Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Eurostar, Standard Premier food

By now, many of Brussels' expat residents will have headed back home - some by car, some by plane, and some by the (usually) trusty Eurostar. Regulars on that service will know that the vagaries of the booking system mean that, once the cheapest Standard class fares have gone, sometimes it's no more expensive to travel in Standard Premier. For your failure of organisation (or willingness to pay more in the first place), you get extra legroom, a small selection of magazines, and a meal. I realise this isn't quite the same as assessing a paid-for restaurant experience, but this year's final In Brussels, Will Eat review will do its best.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Cook and Book (place du Temps Libre)

Woluwe-St-Lambert is a mostly genteel and fairly attractive suburb of Brussels, but the area around Roodebeek metro station is not exactly the jewel in its crown; on emerging amid driving rain, I was confronted with waste ground and strange, impersonal-looking modern buildings. One turned out to be the massive Woluwe shopping centre; the other Wolubilis (Latin pun alert!), the shiny new local arts venue. Only on a third glance did I realise that the semicircle of buildings behind it was occupied by Cook and Book, the object of my journey.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (rue des Deux Eglises)

The main reason we decided to go to Déjeuner sur l'Herbe was that it seemed to be a highly popular establishment. A scouting expedition at lunchtime had shown its somewhat Belle Epoque-style, all fresh gilding and mirrors (and random tropical fish tank) dining room to be full. There are plenty of reviews online praising its quality, good value and friendliness. So it was with some trepidation that in the evening we poked our heads in, hoping that there might be a free table for three somewhere in a corner, only to find an empty restaurant and a waitress who was more than happy to seat us by the window. I realise that the edge of the Eurobubble, the hinterland between the rue de la Loi and St-Josse, is not exactly Brussels' hottest ticket on a Friday night, but although our experience was broadly good, atmosphere was not one of its highlights.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Dam Sum (parvis de la Trinité)

As previously demonstrated, I like dumplings of all kinds. A lot. So it's not surprisingly that I take every opportunity to eat dim sum that I get. One day I'll go back to Antwerp's mini Chinatown and review this place, where I had an unexpectedly good dim sum-based meal back in the summer, but for now let's stay in Brussels, on the genteel outskirts of Châtelain.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

La Piola (rue du Page)

Unlike the subject of my previous Brussels review, La Piola is not easy to miss. It's just off the place du Châtelain, has a fairly distinctive frontage, and is an Italian restaurant located in an area full of Italian (and other) establishments. Nevertheless, we initially managed to ignore it and carry on up the street: an unfortunate mistake to make in a torrential rainstorm. We soon retraced our steps, but dinner wasn't quite good enough to make up for that extra soaking.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Sakagura (rue du Marais)

Have a look at the picture below: what do you see? Nothing? Try again. Still nothing? Don't worry: this is a photo of an establishment that I initially managed to walk past three times, convinced I'd got the wrong address. Tucked away in a nondescript street not far from the rue Neuve, surrounded by office blocks, Sakagura - a.k.a. possibly Brussels' most anonymous restaurant - is unlikely to be a candidate for much walk-in custom.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Restaurant de la Bourse (rue de Flandre)

Le Pré Salé, tucked away between De Brouckère and Sainte-Catherine, is apparently a bit of a Brussels institution - so much so that I've never been able to get a table there. All is not lost, though, as a few doors down (many of them leading into other restaurants that we suspected might deserve a visit of their own) we found Restaurant de la Bourse.

Monday, 13 July 2015

La Terrasse de l'Hippodrome (chaussée de la Hulpe)

I'm not, by any definition, a member of the 'gilded youth' of Brussels, but if you are, La Terrasse would be an excellent place to spend the evening quaffing from bottles supplied by its sponsor Moët, having your photo taken in the special posing area (tenue correcte exigée, warns the website), and lounging round its knee-deep pool. 
(only 2600 euros)

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Mamma Roma (place Jourdan and elsewhere)

There are various articles about 'Brussels' best pizza' and where to find it. I'm not interested in undertaking such a large-scale quest, despite a few preliminary inquiries (in the Schuman area, I advise you to try La Brace and not to bother with The Meeting Point). That said, I see no reason not to draw attention to good pizza when I find it.
(good picnic food, too)

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Kasbah (rue Antoine Dansaert)

This time, back to Brussels, and indeed to rue Dansaert, right in its traffic-heavy, slightly scruffy centre. It's a bit clichéd to say that the Kasbah restaurant, with its curtained-off entrance and dark and lantern-lit interior (not good for blog photography, alas), is a blessed retreat from the noise and disorder of the city.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

