Tag Archives: Belgium

Brussels- where to eat….

6 Feb
Shane in a Joyce pod at the Parlamentarium (Visitor center showcasing all the great and good of the EU = A euro-sceptics idea of hell.)

Shane in a Joyce pod at the Parlamentarium (Visitor center showcasing all the great and good of the EU = A euro-sceptics idea of hell.)

In November, I found myself traveling back to Brussels to visit my friend Shane, more commonly known as my accomplice in dining. The trip was arranged only a few days in advance- so Shane unfortunately had to work for most of it. The cheek. This left me to explore Brussels by myself. That’s a nice way of saying I got lost a bit. On the plus I found some nice spots that I think are worth mentioning. You can read my previous Brussels food guide here. And for those of you hoping to visit Bruges, there you go.

Frites. Let’s get this one out there from the off. Here’s a little known fact. Brussels is powered significantly by the leftover oil from the frites making process. That’s a lie, it’s not. Nearly every corner you turn, there are frites stands. Shane, the brave soul that he is, is endeavouring to try out as many as he can. I mentioned a good few in my last post but as the weather was a little cooler, one was less inclined to eat outside. I did try one that was really good. Fritland. Judging by the reviews on that website, other people would agree.

Noordzee on a fresh Sunday afternoon

Noordzee on a fresh Sunday afternoon

We ventured back to Noordzee, which despite the cooler temperature was as busy as we had seen it mid summer. Be mindful of the opening hours, it certainly wasn’t open every time I walked by. Again the food was very tasty and it was still lovely to stand out in the adjoining square with some seafood. Tapas style portions- worth a visit. We also returned to Barbeton– this time for a coffee- lovely cosy spot. These two establishments are quite close to each other.

The first evening, after the frites and the food at Noordzee, we decided ( in our infinite wisdom) to stop and have some tapas before dinner. Infinitely wise.

photo 4-2

We ventured into Como Como. Now one of two things happened to this restaurant. Either it was formerly a sushi joint and they decided to keep the conveyor. Or some bright spark thought it was a novel way to serve tapas. Either way I won’t argue as Shane, his better half and I all enjoyed ourselves. Initially there was quite a limp selection whizzing by, but soon there was a great variety of meat, fish and vegetable tapas all whirling by. They were cranked out at quite a rate- no match for us though! The staff were very friendly too, and made for a very pleasant pre dinner amuse bouche.

Dinner was had in the excellent Les Brassins. I had the Carbonnades flamandes. A stew, slow cooked, with a wonderful sweetness owing to the Belgian beer it was cooked in. What wasn’t excellent? The staff. But thankfully they ignored us once we ignored them. It’s a relaxed enough place so staff/diner interaction isn’t massive.

A wonderful burger was had by all in Les Super Filles du Tram. Cool restaurant, staff were energetic and the burgers were very tasty.

Now all this wandering and eating requires little pick-me-ups from time to time. Exki are your friend in this regard. A nice chain of cafes. They do good food, nice cakes and good coffee. Throw in free wifi and you are onto a winner. Pleasant spots located all over  the city to while away a few minutes or hours.

Another spot for the coffee lovers amongst you is Corica. In brief, long counter, lots of coffees. Apparently 27 different Arabica blends according to their website. They also have Kopi Luwak. I didn’t try it. (Actually if anyone has- please comment below and tell me what it was like?)

 

I have a feeling I will be going back to Brussels again (Take note Shane).

 

Have you any tips or favourite places you like to eat? Where must I try? Any suggestions welcome below.

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A day of wandering in Bruges

25 Nov

Bruges. Canals.

I recently travelled to see my accomplice in dining in Brussels, and while he was in work one day I decided that I would take the train to Bruges.

As I whizzed through the (not so) scenic Belgian countryside on the train, quotes from “In Bruges” whirling around my not so PC brain, I looked forward to visiting a spot that has been on my radar since I saw the film. Bruges looked like the kind of place I would like. Getting from the train station to the center of the city is painless. €1.20 for a single journey and there are a number of routes that will get you to the town center. Easy. The bus I was on, dropped me right in the main square.

I then went wandering, I wanted to avoid the touristy restaurants on the main square that seem to charge the same exorbitant prices for what I would imagine is pretty ordinary fare. I happened to wander down a side street and I stumbled upon an absolutely wonderful coffee shop Li O Lait. Free wifi, delicious cappuccino and a little plate of (free) biscuits to accompany it- All in the surrounds of a very cosy coffee shop.

I then toddled around some more, saw the canals, climbed the tower that forms the basis for this little diplomatic incident in the film. He was right. It is narrow. Very narrow.

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Traditional Flemish toilet

Unfortunately I seemed to be a week or two early for the Christmas market in Bruges (and in Brussels), they were only setting it up. I am assured the town gets even prettier closer to Christmas, when it gets the snow globe treatment.

I stopped into Patisserie Prestige for a mid afternoon jolt of caffeine. It was like eating in your granny’s front room (with your granny’s friends). I think in all honesty they were all a little bemused why this bearded youngfella wanted to eat a raspberry tart amongst them all.

All of it please.

Bruges is filled with an assortment of very nice cooking shops, good food shops, many chocolatiers and beer shops- so it is very possible for someone so inclined to while away a few hours perusing the shops and indeed to lighten your wallet.

