Lost & Found: Bruxelles
1-2 March 2008

When Eurostar are having a sale to Brussels for £45 return, who can resist the temptation of chocolate, moules and frites? Join us for Sophie's Powerwalking Gastro-Fantasy Tour of Brussels...

Stay with:

Sophie and Jules live in the lovely Ixelles area in a beautiful, light and GIGANTIC apartment - there's enough room to swing a couple of cats and probably play a game of tennis. Sophie was the perfect hostess - picking us up from the train station, taking us on a hair-raising car ride through central Brussels on heated Audi seats (Huy: "Sophie, my ass is on fire!"), cheerfully striding miles of cobblestone streets with us and leaving speculoos and Smurf biscuits (50th anniversary this year!) under our pillows. Merci beaucoup!

Eat, Shop and Visit:

Given that the whole weekend revolved around eating, I've combined all the sections to follow our 2-day route through food-heaven.

DAY 1

First stop was croissants and pastries at the house, served with lashings of Le Pain Quotidien's luscious chocolate praline spread and Paris' Mariage Freres tea.

Le Cremerie de la Vache. Sophie's favourite cafe which serves real milk (not UHT) which is apparently a rarity in Belgium. I remembered this cosy cafe from my last visit to Brussels and it was full of delectable pastries in the window.

 

Pierre Marcolini. In a city full of chocolate shops, Pierre Marcolini is reknowned for being THE place to visit - he's apparently the Heston Blumenthal of the chocolate world, famous for his 'molecular' approach to chocolate. The sleek shop holds glass cabinets full of sophisticated black-boxed chocolates (Sophie also recommends the hot chocolate flakes). We celebrated our arrival in Brussels with a chocolate eclair 3-ways.

Godiva. Belgian frites come in a paper cone, and Godiva combines the twin Belgian towers of chocolate and frites into a paper cone of chocolate-dipped strawberries.

Dandoy. Famous biscuit bakery selling speculoos, sort of a spiced gingerbread.

Le Beau Soleil. Why not a cafe/gallery/violin-maker's workshop? The friendly owner brought us yummy coffee, hot chocolate (a block of chocolate melted in hot milk) and fresh mint tea, then polished a violin for our photographic benefit.

Manneken Pis. A cute but slightly stupid tourist attraction of a little boy peeing. Apparently there is a guy whose embarrassing job title is 'official dresser of the Mannekin Pis' (he has between 600-700 outfits) and on special days he pees out beer or wine.

AM Sweet. A delightful several-storey shop and salon de the which tempted us with the marshmallows in the window.

Atelier des chefs. A city dedicated to food should of course have a good stock of cooking implements and ingredients. This shop has a teaching kitchen at the back as well.

Frederic Blondeel. A cafe and chocolate shop decorated with Asiatic wood pillars and serving large pots of steaming hot chocolate. Sophie and I shared two tartlettes of pommes and apple crumble for a chocolate hiatus.

Le Fruit Defendu. It seems that it is almost impossible to eat badly in Brussels and the Flynns are fortunate to have a stylish neighbourhood restaurant right around the corner (not 'In Defence of Fruit' but rather 'The Forbidden Fruit'). Lucky as we were all flagging after ending our day's eating marathon with a three course meal (scallops with truffles, one of the best steaks I've ever had, gooey chocolate fondant) and a bottle of wine.

DAY 2

Market at the Pond. The pond and the nearby abbey are quiet restive places for a nice Sunday stroll. Our first waffle was at the market stall - I preferred the cakey vanilla waffles rather than the doughy liege ones. We'd also been told that true waffle-ites are purists - no chocolate, strawberries or cream allowed.

Cafe Belga. A cool buzzy wood-decked cafe inside the 'steamship building' where trendy families congregate for Sunday brunch.

Les Tartes de Francoise. A true lost and found. Sophie's boss' husband had recommended this tiny hidden shop for the best quiches and tarts in town. A small sign on the street leads down a mysterious corridor, opening out to a small room bustling with people carrying high stacks of tart boxes. How could I resist? I carted home a salmon quiche, chocolate hazlenut tart and their speciality: fromage blanc with speculoos base.

Au Vieux Bruxelles. A kitsch red-gingham tableclothed restaurant which bills itself as 'The King of Mussels with Fries and Brussels dishes'. We gorged ourselves on escargot, crevettes gris, croquettes and moules frites until, in Huy's words, we were 'borderline ill'. A lovely way to spend Sunday.

Musical Instruments Museum. It surprised me that Brussels was full of beautiful Art Noveau architecture and this confection housing the Musical Instruments Museum is delightful. Unfortunately, more lofty arts (ie the art of eating) meant we didn't have time to enter. Apparently the museum is worth visiting too - as you walk through the display cases of instruments your headphones will play music of that instrument at the same time.

Gauffre Van outside Fine Arts Musem. It was only right that we do a taste comparison of waffles, so despite our full stomachs we managed another waffle after lunch. These ones were much better - hot, slightly doughy and properly caramelised. Magnifique.

Le Pain Quotidien: Avenue Louise 124, B-1050 Brussels (other locations)
T: +32 2 646 49 83
 
La Cremerie de la Vache: Rue Jean Stas 6
1060 BRUXELLES
T: +32 2.538.28.18

Pierre Marcolini Chocolatier: Rue des Minimes 1, 1000 Bruxelles

T: +32 2 514 12 06

Godiva: Grand Sablon 47/48, 1000 Bruxelles (other locations)
T: + 32 2 502 99 06

Dandoy: 31 reu de beurre, B-1000 Bruxelles

T: +32 2 511 03 26

Le Beau Soleil: 25-27 rue de Rollebeek, Sablon

T: +32 479 420 382

AM Sweet: rue des Chartreux 4/Kartuizersstraat 4, Brussels

T: +32 2-513-51-31

Atelier des Chefs: 17 rue des Chartruex, 1000 Bruxelles (other locations)

T: +32 2 511 51 17

Frederic Blondeel: Quai aux Briques 24, 1000 Brussels

T: +32 (0)25 022 131

Le Fruit Defendu: 108 Rue Tenbosch, 1050 Bruxelles

T: +32 2 347 42 47

Cafe Belga: Place Eugène Flagey Plein
B-1050 Bruxelles
Tel:+32 2 640 35 08

Les Tartes de Francoise: 75 Av de l'hippodrome, 1050 Bruxelles

T : 02/640.88.41

Au Vieux Bruxelles: Rue St Boniface 35, 1050 Bruxelles

T: +32 2 503 31 11

Musical Instruments Museum: Rue Montagne de la Cour 2, Brussels 1000, Belgium.

T: 32 (02) 545-0130