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Cobra Gallery-Bar

Sandwiched between the swanky Greenwich restaurant and the flagship Kartell design shop is a tiny haunt easily overlooked in a corner of Brussels known for its exclusive boutiques, fine-dining establishments and the trendy crowd drawn by both.

Amid all that Dansaert hustle-and-bustle, Cobra Gallery-Bar breaks the mould because everything about it feels so understated, so familiar, so normal. If you like your bars unpretentious yet cosy, this is where you need to be.

With its worn living room interior, low ceilings and dim lighting, Cobra offers a welcome escape from the racket of the nearby Saint-Géry cafes. Though it looks deceptively small from the outside, Cobra actually boasts two floors. Climb to the top one, settle into one of the faded couches and enjoy the view offered by the huge glass shopfront (that is, if you can handle the dizzyingly narrow staircase).

I must have walked past it umpteen times, but I only discovered Cobra last year on a late Friday evening. My friends and I could't get a seat at the nearby Lord Byron, so we decided to try our luck at the little place just across the street. I remember feeling like I had hit the jackpot as I crossed the threshold. Cobra recently celebrated its 22nd birthday, and I doubt that, beyond an expanded menu, much has changed since the ’90s. You will find no conversation-crushing music here, no lip service to the latest drinking fad, no carefully selected retro decor. I've also heard that it is one of the few places in town where you can get a decent Scotch.

Owner Fitim Pagarusha makes a great host, but Cobra’s secret weapon is the endearing 20-something West Fleming who runs the bar on most evenings. Serving patrons with a warm attentiveness that is hard to come by in most venues in this area, he makes every visit to Cobra feel like a homecoming.

Cobra is quite simply Dansaert’s only real neighbourhood bar.

1 rue des Chartreux, 1000 Brussels

This review first appeared in Flanders Today