[Out of Brussels] Au Flan Breton, Tervuren

If you go down to the woods'll find Tervuren, a pleasant if faintly sleepy town about twenty minutes by tram outside Brussels. Its main attraction, Belgium's Africa Museum, is currently closed for restoration, but it still proved to be a nice spot for a woodland walk. Initially, however, there didn't seem to be many options for lunch (one café was advertising steak and chips, but it turned out that we would have to wait until the following day for this weekly - monthly? - treat) so we were relieved to find Au Flan Breton, a small café with a bakery next door.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Les Marmites du Monde (rue St Boniface)

Some areas of central Brussels are a bit low on decent restaurants, but the St Boniface district is not one of them. After a morning wandering round Etterbeek and Ixelles, the Firestarter (an occasional presence on my old blog), his fiancée (congratulations!) the Perfumer, and I were faced with far more choice than we needed. In the end curiosity won out, and we decided to try Les Marmites du Monde, which claims to serve cuisine from Belgium and Mauritius.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Au Bon Bol (rue Paul Devaux)

One afternoon a couple of Sundays ago I was in a street near Sainte-Catherine when my attention was caught: in the window of a small Asian restaurant, a woman was making noodles, twisting and twisting great lumps of dough until they became long, stretchy strands. Her action was mesmerising and we stood watching for a while, regretting that it wasn't yet dinner time. So when I returned to the area, with an appetite, Au Bon Bol seemed an obvious choice.
(photo from here)

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Café de la Maison du Peuple (parvis de Saint-Gilles)

The original maisons du peuple were built at the end of the nineteenth century as centres for the working classes of Brussels to meet, learn and relax, but most of them have since been demolished or at least repurposed (more history here). One of those still standing, on the parvis de Saint-Gilles, is now the all-day cafe and bar of the same name. Its busy schedule of concerts and other cultural events and the large numbers of people working (or, at least, Facebooking) on laptops that it hosts suggest it continues to serve as a multi-functional venue - in a 2010s sort of way. 
A glance round at decor and customers alike will reveal that the hipster quotient here is quite high, but that doesn't stop (should it?) the atmosphere being friendly and the service efficient, even on a lively and warm evening when staff had to deal with a busy interior and a packed terrace outside (to make their lives easier no doubt, you order at the bar). You won't get a three-course meal, but in addition to basic breakfasts and weekend brunches there's a reasonably wide selection of light meals, as well as several desserts (even though I didn't try it on this occasion, I do like a place that doesn't forget about pudding).
Two of us considered a croque monsieur but eschewed it for the slightly more unusual croque biquette (6E), where ham and cheese were replaced by goat's cheese and courgettes, and an optional drizzle of honey. This clearly echoed the flavours of the Moroccan pancakes found at the Gare du Midi market and elsewhere and was just as successful - the goat's cheese, perhaps a little bland on its own, was richly enlivened by the honey. I was also impressed by the bread, fresh, clearly of very high quality (rather than out of a plastic bag), and very hearty - the the sandwiches were filling enough to make dessert not only unnecessary but impossible.
Speaking of bread, I was impressed that a deliciously crusty but light baguette arrived at the other end of the table to accompany some courgette and goat's cheese quiche (6E) and a bowl of courgette soup (4E) - no stale remnants here. The quiche was very rich in flavour, and didn't stint on vegetables; its flakey pastry base also won praise. The soup, on the other hand, was nothing more exciting than liquidised courgettes, but at least it didn't claim to be anything else.
As I said, this isn't a place for elaborate meals or lengthy menus (the abundance of courgette dishes suggests a kitchen that prefers not to spread itself too thinly, although of course there's absolutely nothing wrong with making the most of seasonal produce), but what we ate was a lot more than carbs to soak up cocktails - it was fresh, tasty and carefully executed cuisine.

Café du Maison du Peuple
39 parvis de Saint-Gilles


Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Ergon (rue du Parnasse)

Greek finances are never really out of the news at the moment, but there's not a lot that your average Belgium-based food blogger can do about them, apart from drink a brand of (very good) beer from Santorini sold to reduce the Greek national debt. The relationship of Ergon, a small chain of restaurant-delicatessens, to its parent country's economic situation is less clear, but if one of the aims of its newish Brussels branch is to bolster Greece's reputation in a city that has recently hosted some tense negotiations, in most respects it's not doing too badly.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Café des épices (place Jourdan)

Apologies for the slight lack of service - I went viral (and not in a social media sense), and that aside I had a series of unexciting meals that wouldn't make especially interesting blogging. Still, let's now get back on track with the Café des épices in the place Jourdan, a generally lively spot that marks the end of the Eurobubble wilderness zone and the beginning of Etterbeek.

