Brussels is so easy to reach from London (just 2 hours by train from St Pancras) that you really have no excuses for not going there. I strongly recommend you to take a few days to explore the Belgian capital city because, beyond the Grand Place and touristic streets around it, there is so much to discover! I am lucky to have a few friends living there so I visit regularly. If you don’t know anyone that can host you, you can still find good deals for accommodation in Brussels with Venere.com. I 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. Eating and drinking in Brussels, 2014 edition! ;)
I was in Brussels in March with my husband and we had a lovely time eating our way through the city, which was just beginning to show the first signs of spring.
My best friend Giovanna and her boyfriend Simone relocated from Rome to Brussels last year and live near Place Flagey in the neighbourhood of Ixelles. I love the area (I have already chosen the house that I will buy when I win the lottery)! On Sunday morning we got up early for a walk through the farmers market that takes place in the square. It’s a great way to do your food shopping (Belgian supermarkets are otherwise quite expensive): the traders sell fresh fruits and vegetables, rotisserie chickens and fresh meat, fresh-cut flowers, hot coffee, bread. You can even sit down and enjoy oysters and champagne on the square.
Weeks before my trip to Brussels, Giovanna and I had started our research of Brussels’ brunch spots reading blogs and forums about the city. There is so much choice we struggled to pick one place, but eventually decided to try Le Gaudron.
They have a brunch set menu which includes coffee or tea, fresh juice, eggs AND pastries, bread and spreads (for 20€)! It was a lot of food and set us up for the day ahead. The pastries and breads were freshly baked in-house (Le Gaudron is also a bakery / patisserie) and were delicious.
After brunch we walked to Maison Dandoy on the other side of Place Brugmann, to buy their Speculoos biscuits! I have been obsessed with Speculoos for many years and now I have reached the point where the Lotus stuff just won’t cut it anymore. It has to be homemade high-quality biscuits for me! The ones at Maison Dandoy are oven-fresh, rich in flavour and made with 100% natural ingredients.
The day started with rain, but luckily after a few hours the weather turned sunny and warm.
We took the tram going south of the city to Cantillon Brewery, a small Belgian traditional family brewery which brews Lambic beers and Gueuze in the traditional Belgian style. They offer a range of 100% organic beers (with the exception of their fruit beers), made with organically grown cereals and free of pesticides. On that day Cantillon Brewery was hosting a series of public brewing sessions, so we decided to join one of the tours to experience the various steps of the traditional beer production. There was a joyous atmosphere at Cantillon and it was very interesting to learn about the brewing process (filtration, hopping and cooking).
After all the walking, it was time for a break with coffee and cake. I knew where to go: Parlor Coffee. The last time I had been in Brussels there was only one specialty coffee shop available (Aksum, which has now relocated near the Grand Place), so I was excited to visit Parlor Coffee this time around. The café opened in 2012 in the Chatelain area in the uptown centre of Brussels. They buy and roast high-quality coffees from small producers and aim to offer “the freshest, cleanest and tastiest coffees” in their neighbourhood.
The space is stripped down but cozy, split on two levels (ground floor and mezzanine) with lots of lights and a corner with sofas where we relaxed for a bit before continuing our city tour.
Down the road from Parlor Coffee you will find Chocolaterie Zaabar, where we sampled ALL the chocolates and bought a few bars to take back to London (the Lait Speculoos was my favourite, while my husband loved the Texas Chilli Peppers chocolate). Energised by the coffee and chocolate, we then walked to Avenue Louise (one of the most prestigious and expensive streets in Brussels) and Place Poelaert where you get a wonderful panorama view of Brussels. We happened to be there at sunset and it was beautiful.
We left the square and turned right towards Place du Grand Sablon, one of my favourite squares of Brussels. Around the corner from there it’s Le Perroquet, a brasserie specialised in pittas which I highly recommend, and right on the square is the famous Chocolatier Pierre Marcolini.
Dinner was at 9 et Voisins, a traditional Belgian brasserie run by the same owners of Fin du Siècle across the street. Both are tiny and don’t accept reservations, but you can leave your name and wait at the bar. They turn tables quite quickly. Don’t be put off by the central location and the number of tourists eating inside. The food is authentic and delicious! I was there five years ago and I was happy to be back and notice the quality hadn’t changed. The Stoemp is one of my favourite Belgian dishes (potato mash with spinach, leeks or carrots, served with two big sausages and rich gravy) but I was also really impressed by the Jambonneau moutarde that Simone ordered. A few glasses of Belgian beer like Westmalle Tripel and Chimay Blue Cap completed our perfect and satisfying meal.
This completes my food tour of Brussels for now, but expect more tips on the years to come. I am already planning my next visit!