ARDOOIE - We are leaving Kortrijk behind us, taking exit 8 from the E403 Doornik – Zeebrugge. Ardooie is our destination, or more specifically, Café OPCD, just below the church tower. “OPCD?,” I ask its manager, Alex Callez. “Does that just mean ‘op cd’?” The café boss shakes his head. He must have answered this stupid question at least a thousand times before.
“’Obsédé’, as in ‘obsessed’ in French and the local Ardoois dialect!,” he laughs. Obsessed, by what exactly? There is no need to ask him.
On arrival, the answer is proudly displayed on the café's walls, in the shape of advertising; above the bar, disguised as a range of glasses; on the taps; and reinforced by the army of bottles in the cooler.
The Café OPCD beer menu offers no fewer than one hundred and seventy-six speciality beers. “Ten years ago, when I took over the café, the beer menu was far more limited”, Alex tells us. “In those days it was a café aimed at the young. However, there were live performances just as we have now." "We have hosted a fair few Belgian legends.
Think of Roland Van Campenhout, the blues man, or the multi-talented Patrick Riguelle… our focus was on blues, jazz and soul.” The café owner now does what comes naturally and pours me a Boon oude geuze. It is a Blue Monday and the business is closed.
I feel like one of those figures in an Edward Hopper painting, forever frozen propping up the endless bar, caught in the spotlights. I have to use my imagination to add the buzz of a good night in the café, which isn't difficult given the surroundings.
A statement from an anonymous regular: “Café OPCD reminds me of ‘wood’, of ‘brown’, of a small brown and dark café with wood panelling and a small but lively bar, a ‘toogske’ where everyone is happy nursing a pint or a local brew”.
Alex Gallez knows his classics, and so his beer menu includes all the best-known Belgian beers.
However, this bar owner, originally from West Flanders, also likes to support his local micro-brewers. He therefore also promotes less easy-to-find beers, produced by the likes of De Dolle Brouwers, De Leite and Struise Brouwers.
Alex is a keen follower of the latest trends in the beer world: beers matured in wooden barrels, beers with a strong hop content, the IPA (India Pale Ale) style of beers, for example.
He will also showcase traditional regional beers, such as the Ichtegemse Grand Cru, a ‘roodbruin’ or red-brown beer from West Flanders.
“We are in tune with the seasons”, Alex states. “In summer, demand is highest for fresh and fruity beers that you can drink out on the terrace enjoying the weather. In winter, people are asking for strong and dark abbey beers”.
From time to time, the Alex will organise beer tastings where he will guide his guests personally through the selection of beers on offer. He will also provide the cheeses, chorizo and beer paté ‘after his own recipe’ to complement the experience.
There is always something going on in this Ardooie café. Fancy a quiz on a cold winter night? Live comedy, café theatre, a party…? Wall posters testify to a rich night life in this village and its surroundings. If the weather is fine, everybody congregates on the terrace until the early hours of the day.
If the weather gods are less benevolent, the ‘boltraag’ awaits. Come again? “Just look at the building around the back, with this strange bulge in the middle?” Alex points it out to me.
“We inherited it from the former ‘Schuttershof’ Inn in 1904.” ‘Bolletra’ is a popular indoor sport that is similar to the French Jeu de Boules.
The aim is to propel large concave discs, the 'bollen', to end up as close as possible to the ‘stake’. This target is a round mark within a circle. The defenders have the first go.
Then, the attackers will aim to roll their bollen ever closer to the target avoiding their opponents’ bollen missiles. This is not as easy as it sounds as the track is curved. The winner is whomever manages to propel the highest number of bollen closest to the centre point. Other fun traditional games are on offer here.
There is ring fencing, 'sjoelen' (shove halfpenny), 'tonspel' or 'trou-madame'. The latter three are all, in fact, varieties of the wooden board game commonly known as bagatelle - but the board may vary in size.
Café OPCD is also a meeting centre for tourists in the Brugs Ommeland (Brugge-Tielt) region, so Alex is more than happy to help you find your way around the locale.
And, good news for cyclists too: this café is cycle-friendly, so if you have a ‘flat’, you will find everything you need to repair your tyre. Unless you would rather ‘repair to’ the bar…
Telephone: +32 (0) 476 90 70 75