BRUSSELS, Belgium – Brussels and beer will always be associated. Case in point: these wonderful Coors Light ads featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme, aka the Muscles from Brussels. In the Belgian capital, high and low, value and overpriced, famously traditional and cheap knockoff, can be found in the same street.
Brussels can be a wonderful foodie centre. You just have to venture a little bit further than just the old town.
With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to eating and drinking your way through foodie Brussels, the express way.
Foodie Brussels: Bia Mara
I’ve chosen Bia Mara because it’s in the old part of town. It’s not Belgian food or otherwise traditional, but the options in the old town of Brussels are rather deplorable and fall into the “tourist trap” category. Not Bia Mara. It’s simple: craft beer and a proper fish & chips. It’s great to know that this place exists when you’re walking around and seeing the sights!
Bia Mara Brussels
Rue du Marché aux Poulets 41
Visiting the classics in Brussels is generally done in the old part of town, and clearly this is what needs to be done after having lunch at Bia Mara. Once the classics have been seen – Manneken Pis, the Grand’Place, etc. – it’s time to head out of town.
Bistro Margaux is a restaurant just outside of the city – situated in Bodeghem-Sint-Martins, precisely – which holds a Michelin star. Chef Thomas Locus makes tiny plates with a serious attention to detail. Tasting menu, white tablecloth, wine pairings and service fit for a king are to be expected. My personal favourite of the whole tasting menu was a modernist twist on the classic Belgian dish, “anguille au vert”, which is eel with green sauce. Superb!
Note: Bistro Margaux has closed its doors and was replaced by Brasserie Julie.
Because beer is to Belgium what wine is to France, a trip to the Belgian capital cannot be complete without the most important beer bar in the world (my opinion, and I’ll gladly share it!) In fact, the Delirium Village occupies a whole back alley of the Old Brussels and it’s a serious party destination. Check it out!
Impasse de la Fidélité 4
Hotels in Brussels: Pick Your Borough
Of course, Brussels isn’t just eating and drinking, it’s also the capital of Europe, with its Parliament and different EU offices and buildings. For a hotel that’s right in the middle of the European quarter, head to Thon EU. You’ll mix with the official crowd and civil servants.
On the other hand, if you prefer staying in a more residential neighborhood, the boutique hotel Le Châtelain offers a luxurious bed, beautiful backyard terrace and posh shopping on the adjacent Avenue Louise. Both great options!
Foodie Brussels: Need more?
Yes, I’m talking about food again. It’s what I love!
Belgium and Brussels have their own, very specific, and delicious local specialities. One is the moules-frites, or mussels and fries. Another one is the Carbonnade flamande – think beef Burgundy but braised in beer instead of wine. Of course, the fries and chocolate are ubiquitous. And what about the waffles? You can find all of my favourite addresses right here!
Brussels isn’t a city like any other. It’s a mandatory stop on the European trail. And it’s definitely bigger than its city centre! Walk a bit, try different things… And drink beer with moderation!
In this series, Cédric Lizotte visits some of Europe’s best restaurants. On his blog, Continents & Condiments, he shares his inside knowledge about the best places to sample the delights of some of the best chefs on the planet. Follow his gastronomical journey on social media with the hashtag #CedricInEurope.