I have to admit that I was a little confused by the concept: the name surely suggests middle eastern cuisine, and the menu outside duly included several tagines as well as some more European-style classics. The rather smart interior, though, has nothing of the souk about it, but mixes hints of 'classic bistro' with a bit of post-industrial chic. The full menu, moreover, turned out to be enormous. Pasta, fish, Belgian classics, omelettes, salads, would be a good place for a large group with diverse tastes.
There are only so many endives a person can eat, so we stuck to the more international sections of that lengthy menu. That said, my omelette (10E) had that distinctive contrast between a gently crispy outside and an almost creamy interior that French omelettes tend to have - this is a good thing, in case that's not clear, although the dish was let down by a filling of thin, poor-quality ham. The chips were pretty good, not at all greasy or flabby, although I'm sure the presence of Maison Antoine a few metres away focuses the chef's mind. A burger (a bit more expensive at around 18E, I think), meanwhile, was impressively hefty - the picture doesn't do justice to just how much meat was between those two slices of cheese, but it was high-quality, well-seasoned, cooked perfectly medium rare stuff. Looking at that picture, though, I'm reminded that the spongey bun was a bit disappointing by comparison.
Desserts were similar - accomplished but not amazing. I'm making it my mission to try every Dame Blanche I can (let it not be said that I'm all about complicated flavour combinations). The version here (7E) was fine, and certainly didn't skimp on the whipped cream, but the chocolate sauce, in a slightly less than ideal quantity, arrived ready poured on the ice cream, which for me sort of misses the point of this dessert. Oh well. The Photographer's pannacotta (6E), despite coming in a ramekin rather than standing proudly on a plate, was enjoyed without any such reservations, and the fruit coulis accompanying it was clearly homemade.
So, this establishment won't be getting a Michelin star in the near future, but within this price range I think the Café des épices does its brand of French and French-ish cuisine pretty well. I don't think you'd be wowed, but I doubt you'd be disappointed.

Café des épices*
place Jourdan 21
1040 Brussels


*n.b. the website is currently not working

Monday, 16 March 2015

Le Belgo-Thai (rue Haute)

Living in Brussels doesn't, of course, mean that chips, mussels and other less stereotypical but still Belgian items constitute my diet - meals still include a fair amount of scrambled egg, stir fry and questionable canteen food, just like in Oxford. I'd be lying, however, if I said that I didn't get the occasional craving for something different entirely, and so a visit from the Photographer (never adverse to the odd chilli flake), and a trip to Brussels' flea market in the Marolles (highly recommended for encounters with men with splendid moustaches or metre-long saws held casually at the hip) led to Belgo-Thai in the nearby rue Haute. I was intrigued to see what form this east-meets-west fusion would take.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Le Dillens (place Julien Dillens) & Pastelaria Garcia (avenue de la Couronne)

When I started this blog I thought I'd carry on the way I left off in Oxford, with (almost) every review a neat account of a whole meal, preferably one at which everyone chose differently. But a lot has changed in my life why not this as well? I'll still post about 'proper' dinners and lunches, but I'm going to be a bit more flexible.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Maison Antoine & Gare du Midi market (street food special)

One of the things that distinguishes Brussels is the ready availability of foodstuffs for immediate consumption, and the fact that people aren't afraid to eat them in the street (there's a good take on this here). I like this attribute of the city very much. So it seems time to take a look at a couple of outlets where metal cutlery and china crockery are replaced by plastic forks, fingers, and copious amounts of paper napkins.
(the market at the Gare du Midi in a rare break between showers)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Pizzeria Istanbul (rue Malibran)

I never said this blog was going to be about Belgian cuisine only, or even about Brussels' most celebrated establishments. Sometimes you have to take good food where you can find it, especially when part of a large group exploring the nightlife (well, Café Belga) round the place Flagey on a rainy evening, and not having much luck finding dinner. Luckily, one timely recollection and a short walk down a side street later, we were sitting in the utilitarian surroundings of the Pizzeria Istanbul.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Les Brassins (rue Keyenveld)

It turns out that moving across the Channel hasn't stopped me blogging about restaurants. If you've followed me from my Oxford blog, thank you for your loyalty, and if you're new (and Belgium-based), bonjour/goedendag! I'm looking forward to discovering what Brussels' varied restaurant scene has to offer, but it seems appropriate to start this new venture with a review of a meal that was as about as Belgian as possible.
(not actually from Les Brassins, but it seemed as well to start the evening as we meant to go on)