Diving centre brasserie making waves on local culinary scene

It is always good to report on regeneration and the brasserie at a top Belgian diving centre is the epitome of that.

You may be unfamiliar with it but TODI is an indoor diving centre at BE-Mine in Beringen, a former coal mine in Limburg, the eastern most province of Belgium.

The whole site is being redeveloped as a tourist attraction, breathing new life into what used to be a very rundown area, creating jobs - and also providing an excellent eating out venue.

The TODI menu gives a clue to those who may not know about the locale:  there are numerous black and white photos throughout of men who used to work at the local mine, including one of two miners munching away during a break.

After a hard day’s labour below ground, one imagines the pitmen would have appreciated the food being served today at their former place of work.

Located on the ground floor of the diving centre, this is a terrific informal restaurant serving some traditional Belgo/French cuisine but with a modern/Eastern twist.

That should not come entirely as a surprise as the person responsible for it is Hafida Agandouz who clearly has a talent for creative cooking. She also has a direct connection to the mine as her late, Moroccan-born father used to work in the Beringen pit for many years.

The hard working Hafida is also something of a rarity in Belgium – a female head chef (not many of them about in what is still,here anyway, a male-dominated profession).

Backed by an equally tenacious team, Hafida, who comes from nearby Genk, has been in charge of the kitchen since August and has already stamped her personality on the food which has proved a real hit, both with locals and also the visitors to the diving centre and B-Mine.

The menu currently features a nicely balanced mix of traditional Belgian dishes, such as steak with a choice of sauces, “chef’s burger”, scampi as a starter or main and various pastas. There are also spare ribs, a chicken stew as well as cod and salmon.

As is perhaps fitting at what used to be a coal mine it’s hearty food, such as the burgers and stews, that are the customer faves.

But there’s also a touch of the oriental about the card with dishes such as chicken meatballs served with rice and Thai curry sauce and a wok dish with chicken and rice or noodles.

The brasserie, which serves food throughout the day around 11pm during the summer, also has a great choice of local beers and very tasty wines.

According to Hafida the idea is partly to showcase “soul food” that brings people together in the same way that the mine used to with its thousands of immigrant workers.

Looking to the coming summer, there are plans for BBQ evenings and also “cooking shows”, each designed to give a new dimension to dining at TODI. With the weather warming up, it also has a lovely terrace for dining al fresco.

For those looking for a special occasion, such as a birthday party, there is a separate room seating up to 80 and with a great panoramic view of the “slag heap” directly outside. This was made from waste from the mine but has now been very cleverly transformed into a kids’ play area and mountain bike track.

In charge of F & B here is Fleming Maarten Luyten who ran his own bar for years and, more recently, worked at St Gummaris, voted the best bar in Belgium.

The welcoming Maarten is a good compliment to Hafida and their other colleagues here and happily explains all the wonderful developments going on at B-Mine, including the opening soon of a brand new school.

Look out also for the large aquarium in the restaurant containing some of the exotic fish that can also be found in the diving pool.

The circular basin now housing both the diving centre and restaurant used to be the washing facility for the pit.

There are, as can be seen, several unique features to TODI  but probably the best of all is the very friendly welcome you receive and the quality – and affordability – of the excellent food. 

Clearly, years after it closed as a mine there is still a lot of talent at TODI!

Further info via www.todi.be

t: 011 36 40 40

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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