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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

Eats 'n' Treats: My Brussels Guide



The beauty of Brussels is in its rough around the edge’s vibe. The home of bureaucracy and beer, it is a melting pot of hipsters, nonnatives, Eurocrats, and locals making up a city where 1 in 3 people aren’t Belgian. There are 180 different nationalities living in Brussels alone, which means it’s an incredibly interesting place to live, and indeed visit. The laneways echo with French, Dutch, English, Arabic, German, Italian, Spanish, Romanian… in fact you can expect to hear just about any world language walking down the street. This lends its hand to the multitude of cuisines found across the city, from Belgian beer-laced carbonade, Ethiopian injera and Korean jjigae to Lebanese falafel, Spanish tapas and Italian pizzerias.


Central Brussels:


Fin de Siecle: A fantastically eclectic brasserie right in the centre on Rue de Charteux, and the manager looks like Obelix, so that's always fun. The specials menu is scribbled on the blackboard above the bar serving up some really authentic, rustic Belgian food from the Flemish favourite ‘carbonade’ – a beer-based beef and onion stew – to pork sausage and mashed potato. They do fish skewers and gnocchi for those who don’t eat meat but the selection isn’t huge. You can always have frites. It's right in the centre near St Gery. You can’t book but if you go early you can avoid the queue.


Belga Queen: If you’re looking for a really tasty fancy meal (for painful prices by Brussels standards) then Belga Queen is a must. Set in an old bank, you are surrounded by stunning stained-glass windows and the tables are placed amongst white marble columns in a row, which adds to the drama. The service is not the fastest (although this is pretty standard in Brussels) so you may find yourself waiting for a table - but you can wait at the slick oyster bar and have a cocktail. The food is incredible but quite expensive. The toilets are interesting! They appear to be completely see-through which can be a bit disconcerting but it’s mirrored glass, thankfully.


Arcadi: At the entrance to Gallerie Saint Hubert, there is a little bistro called Arcadi, where you can eat from a lunch menu with salads, quiches or cakes…not particularly fancy but nice for a quick bite to eat (I say quick but service in Brussels is rarely so).


Balls of Glory: Amazing meatballs (traditional Belgian cuisine) and for the veggies, yummy arancini balls served with sides of your choice and sauces. Seriously delicious food and right by Grand Place.


Kokob: A wonderful Ethiopian restaurant where you are served taster dishes on a huge platter. You are encouraged to eat with your hands with Ethiopian flatbread (Injera). If this doesn’t tickle your fancy, they have a fabulous choice of different authentic dishes that you can eat with cutlery. This is near Grand Place. There is another nice Ethiopian Restaurant called Toukoul on Rue Laeken.


Peck 47: A fabulous place to have eat yummy salads, sandwiches, incredible smoothies and coffee right in the centre. The pesto mushroom melt is unreal.


Bia Mara: Seriously good fish and chips in the heart of Brussels. Irish owned but I'm definitely not biased, they are fantastic.


Nona Pizza: Delicious thin crust, wood fired pizzas right near St Catherine.


Les Filles: I booked this for a work dinner and it was amazing. They have large sharing tables giving it the real feel of a farm kitchen. The menu changes every day and is set around organic, local, seasonal produce. It's a set menu consisting of a starter, main and dessert. There is also a buffet of salads and other vegetables that you can help yourself to. It's about mid-range in terms of price. http://www.lesfilles.be/francais


There are some decent restaurants opposite la Bourse (Stock exchange) and some yummy Asian restaurants in Saint Gery, close to Grand Place.


There are also some cute restaurants and little boutiques on Rue Marche au Charbon. Take a wander through the nearby streets.



Mussels from Brussels?

Moules Frites is obviously quite a well-known Brusselois speciality (even though it is not by the seaside). I find a lot of places a bit underwhelming. Chez Leon is famous for their take on the dish but I find it quite overpriced and contrary to what people may argue, it most definitely is full of tourists. But it does have a good buzz about it. Here are two blogsites that give details on moules frites: http://tastesofbrussels.com/5-best-moules-frites-brussels/ and http://onfoodandwine.com/2018/01/28/12-best-restaurants-moules-frites-brussels/. You can also check out other restaurants around Rue des Boucheres. You can get here by walking through Gallerie Saint Hubert or taking one of the little side streets off Grand Place.



