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The bagels of Brussels

Few people have the audacity to complain about Belgium's bakeries: between the croissants, baguettes and wide variety of sweetened delicacies, little is left to be desired. But there are surely many American expats - and undoubtedly every New Yorker - huddling behind closed doors lamenting a couple of key baked goods missing from their Belgian diet.

Obviously, I refer first and foremost to the bagel. Although the Jewish community of Antwerp provides a refuge for some, the bagel battle in Brussels is a bitter one. Most bakers’ bagel-exposure seems to have been limited to photographs. Thankfully, a few establishments are doing their homework and saving us all from our bagel-less misery.

Au Pays Des Merveilles, a cosy bagel haven and tea room in Saint-Gilles, has their bagels delivered from Amsterdam. These bagels are respectable, with ample doses of cream cheese, smoked salmon or other toppings (although why anyone would order something other than cream cheese and smoked salmon on a bagel is beyond me). It’s a popular place, and a choice destination for a leisurely Sunday morning brunch, including their fine selection of teas and coffees.

Newer still to the Brussels bagel scene is Sens in Ixelles. Open since 2009, it quickly developed a loyal following. Those of you looking for a solid H&H bagel (a popular bagel company in Manhattan) with a two-inch schmear of cream cheese are going to have to look elsewhere. Sens offers up a delicious, light, locally made bagel in four basic flavours: plain, sesame, poppy and multi-grain (as purists will note, “multigrain” is the exotic outlier in that list). Cream cheese is served in moderation – no skimping, but no 1:1 bagel-to-cream-cheese ratio either.

Perhaps most importantly, Sens serves up a pastrami that evokes sighs and eyes-rolled-heavenward from its devotees. While the supplier remains a strict secret, the pastrami (as well as some other meat) is kosher and is even attracting Jews from Antwerp. It’s hard to get higher pastrami praise than that.

This article was originally published in Flanders Today


Two bagels? Two? That's the best you can do? I know the Bulletin has fallen on hard times (I am a former subscriber) but I can think of several places omitted from this list and that's without actually doing any research (i.e. something journalists do before writing their articles).

Jun 12, 2013 09:53