Books & Brunch offers literary retreat off Bruges’ beaten track


Set up by two globetrotters, the Books & Brunch cafe serves generous breakfasts and lunches, alongside a large selection of second-hand books

On food and drink in Flanders

Since the sun doesn’t always shine in Bruges, there are places like Books & Brunch, where you can eat a generous breakfast or lunch and linger over shelves full of second-hand books. Of course, it also works well when the sun is shining.

Books & Brunch is the brainchild of couple Jos Deroo and Tabitha Ackaert, who spent their youth backpacking the world. In those days, before e-readers, travellers exchanged books in hostels, usually from a shelf of books left behind by others.

“But there was one place in Antigua Guatemala called the Rainbow Reading Room,” Deroo recalls, “where they took this to the maximum and had a whole wall of these exchange books. And we thought that was such a good idea.” 

But back home in Bruges they got distracted. First they opened a restaurant called Soul Food, then they ran a hotel. More than a decade later they downsized, opening the Atlas Guesthouse in the leafy suburbs of Bruges. The idea of a place for breakfast and lunch (it closes at 15.00) fitted the guest house schedule and left time for family life.

Books & Brunch is close to the city centre but off the tourist trail, so it attracts independent-minded travellers and locals. “People come in because of the books, so you get an interesting crowd,” says Deroo, “and they make for an interesting talking point.” 

Deroo is in charge of the food and books, and is happy to make recommendations for those at a loose end for something to read. There is a large selection in Dutch, and a smaller but still interesting stock in English, with novels selling for €3-4.

Ackaert rules in the kitchen, where the lunch menu includes salads with a global twist (from Norwegian to Tuscan, Mediterranean and Mexican), large toasted and open sandwiches, and daily soup and quiche specials. 

“It’s simple food, but done well,” says Deroo. “There aren’t 10 different things on one plate, it’s just a sandwich with pâté and apple chutney, for example, but a really good pâté and chutney, and that’s what makes the difference.”

Photo: Silvie Bonne