Thomas Caron’s Ghent

Thomas Caron – former S.M.A.K. curator and founder of Artlead, an online platform that aims to help a broad audience discover and buy affordable contemporary art – reminisces on his favourite Ghent addresses, from art space and cafés to butcher and baker, even tipping us on where the city’s best homemade Icetea is served.

I’ve lived in Ghent for such a long time, mostly because I used to work at S.M.A.K. (Jan Hoetplein 1, 9000 Gent) so I suppose this is an obvious place to start. While I am of course a tad biased, I think this is probably Belgium’s most interesting museum. Another very interesting place for contemporary art is Kiosk (Louis Pasteurlaan 2). While it is connected to the art school KASK, it has an independent and very relevant program, presenting either solo or duo shows of both emerging and established artists. Before moving to their current location in 2010, Kiosk started in a small glass pavilion a mere 50 meters away. This beautiful pavilion was recently saved from demolition, and now operates under the name Het Paviljoen (Louis Pasteurlaan 2), which is a collaboration between S.M.A.K., Kiosk and HISK, and functions as a platform where young curators can experiment and gain experience in making exhibitions. There’s also a new project space called 019 (North Dock), located in the old industrial port, which focuses on both production and presentation. There aren’t that many commercial galleries in Ghent. Galerie Tatjana Pieters (Nieuwevaart 124/001) is definitely the most interesting gallery here, with artists such as Audrey Cottin, Philippe Van Snick and Heide Hinrichs. Ghent is known for its huge amount of coffee bars scattered around the city and although I don’t drink coffee, I do frequent quite a lot of them, to work, read a bit or just watch people do their thing. Gustaf (Sint-Jacobsnieuwstraat 45) has a pretty good homemade Ice Tea, and they have a tiny terrace overlooking the street. Around the corner, you can find Bar Bidon (Bisdomkaai 25), which has a big street terrace that has sun most of the day. Clouds in my coffee (Dendermondsesteenweg 104) is also a favourite. They have a very nice, secluded terrace and free parking close by. Food-wise, the best fruit and vegetables come from Kathy Van Landschoot (Bij Sint-Jacobs 20). Most of Ghent’s restaurants get their vegetables here for a reason. Just around the corner you have Vits-Staelens (Bij Sint-Jacobs 14), a very old cornerstore specialised in dried herbs and spices. It is such a beautiful store. With Aula (Voldersstraat 24) and De Vis (Voldersstraat 45) the city’s best butcher and fishmonger are conveniently located side by side. If you’re looking for poultry, Huis Diegenant (St. Lievenspoortstraat 228) is the place to be. This is another one of those beautiful old stores which has been around for 130 years. The best cheese in Ghent can be found at Het Hinkelspel (Lousbergskaai 33), a small co-op making artisan biological cheese from raw milk. For bread, it’s a tie between Le Pain de Sebastien (Vlaanderenstraat 30) and De Superette (Guldenspoorstraat 29). As far as restaurants go, for such a small city, there is an abundance of superb ones in Ghent – for every budget and every occasion. I prefer light lunches, so I often go to Ramen Noodelbar (Oudburg 51) for soup, banh mi or porkbelly buns. A different but equally tasty kind of soup and sandwiches can be found at Ventura (Sint-Jacobsnieuwstraat 25). On the other side of town Vooruit (Sint-Pietersnieuwstraat 23) always has a very good dish of the day. And just down the street from them there is Greenway (Nederkouter, 42), offering healthy vegetarian fastfood. Their Syrian wrap is probably the best thing on the menu. Just across from them, Romain Roquette (Nederkouter 7) serves a large variety of salads. Another new place is Mondvol (Kortrijksesteenweg 104). They make great sandwiches, have a wide range of homemade lemonades and iced teas, only work with local ingredients and have an amazing homemade chicken-tarragon spread. For dinner, Patijntje (Gordunakaai 91) is a classic. They have the best vol-au-vent (served with homemade mousseline sauce) in town, but also other Belgian classics such as stingray with capers or bone marrow on toast. Plus they have a beautiful porch-terrace on the banks of the Leie. Another classic is Martino (Vlaanderenstraat 125). Their cheese-egg-friet is the perfect start for a night when you plan to drink too much. They serve food until one in the morning, which is another great plus in a city where most restaurants close at 22h. Nearby, just across the red light district, you have a Chilean place called El Negocito (Brabantdam 121). They have very good and very cheap food, pisco sour and a great atmosphere. And when everything else closes, there is always The Armenian, a small kebab place called Adanaci Aboov (Geraard Mercatorstraat 2). This is no regular kebab though; they grill skewers of either eggplant & grounded meat or kidneys & liver above a charcoal fire and serve those with spicy charred peppers. Together with a cup of Ayran, it’s the perfect midnight snack.

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