An out-of-the-ordinary experience!
5 mins OF INDULGENCE
During my stay in the Ardennes, I took a ride in Laetitia's and Joffrey's fondue wagon where you can enjoy a meal of cheese or meat while admiring the countryside as well as the horses! You've guessed it, I'm taking you for a ride in Belgium's very first horse-drawn restaurant.
So what's a fondue wagon?
Three cart horses, a cart, a table and chairs, and a fondue set. What could be simpler, yet this is a first! Laetitia and Joffrey came up with the idea and we're to meet them outside Porcheresse church. Waiting at the bus stop, it isn't the noise of an engine we hear approaching, but the clip-clopping of hooves on the tarmac! A bubbly Laetitia greets us and introduces us to the team: Aragon, Ivan and Winnie are our equine guides for this gourmet trip. These Ardennes draft horses used to work in the forest. Now, to our delight, they play a star role in offering us this unique experience.
So we climb aboard and Laetitia shows us to our seats and introduces us to the other guests. Yes, unless you come in a large group, you have to share the wagon with strangers but we're willing to bet that by the end of the meal they'll be your friends! Our luck's in, today it's not too hot and not too cold. The sky's a bit grey, but at least it's not raining! Anyway, Laetitia tells us that this experience is possible whatever the season. In winter, blankets are provided to keep you warm. Our hosts sit up front and the convoy is ready to leave. Laetitia begins with a brief description of what's in store on this gourmet excursion, and tells us how to proceed with our meal preparation. Because here, we each have to make our own! This communal aspect can only add to the fun.
So what's for lunch?
Fondue of course... But that's not all! At midday sharp, it's time for an aperitif. We're served an appetiser concocted just this morning by Laetitia, accompanied by an Ardennes-style kir, a blend of Moselle wine and peach and apricot syrup. It's delicious, if a little difficult to pour into the glass! Thanks to the potholes in the road that the Belgians are so familiar with, pouring the drinks is a delicate task! A few spilt drops have us all laughing and help break the ice with the other guests. Then it's the moment we've all been waiting for, the fondue! With Ardenne Trait Gourmand, there's something for every taste. We can choose between fondue bourguignonne (with beef) or fondue savoyarde (melted cheese). We opt for the beef version, but the fondue savoyarde chosen by the couple next to us looks just as delicious.
Listening to Laetitia's words and seeing how she treats the horses, we become aware of the importance this young woman attaches to the wellbeing of her animals
We light the mini gas stoves and wait for the oil to heat up. As soon as it starts to sizzle, we plunge our cubes of beef into the pan. This meat is as tender as butter. Clearly, Laetitia selects her ingredients carefully. As far as possible, she tries to work with local producers and places the emphasis on homemade products! Even the sauces we're dipping our meat and potatoes into are made by artisans. Never have ketchup, Andalusian sauce or mayonnaise tasted this good. Between mouthfuls, we get to know the other people sitting round the table.
The couple sitting on my left are bloggers from Liège who have come to test this experience and, on my right, a retired family from Tournai are visiting the Ardennes for the weekend. I'm from Tournai myself, so we have plenty to say to one another about our home town. Six people from Tournai meeting in a horse-drawn carriage in the middle of the Ardennes... it's a small world in Belgium!
an original and 100% eco-friendly concept
A few moments later, our convoy stops. It's time for our valiant horses to enjoy their meal too! I use the time to stretch my legs and have a chat with Laetitia as she watches over Aragon, Ivan and Winnie during their lunch break. Our host explains that this wonderful project emerged from a desire for a career change. The horses were originally used to skid logs in the forest, but that activity was in decline and Laetitia was determined to continue working with her animals. Inspired by a concept born in Switzerland, her fondue wagon carried its first passengers in 2014.
Listening to Laetitia's words and seeing how she treats the horses, we become aware of the importance this young woman attaches to the wellbeing of her animals. She ensures they take it in turns to work and they're always allowed breaks to rest and recharge their batteries. I get back in the cart, even more convinced by this original and 100% eco-friendly concept.
Time for dessert!
Unfortunately, it's already time to turn back. We enjoy these last magical moments over dessert and coffee. Sugar and raspberry tart is easier to eat than fondue, so I make the most of it to (finally) enjoy the view. As cars overtake us, their drivers slow down to look at us with curiosity. Right now, I don't feel at all like getting back in my car. It's a pleasant feeling, being carried along to the sound of hooves.
Try this experience
Le chariot à fondue - Ardenne Trait Gourmande
95 rue de Graide, 6929 Porcheresse, Belgium
+32 495 21 53 78
Prices and bookings
The fondue wagon on the Belgian Luxembourg website
Location and offers of restaurants/accommodation «brand Ardenne» nearby
I'm taking you for a ride in Belgium's very first horse-drawn restaurant