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Recommendations for Brussels


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So -- having lived in Brussels for 9 years, I know much more about the restaurant scenes in Paris and London. But inspired by this board, I've decided to re-invest (literally!) in my own city; I've compiled a list of to-try places and kicked off the campaign last night at De la Vigne...a l'Assiette.

In the interest of sharing thoughts and impressions:

The restaurant suffers from what's always seemed to me to be a peculiarly Belgian affliction of horrid lighting – bright, exposed, interrogation-chamberesque – but it smelled good when we arrived, and the plates passing by the table were lovely. Started with a glass of decent Champagne while perusing the menu and wine list (which was truly interesting and well-priced, but limited in its half-bottle selections). Starters: terrine de foie de canard sous presse au jambon San Daniele and, in a moment of complete and utter madness, désossé de pieds de porc au foie gras de canard gratiné à la moutarde. The terrine was flavourful, with a flamboyant dash of balsamic reduction and a nice little heap of baby greens, daikon radish, carrots, edamame and bean sprouts, though they were a bit stingy with the brioche. The trotter...evoked every regurgitative instinct I possess. But I blame my texturally-ambivalent-on-a-good-day constitution, not the trotter. I plowed through half of it, careful not to chew before swallowing, before handing it over to G. He didn’t mind it, but I didn’t even find the flavour particularly compelling.

Mains: filet de bar grille, vinaigrette de tomates aux herbes et sabayon à l’huile d’olives and filet de barbue rôti au thym frais, salsifis braisés au beurre salé. Both fish were, I grant, perfectly cooked. But there was too much going on with the bar – the tomato vinaigrette (lovely and basily) ended up competing with the equally tasty and unctuous sabayon. My fish suffered from the opposite problem, with a monotonic salty butteriness enveloping everything on the plate. Very nice for the first half-dozen bites, but a bit cloying after that. We drank a respectable Menetou-Salon, whose candied citrus nose reminded me of an Alsatian pinot blanc (but which didn’t have the same body or mouthfeel). Finished with a marquise de chocolat for G. and the cheese plate for me. The cheeses (chèvre, Camembert au Calvados, tome de montagne, Comté, Epoisses and Roquefort) were unimpressive. Worse, they were cold. Worse, I had to ask for a glass of wine to drink with them. Worst – the wine, an Argentine sauvignon-semillon, had less personality than the sommelier, who himself practically blended into the walls. I wouldn’t go back – I can think of better ways to spend 120 EUR.

Next on the list: hesitating between Re-Source, Le Fourneau, Mamy Louise, Resto.bar, and Le Fruit Defendu. Will permit myself to keep you posted...

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May’s Bon Appetit had an article on the “Hot 10/euro bargains” that also (see above) mentioned Museum Brasserie.

Although I liked the decoration of the room, I had the worst meal of my recent Brussels trip here. Food was worse than in a tourist trap, incredible a three star chef would want his name associated with it, poor wine selection, service incompetent on all levels. They will not see me again.

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  • 2 months later...

Next on the list: hesitating between Re-Source, Le Fourneau, Mamy Louise, Resto.bar, and Le Fruit Defendu. Will permit myself to keep you posted...

I can't wait for the next installment! I'm already making notes for our trip to Belgium next May. I'm counting on you for recent updates!

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  • 4 weeks later...

In the past month or so, we've been to Le Fruit Defendu, Mamy Louise and -- largely because of paulbrussels' contagious excitement about the place -- Le Fourneau. My impressions:

Mamy Louise

This was Installment #2 of Get Back to Eating Out in Brussels, and was at a restaurant I've actually been toying with the idea of going to for about seven years. You don't want to rush into things, you know. But frankly, after Installments #1 and #2, all I want to rush into is one of my favourite Paris restaurants. Starters: poached egg over mashed potatoes with tiny grey shrimp, and tuna tartare. The egg was actually quite good -- a new level of Belgian comfort food. The tuna itself was pretty bland, but far worse was the fact that it came literally BURIED under a pile of arugula and a blizzard of shaved Parmesan. Why on earth would you load on such pungent – and, with the Parmesan, out of place – flavours?

Mains: braised lamb shank (nothing special, and the potatoes that were also in the little Le Creuset cocotte were somehow undercooked), and sole limande with roasted cherry tomatoes and broccoli. Suffice it to say that I had to send the fish back, as it was horrendously overcooked. When it came back, it was decently cooked -- it just had no flavour. Sigh. The cheese course was unimpressive (as was the waiter, who couldn't tell me what one of the cheeses was. Harrumph.).

