Brussels – a dining out bucket list
UPDATED 4TH JULY 2016: I am dubbing Brussels the city of extremes, where one night over Christmas week I find myself queuing in freezing temperatures at Frit Flagey – a friture, commonly known to some of us as a chippie. Belgians swear they invented the fries not the French – double fried in beef fat, and served piping hot in a paper cone with dollops of mayo. And another day, I am lunching on a tram over a four-course, wine-paired feast – the Brussels Tram Experience. In between, there’s plenty of fine, fun restaurants, quirky cafes and wine bars, plus gourmet shopping, fromageries and chocolatiers. So I asked my sister, a long-time resident who dines out every other night practically (even with new baby in tow) to pen her Brussels restaurant bucket list. So voila…here it is, interspersed with the odd FooDiva pick.
FINE, FUN RESTAURANTS
- Viva M’Boma – a typically Belgian restaurant in an old butcher specialising in offal. I love the variety of meat and the very central location.
- La Villa In The Sky – this two-Michelin star restaurant is perched on the rooftop extension of one of Brussels’s tallest buildings. Stunning views of the city, beautiful restaurant extension and exquisite food (set menus) including reinventions of Belgian classics.
- Comptoir Des Galeries – I am always searching for decent places in the touristic centre of Brussels and mostly fail – but this spot is a gem. I love the Nordic interior and the food, once again a spin on traditional Belgian dishes. The wine and tapas bar is also great.
- Le Pigeon Noir – a rustic, chalet-style restaurant with good, hearty fare that won its first Michelin star last year. I am hoping that it does not go all minimalist on me.
- Brasserie Restaurant La Paix 1892 – a brasserie in a run-down Brussels suburb. Known for its excellent meat and classical presentation. Oh, did I mention it too has a Michelin star?
- L’Idiot Du Village – quirky, dimly lit restaurant in the Marolles district. Changing menu with food served on what could be your grandmother’s crockery. Delish.
- La Canne En Ville – great quality produce. I have never had a better chateaubriand and gratin dauphinoise. A converted butchery and quaint, family-run restaurant. Excellent service.
- Beaucoup Fish – a seafood-only restaurant with a Scandinavian, minimalistic design. Fish is always fresh and you can choose from the counter.
- Ergon and Strofilia – I know I am slightly biased but these two are great Greek restaurants in a non-kitsch environment.
- Senzanome – a one Michelin star family-run Italian restaurant that has been operational since 1991, but recently moved to a more central location on Place du Petit Sablon. Two tasting menus with a choice of either four or six courses are not set, giving the chef free reign to change the dishes. The cooking style is a slight twist on Italian classics with a focus on top notch ingredients. Service borders on formal and can be a little abrupt.
- San – Belgian-Korean chef Sang Hoon Degeimbre’s restaurant (of Michelin L’Air du Temps fame). All dishes are served in bowls (three, four or five courses) with the menu changing monthly. With very little meat, knives are not required making it easy to eat. Exquisite fare with a play of textures. Personal, knowledgeable service.
- Jack O’Shea Chophouse – renowned Irish butcher Jack O’Shea’s restaurant in central Brussels (a couple of doors down from his butcher). Needless to say carnivores are well taken care of with a compact a la carte menu. The beef on the bone a deux, and the steak tartare are excellent. Start with a Bloody Mary garnished with maple syrup-marinated bacon – delicious.
EATERIES FOR BREAKFAST, LUNCH AND CAKE
- Peck 47 – great place for a late breakfast or lunch – poached eggs cooked on point. Simplicity at its best. Peck 20 is its newly opened sister.
- La Marie Joseph – a chain of restaurants where you go for your fix of moules et frites and filet Americain (the Belgian version of France’s steak tartare).
- Burger Republic – I love a good burger and spend most Saturdays trying out new burger joints. I have to say this spot boasts the best patties – cooked to perfection and simple. I adore their brioche buns and the casual, vintage feel of the cantine.
- Henri Et Agnes – organic lunch spot usually serving a Thai curry-style soup and a variety of salads with goat cheese. Beautifully simplistic and a welcome addition to the EU district where everything tends to be posh!
- La Mercerie – go here for Brussels’ best Eton Mess and oddly enough Bloody Mary. A super girly teashop for breakfast, lunch and tea/ coffee…or a cocktail 😉
- Forcado – Portuguese patisserie serving different flavoured pasteis de nata, the traditional Portuguese custard cream cakes.
- Gaudron – a cafe with tables spilling onto the pavement overlooking one of Brussels’ finest squares (Place Georges Brugmann). Great choice for breakfast, including a wonderfully fluffy omelette served in the saucepan.
- Pepete & Ronron – I love the central location of this Spanish-inspired wine bar. Good selection of wines and tapas in a buzzing setting.
- Winery – rustic wine bar with excellent selection of cheese and charcuterie.
- Vini Divini – situated in a boutique hotel which used to be frequented by ladies of the night, but has had a revamp (clearly). Boudoir-like setting. Come here after work for a drink, an Italian-style aperitivo or even better stay for dinner.
- Champagnotheque – a shop dedicated to champagne tasting with many of the more unusual and biodynamic tipples.
- Rob, The Gourmet’s Market – as the name suggests, a gourmet grocer – similar to Lafayette Gourmet.
- Fromageries – Julien Hazard who is also a cheese affineur; La Crémerie des Tongres; and Caseus – no website (Rue Vanderkindere. T; +32 2 3455530).
- Chocolatiers – Pierre Marcolini; Frederic Blondeel; Wittamer; Passion Chocolat; Laurent Gerbaud; and Van Dender.
- Here’s a thorough feature on typical Belgian dishes in Huffington Post.
And if you can’t pop on a flight, here’s where to tuck into your Belgian food fix in the UAE:
Any more Brussels restaurants to add to this round-up? What’s your favourite Belgian dish or food?
Before I sign off, here’s a Belgian food blog I follow – Food & Wine Gazette (as an aside Ivan publishes a well-informed weekly round-up of global food and wine reads). Oh and I’ll leave you with some scenic i-phone snaps to prove I wasn’t just eating 😉