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Les Brigittines

If it were up to chef Dirk Myny, he’d sit down with each and every one of his guests. As chef-proprietor at Les Brigittines, a Brussels establishment for some 20 years, he knows how to make people feel at home with genuinely warm hospitality.

Myny, who grew up in Dilbeek, just outside of Brussels, learned to cook in his grandmother’s kitchen. That explains the long list of classics filling the menu, from cow udder broth to his famed pig’s trotters.

My dining companion and I opt for five courses, each paired with a different beer. What we get is entirely up to the chef. We eagerly await the first course by nibbling on fresh, crusty bread smeared with butter, all the while admiring the magnificent Art Nouveau dining room.

First up is a terrine of pork ears and whelks, served with a gribiche sauce. The bits of meat and other ingredients, including crunchy carrot and celery, are held in place by the pork’s gelatinous stock. It has a distinct seafood flavour thanks to the whelks, or sea snails.

The gribiche, made with boiled eggs and mustard, is the perfect tangy accompaniment for the terrine. This rustic starter is paired with a glass of Rulles Estivale, a pale ale brewed in Wallonia. It pours hazy golden and has a nice hoppy aroma and trace of citrus fruit, which makes it a good match for the fatty terrine.

The next course is steamed cod. The ultra-moist cod sits atop a bed of braised witloof, leeks, carrots, parsley and barley and is topped with a fluffy sabayon made from farm-fresh eggs and lambic beer. The combination of tart lambic with expertly seasoned grains and vegetables proves complementary to the subtle flavour of the fish. Naturally, to go with this meal Myny has chosen a glass of lambic from famed Brussels brewer Cantillon.

Next we are treated to the ultimate Brussels dish: zenne pot. Myny’s version of this once number one dish of Flemish peasants is a divine combination of cabbage cooked in Cantillon Gueuze with bloempanch (blood sausage), dried sausage and whelks. The bottom layer of blood sausage is deliciously soft, sweet and slightly spiced, while the top layer of gueuze-soaked cabbage, whelks, and dried sausage is salty and sour. The beer served is the same as that found in the dish.

The dishes just keep getting better as the evening progresses, and the main course is no exception. I can think of few things more delicious than veal cheeks braised for four hours in Cantillon Kriek beer. The beer lends its sweet cherry flavour to the pork, which is soft to falling apart. It comes with seasonal veg, including parsnip, whole young carrots, pearl onions, witloof and a skin-on potato. A clump of sour cream on top is just beginning to melt and run down onto the meat. A glass of the reddish-pink Cantillon Kriek is the spot-on pairing.

But the topper of the evening was still to come. A scoop of dark chocolate sorbet might normally be average, but the way in which Myny pairs it has us both blown away. The flavours inside the glass of XX Bitter from Brewery De Ranke mirror the sharp, bitter qualities of the dark chocolate in the sorbet. Pairing beers with food in this way immensely enhances both the beer and the dish.

Instead of letting us order the usual coffee after our meal, Myny has another suggestion in petto and pops open a bottle of Smoked Porter from Stone Brewing Company in California. This rich, malty ale has all kinds of complex flavours, including roasted cocoa and coffee bean. It makes for the perfect finish to the perfect evening. And all for about €100 each.

5 Place de la Chapelle, Brussels; 02.512.68.91
Mon-Thurs 12.00-14.30 & 19.00-22:30; Fri 12.00-14.30 & 19.00-23.00; Sat 19.00-23:00
Mains: €18-€42
True Brussels experience complete with Art Nouveau décor, exquisitely prepared local dishes and expert beer pairings

This article originally appeared in Flanders Today