I realise this is not the first time I’ve written about the virtues of roast pork and beer but it’s such a great match (and such an underrated one) that I keep on coming back to it. This time I came across it in a splendid northern French tavern called Le Bruegel in Bergues, the highlight of what was otherwise a rather cold, miserable journey on our way back to England last week.
In this part of France, which is known as the Pas-de-Calais, beer rather than wine is the drink of choice as it is just over the border in Belgium. The restaurants too, which are known as estaminets are much more like pubs than bistros. Le Breugel, which was festively decorated with flags, lines of washing and assorted agricultural implements also had a blazing log fire which made it very cheery and welcoming on a wet winter’s night. And the portions were huge. I mean HUGE!
My cochon de lait grillé (which you can see from the picture was enough for at least three people) was wonderfully sweet and fall-apart tender with crisp crackling and needed just the refreshing bite of a cellar-cool, malty Brasseur bière ambrée as they call it in this part of the world to clear the palate for the next mouthful.
Other good matches were a sourish blonde ale with a rich dish of braised chicory and the pungent local Maroilles cheese and a citrussy ‘blanche’ (witbier) with the local speciality pot’che vleesch, a selection of boiled meats that included rabbit, pork, chicken and veal in a flavoursome jelly - served Belgian-style with chips! (I’ve also had it as a terrine)
Good as the food was I can’t really recommend an extended stay in the area which is one of the least attractive, most industrial parts of France but as it’s a mere half hour from the Channel Tunnel it makes a good - and very inexpensive - stopover for any beer-lover. (There is also a shop called La Cave du Berguenard at 2, bis quai des maçons where you can buy 120 different French and Belgian beers)