Pub/Bar of the Month August 2010: Schildia
Schildia, Heist, Belgium
There’s something particularly civilised about having a beer at the beach. Sadly, though, all too often you have to make do with bars selling the same old global rubbish at inflated prices, when all you want is a decent quality brew with which to fully appreciate a breath of sea air.
This is a problem found in all countries, of course, but if anywhere successfully marries the twin aspirations of quality beach time and good beer, it is Belgium.
A few years ago I spent an enjoyable few days discovering this handy truth, travelling along the Belgian coast by tram.
The modern streetcars that bump and rattle their way between the numerous holiday destinations provide a great way of seeing all that the Belgian seaside has to offer, and also a great way of exploring the best beachside bars.
I found some excellent places on my journeys, with one of the best in the resort of Heist, towards the Dutch border.
Heist is generally listed in guidebooks as Knokke-Heist. The Knokke bit refers to a very well-heeled section to the east, but Heist itself is a more functional neighbour, blessed with a pleasant promenade and a wide beach that welcomes rolling waves off the North Sea.
Here, as in most Belgian resorts, the seafront is lined with bars, restaurants and cafés, so you won’t ever struggle to find somewhere for refreshment, and, this being Belgium, there’s sure to be something at least half-decent on the beer menu. The pick of the places, however, is Schildia.
On the face of it, there is nothing to distinguish this bar and restaurant from any other. Squeezed underneath a modern apartment block, it’s attractive enough, clean and fresh, but what really sets it apart is the excellent choice of beers, even by Belgian standards.
Before we get too far into that, however, we shouldn’t overlook the food. I dined restaurant-style, enjoying the slight formality, the wicker furnishings and tables set with crisp napery.
Seafood, of course, is well to the fore, and the brill I ordered was, well, brill – one of the best fish dishes I have ever eaten.
I washed it down with a Corsendonk Blond and would happily have settled down for the afternoon had I not needed to hop aboard the tram and continue my travels.
Corsendonk is perhaps one of the least adventurous choices on the extensive beer list, in which the offerings are mostly arranged by Belgian region, with separate sections for witbiers, lambics, Christmas beers, and abbey and Trappist ales.
‘More than 190 types of beer’, declares the A-board on the seafront outside, so look beyond the obvious Belgian names for the likes of Brugse Zot, Bourgogne des Flandres, Urthel Tripel, Leute Bokbier, Arabier and Dobbel Palm.
On draught, meanwhile, Corsendonk Blond is joined by Corsendonk Bruin, De Koninck, Rodenbach, Tripel Karmeliet and Blanche d’Ardenne wit, plus the less exciting Kriek Max and Pilsner Urquell.
You don’t have to order a meal to enjoy the beers. The bar and restaurant areas are separate and, if you like, you can sit at the outside terrace, across the road, feeling the sea breeze keeping your beer cool and allowing its salt tang to whip up a thirst.
It’s really a very pleasant place to sit and sup. To the west, activity at the docks at Zeebrugge catches the eye, along with the whirling white propellers of the windfarm on the headland.
In front of you, the white, sandy beach is wide and welcoming and you can easily pass a few hours watching the paragliders and other watersports fanatics doing what they do best, while doing what you do best – appreciating some excellent Belgian beer.
Zeedijk 250, 8301 Knokke-Heist
Tel. (050) 51 50 58
Opening Hours: open 10am–late; closed Wednesday; weekend opening only in winter, plus Monday from February to March.