Travel

Eating Out in Brussels

31/07/2012

First of all, sorry for the lack on posts in the past week. I usually update my blog every few days, but with 5 weeks to go to my wedding day, I fear Mondomulia is going to have to lose priority for a short while. Today I have a travel post for you! I have shared my tips on Brussels, a city that doesn’t get much praise and yet I love it. I travel to Belgium a lot as one of my best friends lives there and, thanks to the Eurostar train from London St Pancras, it is a quick and cheap trip (only two hours and £69 for return tickets).

La Grande Place, Brussels - Belgium

I love getting out of London for a weekend and travelling “to the continent”! The train zooms under the Channel, through the French countryside, then reaches the centre of Brussels, and it does feel like a different world!

Having a friend in Brussels means that I get to discover parts of the city outside the centre, the real city filled with locals and unknown to tourists. Too often I hear people complaining about how ugly Brussels is and it makes me sad. Sure, it doesn’t have the charm of other Belgian cities like Antwerp, Gent, Leuven or Bruges, but on the other hand Brussels has a lot to offer! Outstanding architecture, beautiful parks, ethnic melting pot, diverse food choice and incredible beers. Of course, Brussels is also home to some of the most delicious chocolate in the world.

My days in Brussels always revolve around food, carefully planning what to eat and when, in order to try as many things as possible! Yet I always find space for a Belgian Chocolate Waffle! My favourite is from Belgaufra, they are everywhere in the city centre.

 Belgian Chocolate Waffle, Brussels

The important thing to do when visiting Brussels is ditching the touristic trail and discover the real city! Explore the elegant neighbourhood of Le Sablon, eat at Chatelain, thrift for vintage accessories in Les Marolles, have an apéro in the multi-cultural district of Saint Boniface Matongé or brunch in the bohemian Saint Gilles.

If you arrive in Brussels on a Friday evening, head straight for dinner at Brasserie Les Brassins, a typical Belgian resto. My favourite dish is the Stoemp of the day (sausage and bacon with mashed potatoes), but the Carbonnade Flamandes is also great. Don’t skip dessert, here’s great! Try the Warm Chocolate Cake with liquid center, served with vanilla ice-cream and custard sauce. Drink a Belgian specialty beer, such as Leffe, Hoegaarden or La Chouffe.

Warm chocolate cake at Brasserie Les Brassins, Brussels

For a more original dinner destination, explore the neighbourhood of St Boniface – Matongé.

I am in the part of the neighbourhood known as St Boniface, named after a rather grand neo-gothic church. It is a genteel art nouveau quarter with colourful vintage boutiques and designer cafes lining either side. Just past the square, though, and I immediately find myself immersed in a very different world, the exotic Matonge, named after a lively part of the Congolese capital, Kinshasa. […] And what is exciting is that these two diverse worlds coexist side by side. [John Brunton for The Guardian]

During my last visit, I had dinner at Soleil d’Afrique, a small and cheap canteen open until late and serving popular West African dishes, such as Mafé (a stew with meat simmered in a sauce thickened with ground peanuts).

dinner at Soleil d'Afrique

We then walked two minutes to L’Ultime Atome to have coffee and dessert. This is the ultimate Belgian café: formal and old-fashioned, with Seventies furniture (wood and mirrors everywhere) bad service (a common flaw in Brussels), even worse coffee, . It is worth going there for the Speculoos Cheesecake though!

After dinner, go for a stroll to La Grand-Place, a stunning square surrounded by buildings of different architectural and artistic styles, listed in the World Heritage List.

La Grande Place, BrusselsLa Grande Place, Brussels

One of the streets leading to the Grand-Place, Petite Rue des Bouchers, is small alley lined with touristic restaurants serving the popular dish of Moules Frites, mussels with fries. At night the waiters are out in full force, the fresh fish is displayed outside and the lights are on. It’s very folkloristic, but personally I would just go there for a walk, staying away from the food!

La Grande Place, BrusselsLa Grande Place, BrusselsLa Grande Place, Brussels

On Saturday morning, explore the Bohemian district of Saint-Gilles, home to majestic Art Nouveau houses and a Portuguese community. Have breakfast at the pâtisserie Au Pays des Merveilles and buy groceries at the daily farmers’ market in the square in front of Saint-Gilles church.

Bohemian district of Saint-Gilles, BrusselsBohemian district of Saint-Gilles, BrusselsBohemian district of Saint-Gilles, BrusselsBohemian district of Saint-Gilles, BrusselsBohemian district of Saint-Gilles, BrusselsBohemian district of Saint-Gilles, Brussels

On a sunny day, have a picnic at Parc du Cinquantenaire, a large public park dominated by a a triumphal arch built for the 1880 National Exhibition and to celebrated fifty years of Belgian independence. I love walking in the park in autumn, when the grass is covered in brown and yellow leaves.

 Parc du Cinquantenaire, Brussels

On a rainy day, visit one of the Modern Art museums in the city centre, go for shopping in Rue Neuf and take a lunch break at La Maison des Crepes.

lunch break at La Maison des Crepes.La Maison des Crepes, BrusselsLa Maison des Crepes, Brussels

Another one of my favourite restaurants in Brussels is Houtsiplou. The decor is quirky, with colourful wall murals and wooden furniture. My lunch of choice: Classico Burger with Frites and Tiramisu au Speculoos.

Burger-Brussels-Houtsiplou

On Sunday morning, wake up early and go to the flea market in Les Marolles. Located between the prestigious Place du Sablon and the much less glamorous area around Midi station, Marolles mantains traits of both. It falls somewhere in between chic and working-class, with the antiques shops of Rue Haute leading the way to the flea market in Place du Jeu de Balle.

