Where to eat
Frites with mayonnaise, mussels (from Brussels), waffles and chocolate. Belgian food might not immediately shout haute cuisine, but a recent addiction to all things street food, a slew of inventive new chefs hawking their wares in edgy new restaurants, and a constant simmering battle between the city’s two gastronomic tribes – the French and Dutch speaking cultures – adds a frisson to the Brussels dining scene. Know where to look and, quite possibly, you’ll enjoy some of Europe’s most ambitious and memorable cooking.
When there’s a queue in Brussels, that only means one thing: this is a seriously great food place. Maison Antoine only does one thing – frites – that means the chips here are among the best you’ll get, anywhere.
Place Jourdan, 1040 Etterbeek
Waffles – that Belgian speciality – are elevated to something approaching fine art in this atmospheric, refined and two-centuries-old Belgian bakers, with stores scattered across the city. Coffee, ginger biscuits, cakes and – yes – waffles, are elegant, light and always freshly baked.
Karel Bulsstraat 14, 1000 Brussels
No seats, but still an institution, the Noordzee (Mer du Nord) serves up seafood to eat on the street, or take home. Try their fish soup – just the ticket on a cool winter’s day. Summer – the shrimp cocktail with a glass of champagne is just the ticket.
Rue Sainte-Catherine 45, 1000 Bruxelles
Brussels’ clutch of Art Deco buildings is world-class. Combine with a striking restaurant and you’ve a hit on your hands. French classics given a Belgian twist, sees mains such as Lamb stew from the owner’s farm, served with Madras curry, or gamey Bresse chicken with a sherry sauce. There’s an oyster bar, should you wish to simply pull up a stool and have a beer and snack, Belgian-style.
Rue du Page 45, 1050 Brussels
Fin de Siècle
Belgian food can tend towards the hearty and the filling. No bad thing when it’s as comforting as it gets at Fin de Siècle. Try their classic sausage and stoemp (mash) coated in a rich, velvety sauce and you’ll be hooked. And quite possibly, unable to move for a while.
Rue des Chartreux 9, 1000 Brussels
One of Brussels’ most eye-catching new restaurants. Belga Queen is housed in an opulent 18th century bank, furnished with striking modern art. Belgian wines are teamed with shellfish, Belgian Charolais tenderloin and seasonal specials, to a loyal crowd.
Wolvengracht 32, 1000 Brussels
They’re having fun at Pin Pon – always a dangerous thing to play with when it comes to food. But it works. The dishes are simple and authentic, but the flavours are sharp and precise. In other words, they know what they’re doing at this laid-back but food-forward bar.
62 Place du Jeu de Balle, 1000 Brussels
Elegant and pared-back, Vismet eschews the interior design bells and whistles to concentrate on simply great dishes of beef tartare, or poached filet of cod with mousseline sauce. It’s a tight little menu, but they never put a foot wrong in this handsome spot.
23 Place Sainte-Catherine, 1000 Brussels
Henri and Agnes
Vegetarianism isn’t what you’d call endemic in Belgium – so seeking out a good veggie spot isn’t as easy as you’d hope. This new organic lunch isn’t totally meat-free, but it does bring vegetables to the fore: in hearty stews, salads and soups. They’re known for their lip-smackingly good hotspots, with or without chicken.
48 Rue Veronese, 1000 Brussels