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, risottos...it 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
*n.b. the website is currently not working