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New guide to Brussels’ best bread and pastries

15:15 12/11/2023

Where can you find the tastiest artisanal and local bread in Brussels? That is the question answered perfectly by ASBL Tartine et Boterham - meaning sandwich in French and Dutch - in its 2024 guide to the best bakeries in the capital.

This third edition – following one published for 2022 and the first in 2015 – contains seven new addresses in some 74 entries, co-ordinator and journalist Géry Brusselmans said.

He told The Bulletin that artisanal boulangeries and pâtisseries are seen above all in Ixelles (15), Brussels (nine) and Uccle and Saint-Gilles (eight each).

On the other hand, Anderlecht has only three, Jette two and Koekelberg one. However he said that the situation was developing well – with 20 more addresses “following our criteria” in the past five years.

In short, to make the grade, the bread makers have to work with quality ingredients (for example, butter and flour without additives), the workshop must be next to the shop or at least nearby and at least 80% of products sold in the shop must be made in the atelier.

In addition, the business must be open to the public, boulangeries that only make bread and cakes for restaurants or supermarkets for example are excluded.

This year’s guide revealed two new trends, Brusselmans said - more women in charge an, more owners choosing to give themselves a better work-life balance.

This means that many boulangeries-pâtisseries only open four or five days a week. Others do not start selling until 11.00 and then close if their stock runs out, instead of being governed by set opening times, so avoiding waste and rubbish.

At the same time, there are fewer businesses where children take over from their parents. Instead, owners have often studied for another profession, then retrained.

Paul Hillier for example, who runs the England-inspired Compagnon bakery opposite Ixelles hospital with his wife Marianne, used to design gravestones. Marianne was an environmental consultant.

And while for years, boulangeries and patisseries are being taken over by supermarkets and big chains such as Paul, with independent bakeries representing only 35% of the market, “artisanal shops are increasing in our capital,” Brusselmans said. “The guide has 20% more shops than it did five years ago.”

Another development is catering for people with a gluten or lactose intolerance or who do not eat any dairy. More boulangeries sell vegan pastries, with Ixelles’ Chambelland the go-to place for coeliacs (gluten-free food).

As well as practical information, the guide focuses on what makes each shop special, also noting one highlight. For example, Kiekebich in Anderlecht only takes orders, so nothing is wasted. Thibaut in Evere sells a large range of baguettes, notably using olives, peppers and/or nuts. Other institutions specialise in Italian, Greek or Sicilian goodies.

If you want to hear (or eat) more, on 30 November, the guide will be presented to a large public in the cooperative brewery Mazette - featured in the guide - on the Place du Jeu de Balle. Mazette brews its own beer and makes its own bread, cooked on the open fire, something unique in Brussels.

Finally, if you want a "top five" to try, Brusselmans has the following suggestions: Khobz (Ixelles); PinPin (Brussels); Compagnon Bakery (Ixelles); Togâ Pâtisserie (Brussels) and La Maison Lavoisier (Jette).

Brusselmans added that, as a proud Schaerbeek dweller, one personal favourite was the Soleil bakery, minutes from his house.

The guide is an extension of the website that references all Brussels’ artisanal bakers and cake makers, as well as proposing every week different events including ‘gourmet’ walks, site visits and cooking classes in the ateliers.

Its authors invite anyone who knows an artisanal bakery not listed to contact so this can be included in the next issue or added on the website.

Meanwhile, if you want to buy a copy of the guide (€12), you can do so via this link. Copies will also be available at a reduced price at the 30 November event.