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Belgian cuisine: Where to enjoy local specialities in Brussels
The Belgian capital has a long tradition of serving a rich variety of regional produce with dishes that reflect the country’s culinary heritage.
Beyond the tourist trap restaurants littering streets around the Grand Place, there’s no shortage of dining places dishing up tasty examples of the country’s unique cuisine.
From traditional comfort dishes such as hearty Flemish carbonade, tasty rabbit in kriek and simple stoemp to steaming mussels, crispy grey shrimp croquettes and revisited classics, we take a look at some of the best addresses around.
For a typically Belgian experience set in a retro atmosphere, Aux Armes de Bruxelles, ‘T Kelderke (pictured above), Au Vieux Saint Martin, Poechenellekelder and Taverne du Passage are all established locations on Brussels’ culinary map.
As the name suggests, C’est Bon C’est Belge (pictured, main image) delivers national dishes from a prime location in the Sablon. It doubles as a delicatessen and traiteur, where you can pick up dishes to go, such as waterzooi, stoemp and gratins. It also runs a tearoom for brunch and afternoon treats in Rue de Bon Secours.
You can’t beat a brasserie for reasonably-priced dishes in a relaxed atmosphere. Les Brassins in Ixelles (pictured above) also serves a selection of local brews, including gueuzes and trappistes. Fin de Siècle near Place Sainte-Catherine is cosy with its large communal tables, a chalked up menu board and heaving plates of steaming and largely meaty classic dishes served with mash or baked potatoes rather than habitual fries. A more upmarket address in Royal Saint-Hubert Galleries, Le Marmiton serves an extensive selection of seafood dishes alongside veggie and gluten-free options, amid a stylish period setting.
Brasserie menus generally feature fish and seafood suggestions. Otherwise, try Noordzee/Mer de Nord outdoor fish bars in Place Sainte-Catherine and Place Luxembourg for tasty and super-fresh finger food.
Meanwhile, a new generation of chefs and patrons are applying a more modern approach to familiar dishes. Manneken Pis Cafe near the Grand Place revisits some Belgian favourites. So a traditional Flemish carbonnade is transformed into carbonnade of beef cheeks with Duvel, served alongside crispy potatoes and a tasty herb mayonnaise. A pork belly dish is flavoured with a local gueuze, while the cheese selection is supplied by city fromagerie La Fruitière.
Les Petits Bouchons in Uccle proposes delicious seasonal food depending on what’s available at market as well as artisan wines and beers (pictured above). The result is shamelessly traditional and tasty plates of food.
It’s back to basics at the city-centre art deco brasserie Bouillon Bruxelles. Simple Belgian cuisine includes popular dishes such as waterzooi, meatballs in tomato sauce, chicken vol au vent, potjevleesch and shrimp cocktail, while oysters are a tempting starter. Service is excellent as the restaurant’s value for money.
A festive atmosphere with DJ evenings fuels the reputation of city-centre Zotte Mouche as much as its menu packed with traditional boudin, vol au vent and steak tartare and fries.
Fernand Obb delicatessen in Saint-Gilles proudly calls itself a food counter, showcasing popular Belgian specialities. In addition to its award-winning shrimp croquettes (pictured above), the bustling and award-winning deli-cafe also dishes up boudin burgers, chicory salad, crunchy potato waffles and pistolet sandwiches. They can all be washed down with regional beers.
Croquette fans should also head to family business Friture René in Anderlecht, which has been wowing customers with traditional favourites since 1932. Grey shrimps similarly feature on the menu at La Belle Maraîchère in Place Sainte-Catherine, alongside fish dishes and a popular daily three-course menu.
Mussels are the main draw at Le Chou de Bruxelles in the Châtelain area. Not to be outdone, Schaerbeek institution Le Zinneke (pictured above), offers more than 69 mussel recipes with hand-cut fries on the side. It also likes to propose new flavour combinations in its dishes.
Another time-honoured address is Volle Gas in Place Fernand Cocq. Admire the period features and enjoy the numerous mussels, meat and regional options. Otherwise, Chez Leon may attract tourists with its Rue des Bouchers location, but the mussels are reliably good.