Le Fruit Defendu

I’d walked past this little place literally hundreds of times, thinking each time, "Ooh, we should try this." But the first five times I tried to get a table, it was full each time. We finally succeeded in April 2008, and entered with high – perhaps too high – expectations. When all was said and done, the restaurant got high points for ambience (buzzy but not too crowded, open kitchen, sleek but not minimalist décor), the enthusiasm of the woman at the front of the house (believe she’s the chef’s wife) and the lighting (SO refreshing not to be grilled under fluorescent ceiling tubes!). The food was decent but not extraordinary – again, we’re talking Petit Pontoise dinner or perhaps even Mon Vieil Ami lunch prices. Am writing several months ex post and cannot remember (!) what G. had, but I had scallops with a parsnip truffle purée (good, but the scallops were tiny and undercooked) and then a sort of deep-sea fish available, it would seem, for only a few weeks a year. Bream? White and cod-like, and well-cooked, but with an obtrusively heavy herb crust. One stellar note: the vegetables – all perfectly cooked and very, very flavourful. The braised carrots with a faintly warm spicy note have become my at-home standard, after interrogation revealed the spice to be star anise. We drank a quite decent white Burgundy for around 28 €. The cuisine du marché changes biweekly, I believe. And I’d probably go again – but for an occasion that would need to be carefully equilibrated between “special enough to warrant the price” and “not so special I’d be cranky not to eat better.”

Le Fourneau

I will say right off the bat that I think it's expensive for what you get (I don't like leaving a place hungry, and as it was, we spent 100 EUR for two people with only a half bottle of wine - a relatively undistinguished Alsatian pinot blanc), and that there were several serious "what were they thinking?" moments -- but that said, several of the dishes ranged from "ooooh, yummy" to "this may be one of the best things I've ever put in my mouth," so I'm willing to cut them some slack.

The menu is divided into Tapas, Tapas composées and Tapas aux poids -- the first being 1-2 bite plates, the second being slightly more substantial, and the third being more like a trimmed-down main (just a relatively small portion of the featured item itself, no sides -- but there are 5-6 sides you can order separately to round it out).

We started with tapas:

-- Papillote de langoustine avec ses trois sauces - Kind of like Middle Eastern tempura. A perfectly cooked and perfectly sweet langoustine wrapped in brik pastry and... I don't know. Deep fried? I don't think so. Perhaps just roasted? Didn't need any of its sauces, which were: basic boring soy sauce, basic boring tomato coulis and basic boring mayo with a dash of wasabi.

-- Batonnets du thon poivre et sel, sauce wasabi - Minor misfire. Sashimi dusted with salt and pepper and drizzled with mayo with a dash of wasabi (how to make a dull idea oppressive through repetition). I personally didn't think the fish had any taste, and I just didn't get the mayo saucing.

-- Bisque de langoustine - Yummy. Cream and shrimp stock and more cream and several chunks of barely cooked langoustine. Aaahhhh.

Then moved to tapas composees:

-- Pata negra en fines tranches, sauce moutarde - Major misfire. Not jambon iberico, but roasted pork loin, thinly sliced, sprinkled with mustard seeds and drizzled with -- you guessed it -- mayonnaise, this time cut with mustard. No better than anything I've ordered at a Safeway deli counter, quite frankly. VERY bitter to have paid 12 EUR for this.

-- Salade liegeoise a notre facon et aux langoustines - Redemption. Nothing salade liegeiose about it if you ask me, but a gorgeous tangle of julienned and sauteed veg topped with more perfectly -- i.e., barely -- cooked langoustines. The sauce seemed vaguely Asian, but there was no overt element I could pin down (the saltiness may or may not have been soy sauce, the note of acidity may or may not have been rice vinegar or yuzu).

Then to tapas aux poids:

-- Paillarde de veau, huile d'olive et citron - D*mn, this was good. Succulent veal scallops, just drizzled with a lemony pan sauce and a chiffonade of basil, The quality of the meat and its perfect cooking made the dish.

-- Demi poussin comme on l'aime - D*mn, this was good. And this is coming from someone who does NOT like little birdy things. I may have to rethink. Again, perfectly simple. and perfectly cooked. Roasted with herbs and served with the barest bit of pan sauce and a finger bowl for rinsing after gnawing at the bones.

-- With a side of puree de pommes de terre a la Robuchon - A la Robuchon indeed. Take 1 kilo of potatoes, boil, pass through a ricer, and combine with 4 kilos of butter and 12 quarts of cream. Enough said.

