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Café De Markten

After spending a Sunday afternoon touring the nicest corners of Brussels on foot, my friend and I happen upon an urban oasis in the Dansaert neighbourhood. Under the leafy plane trees of the car-free Place du Vieux Marché aux Grains, we spot a pair of beach chairs and run to claim them as they are the only places left at this popular terrace café.

De Markten is, in the first instance, Brussels’ Dutch-language community centre. It is also, we gladly discover, the perfect lunch spot.

From our reclined position we order two glasses of fresh-squeezed orange juice. The juice has obviously been pressed using part of the orange peel because it is tart and tangy, and our straws gurgle with every last drop. We move from the comfy chairs to a proper table as soon as one frees up. A peek inside reveals a bright, airy and minimalist interior. White walls and wooden floors give the place a clean and modern feel, but not overly cosy.

Although we’re a bit late for it, the menu lists some very nice breakfast options (available until 11.30) such as muesli with fruit and yoghurt and croissants or bread with ham and cheese. For lunch you can choose from a variety of salads and sandwiches and a warm dish that changes daily (today’s special is Flemish stew with fries).

In the end, we order three items to share: the soup of the day (courgette and fennel), a club sandwich with Ardennes ham and grilled veggies and a Sunday omelette, with cheese, bacon and tomato.

Our composed and friendly server delivers everything almost immediately, which is no small feat considering the full terrace. Although it required both salt and pepper, the soup’s flavours start to come through, namely fresh courgette and spicy anise.

The club sandwich contains three hefty slices of organic whole wheat bread, one of them in between the grilled courgettes, aubergines, thinly sliced, salty cured ham and homemade green pesto. It’s an incredibly fresh and healthy sandwich, and very filling.

But the best part about our lunch is the Sunday omelette. The fluffy golden omelette is stuffed with diced tomato, crunchy spring onion, melted cheese and smoked bacon. It comes with a sizeable salad, too, topped with a tasty vinaigrette.

The bill comes to less than €27, which is almost as remarkable as the location.

5 Place du Vieux Marché aux Grains, Brussels; 02.513.98.55

This review first appeared in Flanders Today