We’re visiting the highly popular food event Hapje Tapje Leuven! Because it’s a great opportunity to sample food and drinks and also get to know the restaurants you haven’t been to before.
Ever heard or been to Leuven?
This is one of Belgium’s most famous student cities.
And home to Stella Artois also known as AB Inbev, the world’s largest brewery. Both feed on each other. This combination is what makes Leuven so vibrant and cheerful: the city center is stacked with cool pubs, cafés, bars and decently priced restaurants.
And because the hubs’ adult kids live there, we come here a lot. So no excuse to miss Hapje Tapje Leuven!
We’ve frequented quite a few of restaurants before here.
Laid-back easy-going Metropole, pricier La Royale near the train station (we come here often for the €12 steaks on Sundays though!) and Sicilian slow food ristorante Rossi are our favorites.
However in August there’s a true foodie festival going on in town: Hapje Tapje Leuven is the name. 2013’s edition was this gig’s 25th anniversary.
Hapje Tapje Leuven
Believe it or not, I hadn’t been before.
Shame on you, June. But this year Sunday, August 4 no bets were off. Game time. So let’s go visit Hapje Tapje Leuven or the very first time.
In Flemish ‘hapje’ means ‘a little snack or bite’ and ‘tapje’ is the diminutive of beer tap, figuratively meaning ‘a little drink’.
AB InBev Leuven
So that’s what it’s all about: eating and drinking. Here’s how it goes: participating restaurants place a little table outside offering homemade little bites between €1 and €5.
Pubs, cafés and brewery stalls take care of the necessary (alcoholic) liquids. A handful of streets in the cozy city center near the Old Market is prohibited for cars.
On this hot August Sunday afternoon (the event starts around noon) we plunge into the already heavily crowded streets and search for our main goal: the Trente food stall.
Trente is Leuven’s famous Michelin star restaurant.
Never been there before but read some very promising reviews about the fantastic food. And since we spotted it on the list of participating restaurants we can’t wait to see some of their magic.
Trente is located in the Muntstraat but their food stall is just around the corner in the ‘s Meiersstraat.
Trente @ Hapje Tapje Leuven
On their menu.
Fish soup with cockles (€4), peas and Duroc pork belly (€5) and pickled salmon with fennel and green apple (€5). We unanimously decide on the pork and salmon.
Let’s start with the pork: a fat piece of juicy and almighty flavorful belly is accompanied by a velvety pea mash and blanched fresh peas.
Marriage made in heaven.
What a blast.
Next comes a smooth and oily fat cube of salmon.
There’s a refreshing green apple sauce on the side and the whole lot is topped with some crunchy shaved raw fennel that has been marinating in some lemon juice.
Fresh and light!
A good way to neutralize the pork fat in your mouth from last bite.
Good start of our munching spree.
Rossi @ Hapje Tapje Leuven
Next on the program: our favorite slow food hangout here in Leuven, Italian ristorante Rossi.
On their menu.
Insalata Siciliana (€4), pasta alla Checca (€4), caponata (€4) and panna poco cotia (€2). We take it all.
Here is the insalata Siciliana: thinly shaved raw fennel, orange, olives, capers and rocket salad finished with a fantastic carpaccio of marinated tuna and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.
The star of all 4 dishes here!
Next up is the farfalle alla Checca: a kind of cold Italian primavera pasta sauce consisting of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic, onion, olive oil and parmesan cheese.
A classic I adore so much (I make this one often at home too): caponata!
This is a cold Sicilian ratatouille of eggplant, red bell pepper and zucchini. This one has got a creative twist to it: confit red onion, raisins and pine nuts are added as well.
The caponata is drizzle with a rocket salad pesto. Chickpea cracker on the side as well. A very refreshing dish on this hot afternoon.
Dessert: lavender panna poco cotia, literally means ‘barely cooked cream’.
You are all familiar with panna cotta or ‘cooked cream’ so there you go. This dessert is a very creamy and barely set panna cotta, extremely smooth in texture and flavorful.
The mango coulis on top adds the necessary acidity.
Are we stuffed?
Not yet. Guess what.
I spotted something marvelous out of the corner of my eye while crossing the Hogeschoolplein Square. Pig on a schtick!
And who’s responsible?
Kokoon @ Hapje Tapje Leuven
The suckling pig served with a slice of bread and a good splash of famous Belgian Tierenteyn mustard (€4).
What you read is what you get.
Fatty, juicy comfort food.
Another little bite presented by restaurant Officina Clandestina a handful of food stall further also attracts us dearly: 5 crackers topped with mortadella mousse and black summer truffle (€4). Just great.
We also tasted pastéis de bacalhau (salted cod croquette, €2), rissois de camarao (shrimp croquette, €2) and pastel de Belém (€2) by Portugues restaurant O Fado.
But since we just got back from Portugal these bites are less inspiring and quite disappointing after having tasted the true fresh and local versions…
Yep. But mainly thirsty.
So we walk to the Old Market Square and stop at the Boon brewery shack which is also present at Hapje Tapje Leuven.
Boon Kriek Beer
The kriek (cherry) lambic beer looks appealing after that truffle (€8 a bottle). This is a fairly acidic beer with a well-balanced cherry flavor in the background.
Not too fruity or sugary.
And we end this sunny food festival with a gueuze lambic beer (Mariage Parfait, €8 a bottle), also from the Boon brewery. The Belgian beer is famous for its acidity. It is basically a beer that slowly turns vinegary while being exposed to the open air.
You either love it or hate it.
I love it.
My favorite Belgian beer.
Besides eating and drinking at Hapje Tapje Leuven there’s also a couple of other events going on in and around this city centre. Like a kid’s corners, live radio, a race for waiters and waitresses (carrying a tray of full tray of beers), live music, the Stella Artois Belgian Draught Masters Championship.
And show cooking of course: a couple of popular TV cooks stop by and show a couple of tricks they got up their sleeve.
Jeroen Meus @ Hapje Tapje Leuven
You could watch one of them, (most famous Belgian TV cook of this moment and Leuven resident) Jeroen Meus, make a mayonnaise from scratch.
Great day this was, Hapje Tapje Leuven is fantastic food festival.
If the weather is great, and we were lucky!
So let’s see if we can make it next year too!
It would be a real pleasure.
Addresses @ Hapje Tapje Leuven
Ristorante Rossi Slow Food
Sint Antoniusberg 6
‘s Meiersstraat 1