Until late in the afternoon, groups of tourists mix with locals at café Volle Brol, located along the cobblestones of the Place du Jeu de Balle in the Marolles area of Brussels. Place du Jeu de Balle is the scene of the well-known daily flea market in this popular down-to-earth neighbourhood. The name of the café itself is a wink to the antique trinkets and vintage curiosities that are sold on the market, brol meaning “junk”.
The interior of this otherwise unpretentious café is brightened up by various types of colourful hats strung from the ceiling or placed on mirrors. From wide Mexican sombreros to red cowboy hats, the whole catalogue is distributed around the small place.
However, the decoration that draws the most attention here is the large frame hanging on the wall, displaying figures who are not only wearing traditional boater hats but also impressive moustaches. The Volle Brol is the headquarters of the Orde van de Brusselse Moestasje, or the Order of the Brussels Moustache, a folkloric association of Brusseleirs with a rather particular hobby: growing imaginative and especially huge moustaches. They meet every month at the pub to discuss activities; every spring, they elect the most beautiful moustache of the year. Or, as is written on the framed posters in Brussels’ dialect, they elect the Moestasje van t’joêr.
Contrary to what you might expect, this is not a men’s only club – although the female members don’t have to fulfil the same criteria for membership. They can more easily be recognised during events by their stylish yellow boater hats, which make them look like stars of classic movie musicals.
If you want to drop in for a beer, you don’t need to worry about opening days or hours. According to café owner Ramuka Besim, the bar is open every day “from early in the morning until god knows when”. A special occasion to soak up the authentic atmosphere among locals is the first Saturday of every month – karaoke night.
Place du Jeu de Balle 28, Brussels
This review was originally published in Flanders Today