I would love to go back again, it would have been ideal to spend a night there, but my timetable did not permit such. Before I knew it, after a very relaxing day, I was back on the train whizzing towards Brussels.

Brussels food guide: Beers, Frites and all things nice

3 Jul

I recently travelled to visit a friend in Brussels for a long-weekend. I was very excited as I had heard much about the food, frites, beers and of course the chocolate!  I was in unsafe hands- as Shane had been living there for 4 months at that stage- so knew all of the haunts I should visit.

Stoemp

Eating out: We spent the weekend grazing around the city, and thus only ate out a few times- two places are worthy of a mention- one is 9 et Voisins. The restaurant was very full upon entering and we were seated at demi-communal bench seating.  Service was very friendly and enthusiastic. We both opted for Stoemp, a traditional dish of sausages served with mashed potatoes- infused with a purée of some sort (I opted for spinach). It was delicious. The sausages were chargrilled and the mash was wonderful. Simple food, but delicious!

Busy counter at Noordzee Mer du Nord

The second place that we both enjoyed was Noordzee Mer du Nord. We ate here on a sunny Sunday afternoon. It serves tapas- style plates of fish. We had one plate of small pieces of fried fish and a plate of brown shrimp croquettes. Topped off with two glasses of white wine- the total bill came to about €16. The ‘restaurant’ is a long metal bar which you can stand at, or they have a few tall tables on the neighbouring square. The service is certainly robust, but good fun. If you don’t collect your order promptly- expect your name to be screamed over a megaphone. Really. Definitely worth a visit if the weather is good.

My favourite frites from the weekend

Monument to the frites

Frites: When I asked you nice people for tips for Brussels- my friend John got quite enthusiastic about the frites. I didn’t realise what a feature of Belgian life they are. There are even statues of them currently dotted around the city to mark the fact they are celebrating a special year of gastronomy in 2012. Shane is currently busy with the onerous task of compiling a list of the 10 best Friteries in the city. We sampled 2 of his favourites. La friterie de la Barrière de Saint-Gilles is regarded as one of the best in the city and this was certainly the case, however my favourite was Chez Antoine on Place Jourdan. The latter is surrounded by bars- some of which will allow you eat your frites at their tables if you buy a beer. We whiled away a very pleasant half hour there.

Bars:Here is a brief round-up of some of the bars we visited:

Potemkine – my favourite- retro with fantastic, old-style fridges behind the bar. Front opens right up and was the perfect place for some people watching.

Flamingo– big, little bit like a canteen. Newly gentrified area, thus a very good place for people watching.

Moeder Lambic– nice long bar- great selection of beers. Frequented it more than once.

BarBeton– nice bar- smallish but good atmosphere.

Walvis– little alternative music wise- good bar with a Villo (Their version of Dublin bikes- €1.60 for a day pass- brilliant for getting around the city) station right outside for the journey home.

Somewhere that is well worth a visit that also has a percentage volume is the Cantillon Brewery. It is a traditional brewery, brewing only in the winter months (to make use of the low temperatures) but still open for tours during the summer. It is very informal- they give you a brief, but insanely informative talk and let you wander the building at your own pace. Afterwards they will give you some samples of the beer. Admission is €6.

Aksum Cappuccino

Sweet tooth stuff: Belgium is very famous for its chocolate, it goes without saying. Brussels is hanging down with chocolate shops- most of them catering to the tourist trade. There are exceptions to this though. Shane happened to be living very near one of the chocolatey highlights of Brussels, Pierre Marcolini. The chocolates and other sweets in this shop are incredibly beautiful. They are works of art. Wouldn’t a photo be ideal here to illustrate my point? Unfortunately- no photography allowed. I ate one of their almond milk and raspberry ice-cream cones. It was delicious, but be prepared to pay more than you would for a Cornetto. If you are a caffeinated individual- I would have to recommend Aksum, an Ethiopian coffee-shop. It is a friendly and cosy place to recharge the batteries on a quiet street. Free wifi too.

Finally- over the course of the weekend- we tried to sample as many different beers as we could- in the tasting sense rather than the binge sense.  Aided by the fact most beers are served in 200-300ml measures. We managed 23 different varieties between us- ranging from the lowest supermarket own brand- to the delicious craft brew.

Here they are:

Lindemans framboise – like blended raspberries.

Stella Artois

Westmalle tripel

Omer traditional blond

Taras boulba

Zinnebir

Maes

Volga- brewed with vodka.

Vedett wit

Cantillon lambic- the basis for their other brews- sour!

Cantillon framboise

Cantillon gueuze

Mac chouffe

Rond blanc sureau- flavoured with elderflower. Served with a strawberry and wedge of orange. My favourite I reckon Rond blanc sureaufrom the weekend.

Leffe blond

Jupiler

Delhaize 365

Hoegaarden

Grimbergen blonde

Delirium Tremens- deceptively light! 8%

Leffe radieuse

Adelardus triple- sweet and again deceptive. Another 8%-er

Witkap stimulo

Food tips for Brussels?

11 Jun

I have a weekend in Brussels coming up- with the same character who was my dining companion in my London post. We both like our food, so I was wondering if you kind people would have any food suggestions for Brussels? Are there any restaurants you have been to? Any food shops that I simply must see? All suggestions are welcomed and appreciated! 

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