When one feels strongly attached to a cafe, there is always the temptation – admittedly antithetical to the journalist’s code of conduct – to keep it entirely to oneself. Especially when said cafe is the very definition of cosy, accommodating only some two dozen patrons comfortably.This is how I feel about Lord Byron Art Cafe, which is tucked away in the once-quiet Rue des Chartreux in downtown Brussels.
Although I’ve been haunting the place for years, I haven’t breathed a word about it, not even to my own mother, for fear that tomorrow I may not be able to find a place on one of its vintage leather couches. Recent developments, however, have rendered all this Shakespearean contemplation a moot point.
To wit, the cat has been let out of the bag and Rue des Chartreux is no longer the sole domain of the brave few who dare venture those fateful few metres from the chic Rue Antoine Dansaertand bustling Place Saint-Géry. This charming but tiny side-street has now become a destination in its own right, with several new boutiques and its own neighbourhood association, which organised the block’s first winter fair last month.
Lord Byron predates all of this. It was established in 2007 by a Kosovar transplant with impeccable taste and whose name, Bajram, was constantly mistaken for Byron. The decor is a blend of old and new. The building’s original brick and beam work give way here and there to smooth, neutral-hued walls on which Bajram exhibits a rotating selection of contemporary art.
There are several small tables in the front of the room and a short bar along the back wall. A decent list of beers, wines and cocktails are affordable. The music is never too loud but is always inspired. In short, this is a place for lubricated conversation or, for solitary types, hazy contemplation. This is not to say that Byron caters to the early crowd; the good Lord opens daily (except Sunday) at 18.00 and almost never closes before 2.00 (more often 5.00, 6.00 or 7.00). In case I’ve been unclear, Lord Byron is highly recommended.
8 rue des Chartreux, 1000 Brussels
This article first appeared in Flanders Today