A mitigated success, then, but for Brussels - fabulous (to keep my sanity, I try not to think about the fact that we'd spend the same amount of money at Mon Vieil Ami in Paris and weep unmitigated tears of joy). I'll definitely go back, but I'll order carefully.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Le Fourneau

Again, perfectly simple. and perfectly cooked.

Nice, your Brussels reports!

The sentence I quoted is exactly the reason why I come here quite often for a quick dinner of about 45 minutes and with two glasses of wine for about 30-40 €, incredibly good priced for Brussels for dinner (lunch is quite another story!).

[i wanted to have dinner tonight there, but they are closed this week.]

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  • 1 month later...

I'm in Brussels for several hours between trains next week. Certainly long enough for one meal (Eurostar check-in is at 2130), possibly two, depending on whether we take the sleeper from Berlin or the first train of the morning. Thanks for the recommendations above (we may well be going to Comme Chez Soi or the Sea Grill), but I was wondering if anyone can recommend anywhere that's particularly good for moules-frites.

Our only other plans as yet involve a trip to Marcolini. Is there anything else people would recommend?

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I was wondering if anyone can recommend anywhere that's particularly good for moules-frites.

For best moules frites in town, try La Bonne Humeur at 244 Chaussee de Louvain. It's about as authentic as it gets - formica tables, etc - and quite a contrast to the other two spots you mention.

Your Eurostar check-in leaves things a bit tight however - the place just mentioned is normally about 10 minutes by taxi but also check how much time you need to pass security etc.

Edited by kerriar (log)
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  • 3 weeks later...

For best moules frites in town, try La Bonne Humeur at 244 Chaussee de Louvain. It's about as authentic as it gets - formica tables, etc - and quite a contrast to the other two spots you mention.

Your Eurostar check-in leaves things a bit tight however - the place just mentioned is normally about 10 minutes by taxi but also check how much time you need to pass security etc.

Thanks for the recommendation: we arrived in Brussels at 5pm, which gave us time for a quick metro-trip to the Marcolini shop on Avenue Louise, before making our way to La Bonne Humeur a little after 6. A kilo of mussels each (one nature, one with green peppercorns) and a demi of white wine set us up very well for the journey onto London.

We had the good fortune that our journey out coincided with the last day of the Marcolini summer collection, which meant I could also make the best of the winter collection on the way back. Which I have to say, I find considerably more impressive.

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  • 7 months later...

After almost 10 years I had such a bad experience last Saturday at Bruneau (now two starred, fro a long time 3 star restaurants) in Brussels that I just sent the following letter to the chef, stating that the arrogant and very rude attitude did decide me never to go there again:

Jean-Pierre Bruneau

Chef de Cuisine

Avenue Broustin, Bruxelles

Bruxelles, le 8 mai 2009

Monsieur,

Depuis des années j'ai savouré tout ce qui provenait de votre cuisine. J'ai toujours eu une grande admiration pour vos qualités en tant que cuisinier.

Comme je vous l'ai dit samedi dernier, malheureusement ce jour-là c'était la dernière fois que je me rendais dans votre restaurant. Votre hôtesse était vraiment extrêmement désagréable, ne montrant aucune flexibilité, ni de la politesse, mais au contraire: elle m'a montré, en présence de deux amis à moi, un grand dédain pour quelqu'un qui depuis presque dix ans déjà vient régulièrement chez vous. Le ton sur lequel elle m'a répondu sur toutes les propositions de compromis faites par moi, était vraiment incroyable. Je ne pense que ni moi, ni aucun autre client chez vous, ne mérite un tel traitement.

Je vous ai averti par après que c'était ma dernière visite chez vous. Vous m'avez choqué en me répondant: "Ce n'est pas grave!", réponse suivie par les mêmes mots quand j'ai montré à quel point j'étais stupéfait par votre réponse.

Tout cela m'a bien expliqué comment un chef aussi arrogant et avec un tel manque d'éducation a pu recruter une hôtesse qui manque également d'éducation. Votre réponse m'a confirmé que j'ai fait le bon choix de ne plus venir chez vous.

Vous étiez presque indifférent vis-à-vis de moi. Je suppose et j'espère que vous êtes aussi indifférent au fait que j'ai déjà commencé à déconseiller votre restaurant aux autres gourmets. Dès lundi, quand on m'avait demandé, en tant que grand amateur et connaisseur de recommander un restaurant pour un dîner d'une compagnie de renom, je me suis décidé de ne surtout pas recommander le vôtre.