Flea market, BrusselsDSC_1048DSC_1045DSC_1046DSC_1063DSC_1067

During my last visit to Les Marolles, I discovered a specialty coffee shop, Aksum, a rare sight in Brussels where there isn’t a big coffee culture. Aksum is an Ethiopian coffee-house, using fresh and organically grown coffee, made from single origin beans, roasted on the premises and brewed on La Marzocco espresso machine.

If you love good espresso and are looking for trained and knowledgeable baristas, you must go there.

Aksum coffee shop, BrusselsAksum coffee shop, BrusselsAksum coffee shop, Brussels

Finally, I cannot finish write a foodie guide of Brussels without mentioning my favourite Belgian obsession: Speculoos (aka Biscoff in US)! Speculoos are caramelized biscuits spiced with pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom and nutmeg. They are often served with coffee and they make a great addition to most sweet recipes. I have already shared my recipe for Tiramisù with Speculoos.

Every time I am in Belgium, I always look out for Speculoos and their numerous uses: Speculoos cheesecake, tiramisù, mousse, chocolate, ice-cream and so on. My favourite thing is the Speculoos spread, of which I always buy several jars for me and friends (as it is not available for sale in the UK…yet!).

Woah, that is a long post! I hope it will be useful to people travelling to Brussels (for pleasure or work) and make them enjoy the city as much as I do!

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21 Comments

  • Reply girlinafoodfrenzy 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    Gorgeous post and mini travel guide. I’m loving that diversity and the food! Markets, antique jewellery, gorgeous architecture and people watching, my ideal mini break!

  • Reply theFworld 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    I LOVE Merolles! The market, and the cafes around…didn’t know the others though, will make sure I visit next time I’m around. I’ve been less original and written a little guide to food and drink in Olympic London- if you want to have a look and suggest other places http://wp.me/p2muDu-3S :)

  • Reply ilush 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    Foto bellissime!

  • Reply Maria Cristina 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    Decisamente dobbiamo andare a Bruxelles un giorno o l’altro ma…con il tuo post in tasca!!!! ;-)

  • Reply Regula @ Miss Foodwise 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    Lovely post Giulia! Nice to see Brussels trough your eyes! Love your pictures, you make it look more pretty But… the only thing I and lots of other Belgians get really patriotic about: Its not French fries, they are Belgian fries! French fries is a name invented by the Americans ;-)

  • Reply whilehewasout 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    Lovely photos! Favourite has to be the Classico Burger with Frites… looks delish! Or those crepes, hm. Thanks for sharing, brings back nice memories from Brussels :)

  • Reply italyonmymind 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    Fantastic photos Giulia

  • Reply mondomulia 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    Congratulations on your wedding and best of luck!! Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting on my post! Glad you liked it! :)

  • Reply Sarah aka Lamb411 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    I love this post on Brussels. There are so many little cities that don’t get enough love but totally deserve to! Also, I can sympathize about weddings + blogging. I’m getting married in just under two weeks and feel like I’m neglecting Lamb411.com! Tough, but what can you do. Can’t wait to read more of your posts on food. Your newest reader, Sarah aka Lamb411

  • Reply Cecilia 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    I think I mentioned this but they sell speculoos spread in Belgique (a small chain of Belgian restaurants here in London, I have one opposite our flat!)

  • Reply mondomulia 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    You mentioned it! Do you know if they sell the Lotus brand or their own version of the Speculoos Spread?

  • Reply come·con·ella (@comeconella) 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    lovely post! next time my other half and i won’t be sleepless in brussels. i love the architecture but really struggled with non-touristy food options! good luck with the final leg of the wedding preparations! m x

  • Reply mondomulia 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    Thanks for the comment, I have corrected the post! ;)

  • Reply elisabeththebrave 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    hehe you didn’t have to correct! :) But I am very grateful you did :)

  • Reply mondomulia 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    Thank you so much for your comment, Sophia. It is always very nice to hear from my readers! I am also happy so many people have enjoyed this post and agreed with me that Brussels is a special city! :)

  • Reply Sophia 22/11/2012 at 14:58

    Love this post about Brussels. My sister lives there and I spent half a year working there a couple of years ago so this brings back a lot of memories! I agree Brussels is a bit of an odd city – nowhere near as exciting as other European capitals and often overlooked by tourists in favour of more picturesque Belgian cities like Ghent or Bruges (or in my case in favour of shopping in Antwerp), but it is still worth a visit, there are so many cute hidden corners, I love the old architecture and I love the multilingual nature of the City – in my office everyone spoke three languages at least it seemed! Recently discovered your blog and have been following your posts ever since. All the best Sophia

  • Reply Tina Jui 28/09/2013 at 17:30

    I’m visiting Brussels from London. Saw your post and went to Aksum for coffee this morning! Loved it! :) Thanks for the travel tip!

  • Reply Giulia Mulè 28/09/2013 at 17:31

    That’s great!! Happy to know my post was useful! :)

  • Reply Gourmesso coffee shop online 06/01/2014 at 17:32

    Oh I love your photos. Exactly what I needed to cheer me up on this grim Monday!

  • Reply Mondomulia 07/01/2014 at 16:29

    THANK YOU! :) Your comment cheers me up on this grim Tuesday! :)

  • Reply Eating and Drinking in Brussels | mondomulia 28/10/2014 at 09:56

    […] you can still find good deals for accommodation in Brussels with Venere.com. I have blogged about food and coffee in Brussels two years ago, but I often get asked to share my food recs so I thought it was time for a new post. […]

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