book market, modelled on the second-hand book market along the Seine in Paris, is held along the canal every Sunday from 9am-1pm
    • The Flower Market on Kouter, 7am-1pm every day, has much more to offer than transitory blooms: it’s a real romantic hotspot with oysters, coffee and apple cake for sale, and serenading minstrels
    • Acquaint yourself with Flemish food: it’s having a real moment as young chefs around the city revive classic recipes and forgotten vegetables to bring quality local food to the masses. Typical dishes include the likes of rabbit stew

    Activities on site or nearby include:

    • Cooking classes
    • Cycling
    • Historical sites
    • Museums / galleries
    • Picnics
    • Private guided tours
    • Shopping / markets

    Kids

    Babies are welcome and there is 1 baby cot. The owners have plenty of experience, with 6 children of their own (now grown up). The bathroom has a tub and shower.

    Best for:

    Babies (0-1 years)

    Family friendly accommodation:

    Cots Available

    Kid Friendly:

    Our guests' ratings...

    10/
    Rooms
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    Food
    10/
    Service
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    Value
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