(not actually from Les Brassins, but it seemed as well to start the evening as we meant to go on)
When you arrive in a major European capital that's home to over 2500 eating establishments (according to T**padvisor), it's obviously good to seek out local knowledge, so I was very happy to make use of the expertise of my friend M (and her colleague), who suggested Les Brassins for my first dinner out in Brussels. I'm still getting my bearings, but I can tell you that it's a short walk from the place Saint-Boniface down a couple of very quiet streets where a lot of building renovations are currently happening (including the basement-to-roof gutting of a huge building which, as far as we could see through the gaps in its walls, would fascinate anyone with a taste for urban exploration and a disregard for danger). Fortunately, Les Brassins offers rather more cosy surroundings, with closely-packed tables, vintage adverts all over the walls, and notably friendly staff (I don't want to make any generalised pronouncements about service in Brussels until I have more experience of it, but the two waitresses ably dealt with a crowded room and kindly humoured our occasional moments of indecision).
Given that Les Brassins was recommended for its typical Belgian-ness, I wasn't surprised to see a menu populated with dishes that I'm sure will become very familiar over the next few months: stoemp (mashed potato with other vegetables mixed in), carbonnade flamande (a beery beef stew), rabbit in cherry beer and other hearty delights. M went for something a little different, magret de canard in pepper sauce (19.50E). This was a heftier piece of duck than usual and M felt it could have been cooked pinker, while a salad garnish didn't seem an especially appropriate garnish for the time of year, but this was an entirely serviceable dish. To accompany it M chose the stoemp of the day - we suspected that this incorporated celeriac and possibly other unidentifiable root vegetables. This went well with my carbonnade (15E), a rich dish which didn't stint on chunks of melting beef: it didn't taste of beer in itself but had a distinctive and not unpleasing sweetness. The slightly flabby chips I had with it were improved by prolonged dunking in that sauce.
Once again, I haven't eaten out here enough to make sweeping assertions, but I think I can safely say that this was standard, not remarkable but very tasty (especially on a chilly winter's evening) Belgian fare. As M put it, dinner at Les Brassins was like going to a pub in the UK, and not a gastro pub, but there are times when good, filling pub food is exactly what you want. This impression continued when the desserts arrived. My Dame Blanche (6.50E) was, to use one of my favourite reviewing terms, crowd-pleasing: it's hard not to like vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce. If the ice cream was not quite as smooth and rich as some I've had, and the sauce a bit sugary, M's chocolate mousse (also 6.50E) struck a fine balance between denseness and sweetness. I then spent some time trying to detect the speculoos and nougat promised by the tasting notes of the 'Brussels' herbal tea I ordered.
So, not a bad start to my Brussels dining adventures. Many thanks to M for a great evening, and I look forward to more discoveries. One more thing: on starting this new blog I've resolved to interact with my readers a bit more, so if you have any suggestions then do let me know...
Rue Keyenveld 36