En ayant écrit beaucoup de critiques de restaurants sur internet, aussi sur les meilleurs restaurants de l'Europe, je communiquerai également ce traitement minable sur internet.

En même temps je copie cette lettre (en b.c.c.) à mes amis et connaissances à qui j'avais recommandé votre restaurant et qui sont venus chez vous.

Etant encore furieux, pour la première fois, je me sens incapable de clôturer cette lettre avec une formule de politesse.

Edited by paulbrussel (log)
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There have been stories circulating in Brussels that Bruneau was for sale or would close at the end of the year. This seems to confirm it.

Paulbrussel's measured response to deliberate rudeness can only relate to a restaurant that will not be around for much longer.

It is however a great pity that a long standing establishment of some quality should end its days on a note of "je m'en fous" ism.

Bruneau has for many years been everything a three star restaurant should aspire to. Every meal I have had there (alas, not as many as I would have wished) has been a pleasure and demonstrated imagination, professionalism and, let it be said, courtesy. This is of course merely a personal view but Bruneau has received consistent well-merited praise from other contributors to this thread and feedback over the years from friends and colleagues have been uniformly positive. A couple of meals in 2008 after the demotion by Michelin left me with the impression that they were working to regain the third star but I have not been there since.

So what has happened? It really doesn't matter since there are so many other alternatives in or within reach of the city.

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Tomorrow I arrive in Brussels and have made a reservation at the Sea Grill. Is it still one of the best in town? I very much enjoyed my last visit there a couple of years ago. Appreciate all comments.

Edited by mharpo (log)

Michael Harp

CopperPans.com

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paulbrussel,

I would be interested in how your food was at Bruneau this time. I know that a rude waitress, supported by a rude patron, can spoil a visit. But if you would simply judge what arrived on your plate, was the food you got just as bad?

I have only been to Bruneau twice, once in the three-star, once in the two-star era. I have fond memories of both visits but can well imagine that they are struggling under the current climate.

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  • 7 months later...

Son 1& 2 and I spent 5 nights in Brussels (though not every day was spent there) recently. I didn't spot this thread until we got back home to Japan.

Since we don't live in a western country, our eating priorities were probably a bit different from many eGulleteers, and with two teen boys hungry from long walks in the cold, hearty eating was one priority.

That said, the cold weather while we were there meant that we sacrificed lunch several times for 2-3 hourly "hot bites". The day we arrived was New Year's Day, very cold, snowing most of the day, and most places were shut into the bargain...a hot waffle from a Belgaufra stand (boys had theirs with chocolate sauce, I much preferred my plain one!) was very welcome, followed later by hot chocolate from the Godiva shop, which was not only open, but very accommodating with suggestions for penurious but lovestruck boys wanting a little something to bring back to Japan :blush::wub: .

Son1 is a big fan of hot chocolate, but even son 2 was enthusiastic about this...not stickily sweet, but rich and aromatic, and very reviving - absolutely a meal in a cup. Sipping as we stood around in the snow, we attracted the attention of two little girls, who immediately tried to drag their grandmother into the shop, but she had them back in line in moments with a murmured "tellement cher!".

Our hotel was near Sainte-Catherine, so we fought our way through the remains of the Christmas market, and had dinner at Jacques. There were several other restaurants which probably had similar menus, but we enjoyed our meal there very much. It was just as well that hunger drove teen stomachs to dine early, as the place filled up very quickly even on Jan. 2!

I started with a fish soup, and very much enjoyed this thick, mild soup dish, because I naturally don't find such things in Japan. Son 2 started with herring fillets and proceeded to a baked salmon piece with tartare sauce...he was very curious about salmon in Europe and had several different salmon dishes over our fortnight-long trip. Son 1 is wary of fatty food, especially when tired, and had the tomato salad with little shrimps, a generous serving, and exactly what he wanted. He followed this with a half-dozen Zeeland oysters. These lush-looking pale oysters certainly seemed to have led a life of ease, and I notice that son1 wasn't offering anybody else a taste!

However, their work was not yet done. In dithering over my main dish, I failed to notice that my final choice - mussels, another thing that is all too rare in Japan - was a 1 kg serving. Even the pot of mussels in a wine and cream sauce that arrived in front of me didn't alert me - I just thought it must be window-dressing with a large onion or five in the middle, but sons quickly disabused me, and had their plates emptied ready to help me out. The mussels were a double treat for me, as NZ restaurants now rarely serve blue mussels.