Marolles:


Restobières:

As the name implies, this quirky little restaurant is all about the beer. Everything on the food menu is made using beer. They brew their own beer and the staff are very well versed on… well, beer. If you’re tall, you will have to dodge the pots and pans dangling above your head as soon as you enter the tavern. The walls boast an eclectic collection of tin cans, knick-knacks, commemorative plates, and a brick-a-brack, lowly lit layout with a mishmash of tables. It’s great fun. https://www.restobieres.eu/en/.






Al Jannah: A lovely Lebanese restaurant in the Marolles area of Brussels, near Jeu de Balle market walking towards Eglise Notre Dame de Chapel. A great place to pop into after a day out in the market haggling with vendors over old storage heaters or leather suitcases. https://aljannah.be/en.


Place Fernand Cocq

Fernand Coq is a small square just up the road from Port de Namur/Matongé. It also has lots of great bars and restaurants, especially nice on a Saturday evening for a drink if it’s sunny. It’s a little bit outside the centre.


Il Nobil – Unbelievable pizza place, Italian owned with a wood burning oven. Chaotic, fun and tasty. Definitely worth a trip if you are a pizza lover.


Place Jourdan


This square is situated on the other side of the European Parliament next to Parc Leopold. There are lots of fantastic bars and restaurants here from Greek nibbles and wine bars to Sardinian fish restaurants and pizzerias. I would recommend anywhere on the square. Place Jourdan is mostly famous for its frites.


Antoine’s: Famous for its double fried ‘frites’. This little hut on Place Jourdan is where the double fried chip was invented. The story is the King of Belgium was coming to “Antoine’s” to taste their chips but he was late and they went cold. Panicked, the chefs threw them back in the fryer et voila! What is special (or as I see it dégueulasse) about Belgian frites is that they are cooked in beef dripping.



Matongé:


Au Soleil D’Afrique: This is a usual go-to off a little side street in Matongé, with cheap drinks and Congolese chicken dishes from mafe (chicken with peanut sauce) and yassa (chicken with lemon and onion sauce) to chicken wings. The fried plantain is good but it isn't a great place to go as a veggie or vegan. The interior is bright with hand painted motifs and they have a plastic awning for the winter months outside on the terrasse. Don’t expect haut cuisine but do expect a fun atmosphere and decently priced drinks.


Boniface:

I love this little square overlooking the stunning St Boniface Church. There are so many good restaurants and bars and they are always packed.


Hana: It's hard to find a decent Korean restaurant in Brussels so I'm putting this down as a recommendation. Having lived in Korea, I miss Korean food a lot, especially Kimbap. The menu is limited but they have my favourite dish, kimchi jigae, and it is delicious. They also have kimbap! It's quite pricey though as it is treated more as a main meal than an appetizer. It's expensive but the food is very good. Family-run and staff are really friendly.


Chatelain/Bascule:


There are some incredible high-end, Michelin-guide restaurants in Ixelles, near Chatelain/Bascule/Uccle: La Quincaillerie, Le Toucan sur Mer (they even have a valet service), Le Canne en Ville (Michelin-starred) and Philema (Greek).


Knees to Chin: I think this was probably my favourite place to pick up food after work. Rice paper rolls filled with all kinds of delicious food like caramelised tofu to spicy salmon and lemongrass. Yummy side dishes like dimsum and rice with spring onions and their in-house peanut sauce: https://www.kneestochin.com/


Lilicup: A trip to the delicious Lilicup is a must if you are taking a wander down to Chatelain. This cute little cupcake café is a Willy Wonka dream selling an assortment of homemade cupcakes from carrot cake and red velvet to caramel and chocolate fudge.


Garage à manger: This is set inside a great second-hand book shop called Pele Mele, albeit very hipster, the food is included in the Slow Food guide. https://www.garage-a-manger.be/

Chez Wawa: Yummy Mexican restaurant serving huge hunking burritos with dollops of guacamole. They also give you water from a dispenser, a novelty in Brussels!


Having grown up in the Middle East, I love my hummous and falafel. I was lucky enough to live within walking distance of two great Lebanese restaurants:


O'Liban: This place is Lebanese-owned and family run. Hectic, slow-paced and delicious. The salads are incredible and there is plenty to choose from. You will leave very full. https://www.o-liban.com/


Voyage au Coeur de Mon Liban: Another lovely family-run restaurant. Great little stop for a falafel wrap and chips on the go at the top of Rue du Bailli.


For more ideas see: http://resto.be/



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