Bite: A lunch on the ocean waves


Head to Ostend for a festival of seafood, where you can see top chefs in action and learn to peel grey shrimp

Alan Hope on Flemish food and drink

If you’re at all interested in fish and seafood, you can’t afford to miss Kom Proeven this weekend in Ostend. It’s a chance to test the abilities of the city’s chefs, learn how to peel grey shrimp and even take to the ocean waves – well, the North Sea at least.

Chefs from 28 local restaurants, including Savarin, Marina, Bistro Mathilda and Ostend Queen, will prepare their choicest fish dishes live along the Zeeheldenplein, in a sort of Culinaria-by-the-Sea. Dishes cost €4 or €6. You can find a list of all restaurants and even a few recipes on the website. The desserts on offer at the same prices come from patissier Debusschere and chocolatier Willems

Peeling shrimps (pictured) sounds easy, and in the hands of an expert it even looks easy, but a decent-sized portion in the hands of a fumbling amateur can have you pulling out your hair in frustration. That’s why a trained Ostend pelster (peeler) will be on hand at 13.00, 15.00, 17.00 and 19.00 on both days to teach you how. Not only is it faster once you know how, it’s also much cheaper to buy them unpeeled.

Should you be taking some home, don’t forget that the traditional accompaniment is a nice glass of Rodenbach, either the full-bodied Classic or, if you prefer something fruity, Caractère Rouge. 

To walk off what you’ve eaten, there are free guided tours of Ostend’s maritime sites leaving from Zeeheldenplein at 11.00 and 15.00 on both days, taking in the lighthouse Lange Nelle, the North Sea aquarium, the fish market (where fish are sold by the process known in English as the Dutch auction – the first to accept a constantly decreasing price takes home the lot) and the so-called sprotkot, built after the Second World War as a market hall for the sale of herrings and sprats.

And if you’re feeling adventurous, there are boat trips: on a shrimp or a cod boat, departing at 7.00 and returning at 17.00. The cost is €45, and you’re advised to reserve, as places are limited.

The Zeeheldenplein is a short walk from Ostend’s train station, as well as the coast tram stop Station Oostende if you’re coming from elsewhere on the coast.

Photo courtesy Toerisme Oostduinkerke, Westtoer

Flemish coast

The Flemish coast is a 67-kilometre sandy stretch on the North Sea. With its wide beaches, quiet dunes and polders, it’s Flanders’ most-visited tourist attraction.
Day-trippers - A two-hour drive at worst from most Flemish cities, the coast especially draws day tourists during the summer.
Kusttram - Connecting Knokke all the way to De Panne, the “Coast Tram” is the staple means of transportation along the coast. It’s the longest tramline in the world.
Theater Aan Zee - Every summer, a 10-day music and theatre festival is organised in and around Ostend.

coast municipalities


kilometres long


million visitors annually