I did suggest that since the boys had eaten all the bread provided with the mussel juice and sauce, perhaps they might forego the frites, but they doused them liberally with lemon juice and soldiered on. I believe they later regretted that last act of bravado, and it certainly took them a day or more to recover their appetites fully!

Apart from that, we ate twice at museum cafes...the MIM (Musee des Instruments de Musique) does indeed have a good view, but that's not a good enough reason to have more than a cup of coffee in their slack period...there are simply too many tables, and either/both kitchen or waiting staff are overtaxed...and if that's what it's like in the middle of winter, I hate to think what summer might be like. I remember the unrestful nature of the experience, but totally forget what we ate.

The Museums of Fine Arts seem to have at least one restaurant and two cafes (I think)...we ate at the one off the main atrium of the Museum of Ancient Art (where I was determined to see if they had any Memlings...they did, and where son 2 wanted to hear the music students' lunchtime concert of Schubert trios). Although it was self-service, the sole cashier had her work cut out for her trying to juggle the trolleys full of dirty trays, and there was nobody to help the elderly clientele, who with the icy roads outside, naturally wanted to lunch their after the cheap concert. Sons were directed to get busy carrying for poor old ladies trying to negotiate lunch tray plus walking-stick(s)!

Perhaps unwisely they ordered steak, which was strictly average, but there are two things worth noting: the frites were the tastiest we ate in Brussels (tasted like some beef dripping went into the pan), and the cafe also serves HUGE salads, which seemed to be popular with the women customers. One woman tried asking for a small salad to go with her soup, but the server scotched that smartly: "No SMALL salads HERE, madame!"

Our only other "eat-in" experience was a cafe chain...execrable and not specially cheap.

Our "train food" was mostly either cheese or cheese/ham bread rolls from Paul's, or pots of fresh white cheese with some very nice dates and a small bar of chocolate.

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  • 1 month later...

In reply to ameiden: I started to say to the chef that the food was good as ever. So there was no difference in that respect.

Nevertheless, the cuisine has stayed about the same over the last 10 years, and so changed little. This probably has lead to the decision that also the second star has been taken by Michelin, leaving Bruneau now with only one star.

Edited by paulbrussel (log)
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  • 11 months later...

Will be in Brussels on Friday night at around 8pm and looking for a good place to have dinner by myself. I'm meeting a friend the next day but on my own for the day I arrive. Looking for something modern and near Central station. Any advice? Smaller places are always preferred.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Tomorrow I arrive in Brussels and have made a reservation at the Sea Grill. Is it still one of the best in town? I very much enjoyed my last visit there a couple of years ago. Appreciate all comments.

I know your post is almost 2 years old and there has been no comments added. I will be in Brussels in 2 weeks and I have booked CCS but not Sea Grill because of the many negative comments I have seen on other websites. Would anyone recommend it now ?

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Tomorrow I arrive in Brussels and have made a reservation at the Sea Grill. Is it still one of the best in town? I very much enjoyed my last visit there a couple of years ago. Appreciate all comments.

I know your post is almost 2 years old and there has been no comments added. I will be in Brussels in 2 weeks and I have booked CCS but not Sea Grill because of the many negative comments I have seen on other websites. Would anyone recommend it now ?

I haven't been to the Sea Grill for over a year now, si I can't judge whether it has changed so dramatically since the chef Mattagne started his own owed restaurant. But in the past years I have eaten there over 50 times and in my view the quality was constantly high.

CCS has all the times disappointed me (3 or 4 times).

To be recommended: Jaloa (not Jardin brasserie), and Bon-Bon.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I haven't been to the Sea Grill for over a year now, si I can't judge whether it has changed so dramatically since the chef Mattagne started his own owed restaurant. But in the past years I have eaten there over 50 times and in my view the quality was constantly high.

CCS has all the times disappointed me (3 or 4 times).

Thanks for your opinion. Unfortunately Sea Grill was full. About CCS I have to agree with you, I was under-whelmed. I had the ham mousse, sole with reisling mousseline, and the lime souffle, all good but definitely not 2 *, nothing extraordinary.

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Jaloa, Bon Bon and Brasserie de la Paix are very good choices.

David Martin, of Brasserie de la Paix, is now also responsible for the Bozar Brasserie in the Palais des Beaux-Arts. The restaurant space in this lovely Horta building has been restored and the menu carries many of the favourites from BdlP like the "Parmentier crémeux". It's all a bit more functional here but much easier to get a table at short notice.

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