tr avel style
Opposite page: grilled scorpion fish with cucumber at Steven Ramon’s restaurant Rouge Barre; the Lille chamber of commerce with its impressive 76-metre high belfry tower. This page (clockwise from top left): interior of Chez Meert tearoom; the bar at the Jardin de la Ferme du Mont des Recollects; the author assembling tarte au citron during a cookery lesson at the L’Atelier des Chefs; rows of delicacies at Chez Meert
humble chap whose personality is endearing. The variety is staggering and the ‘rooms’ are knitted together by hallways of cobbles. Incredibly, Manu maintains the garden with just one helper. Inside the house itself is a quaint bar. As you enter, the perfumed wood is the first thing that hits you and there are pumpkins piled high on the table. Vivaldi plays in the background and traditional wooden games fill a second table. The ceiling is festooned with dried hops. A cozy lean-to conservatory is the ideal place to breathe it all in. Had I been here two weeks ago I’d have been rubbing shoulders with French screen legend, Catherine Deneuve. Instead I’m content with a glass of La Choulette bière with Tarte aux Spéculoos and rose ice cream melting in my mouth, peering out over Manu’s stepped garden to French Flanders beyond. Further into Cassel, up a narrow cobbled street flanked by neat terraced houses, suddenly appears the Châtellerie du Schoebeque, a four-star hotel, famed for such previous guests as George V and First World War veteran, Maréchal Foch. The other twist to the Schoebeque is the themed rooms, tastefully theatrical and ranging in style from oriental and boudoir to Moroccan and maritime. Mine has an African theme — there literally is an elephant in the room (albeit a wooden one).
In the town Quillacq also has his own estaminet, a traditional Flemish inn. Het Kasteel Hof clings to the edge of the road and has a strong Celtic feel. Families sit enjoying beer and playing traditional games as the proprietors peel apples on a table in the corner. In the peak months, Quillacq animatedly regales visitors with fables of giants as his guests tuck into traditional Flemish cuisine such as Rillettes à la bière — a beer pâté — and Coeur Cassellois: apple and onion bacon tart. You can wash it all down with a framboise beer and eat a chicorée crème brûlée. All the produce is grown back at the Jardin de la Ferme.
Photography by Neil Linnert
“Two weeks ago I would have been rubbing shoulders with Catherine Deneuve, but I’m content with a glass of La Choulette bière” Citroens and cuisine
Half an hour away from Cassel is Lille, 2004 capital of culture. Despite this accolade I half expect to see Lowry-style characters lachrymosely dragging their way through an industrial gloom. This feeling quickly dissipates. You can navigate easily to a Novotel on the edge of the city and stride into the Place du Général de Gaulle in around 10 minutes. There’s a driverless metro and the main train station has services that run to Paris in 60 minutes. The best way to see Lille is by a tour in the iconic Citroen 2CV. Rattling through Lille’s narrow cobbled streets, past the theatres, november 2014 | suss exstyle .c o m | 8 3