Getaway in Brussels
We are back with a new article for our travel section. After Apulia and Andalusia we take you to Brussels. There is enough tips and adresses to fill a weekend, from cultural visits to good food spots. All thanks to our freinds Léo and Mylène who took the time to show us around the coolest places in the belgian capital.
Eating good fries
Difficult to spend a weekend in Brussels without tasting their famous fries. Even if you are not a great connoisseur of Belgian gastronomy you have, no doubt, heard that they have the best fries in the world. But why ? Indeed, despite their simple apprearance, the fries require a great know-how, which our Belgian neighbors seen to have mastered.
The quality of Belgian fries is very important, and the final result depends on the temperature before cooking. The fries can not be frozen before frying, otherwise they don’t get their desired crunchiness. Perfect potatoes are no more than one centimeter thick, and the procedure is to fry the potatoes twice. They are even prepared in a special oil and if I am not mistaken this oil consists of a mixture of different animal fats.
Undoubtedly, one of the most popular and well known places to taste Belgian fries is located in Saint-Gilles. La Friterie de la Barrière is always surrounded by tourists and locals, waiting in the cold to taste fries dripping with oil.
Belgian fries are almost always served with a sauce, which vary from the more traditional ones such as mayonnaise and mustard to more interesting concoctions such as the Andalusian sauce, the samurai sauce and the joppieaus sauce.
Drinking good beers
Even though we live in a region that offers a lot of quality beers, we were enthusiastic about tasting good Belgian beers during our trip to Brussels. Why ? Well, because Belgium has the greatest diversity of original beer styles on the planet. There is something for every taste. Ranging from very light beers like ours in Alsace, to beers very foamy and dense with a high degree of alcohol. The diversity of Belgian beers is also in the aromas.
Most Belgian beers are served in their specific glass, the shapes of which are very varied: goblets with wide openings, glasses in the form of a tulip, glasses with a pill, etc. The logo of the beer is always mentioned on the glass. The different forms of beer glass serve to highlight the taste and aromas of the beer by the path that the bubbles take along the walls of the glass.
Triple Karleliet is a bronze-gold color beer surmounted by a creamy and dense foam. The taste is quite fruity, reminiscent of tastes of bananas and vanilla and even a touch of lemon. The beer seems quit light and it is easy to drink, but has a high alcohol percentage of alcohol up to 8.4%. To brew this kind of beer (triple) the brewer uses more fermentable, and a yeast strain more resistant to alcohol. These beers are strong in taste and alcohol content.
Produced in the Ardennes, this distinctive beer is instantly recognizable by the dwarf with the red bonnet (or chouffe) that adorns its label. Its aroma is particular, orange blossom or apple acid. It is somewhat a strong pale Ale.
Not really a big brand of beer but a very young microbrewery in Brussles that started with a crowdfunding project. The recipes are said to be a work in progress, nevertheless the beer that can be tasted here is very qualitative. The price is a little expensive, but this unordinary beer definently deserves a try. To get one you have to go to the Marolles in Rue du Miroir.
Eating on the go
When visiting a city for a weekend we spend most of the time outdoors so it is good to know some addresses where you can take refuge to recharge the batteries and the stomach. During our visit to the Sablons and the Marolles flea we took a very special sandwich at Pistolet original. So what is a pistolet exactly . The creators of the restaurant explain it better:
“While everyone in Belgium is familiar with the ‘Pistolet’ as this delicious puffy bread roll with the slit down the middle, a soft core and trademark crisp crust, the truth is, it did not always have this form or this crispness: it took several centuries for it to reach adulthood and become this tasty.“
The composition of our pistolets :
Taking the time to eat
After an unsucesful attempt to enter the Garage à manger we came upon Les filles (meaning The girls) at another side of the city a few hours later. “Les Filles” is a restaurant like no other where you are received as at home, around long convivial tables that you share with other guests. At the table we were all welcomed with small appetizers simple but tasty. One of the girls explains the concept of restaurant and the meal of the day: Fresh and seasonal products, and a menu that changes daily according to arrivals. The menu consists of two appetizers, served at the table and the main dish, dessert and cheese accessible on a buffet. The setting is really friendly, and the meal is served on the buffet in large pots.
We had :
In another, more traditional style, we also ate at the Quincaillerie. It is a restaurant with a sublime architecture that transports you directly in a world at the crossing between the Orient express and a private lounge of the end of the 19th century. And if you’re curious, you can go down the stairs and get a glimpse of what’s going on in the kitchen.
In the Quincaillerie you can eat seafood and Belgian specialties like the Flemish carbonnade and mussels-frittes. We can even accompany the meal with a beer brewed by the restaurant which we found to be very good.
Drinking a hot chocolate at the St. Hubert gallery
What better to accompany a belgian waffle than a hot chocolate? The cold weather served us as an excuse to go back to the chocolatiers of the Galerie Saint Hubert several times . The magical atmosphere of this place is very pleasant.
The galleries are located in the heart of the historical and touristic district of the city. This is where you will see the Grand place (the great square) and the famous Manneken pis, but that is not what we preferred.
We like to eat, but eating is not all… We both come from the visual arts field and we studied the floral patterns and the lashes of the Art Nouveau for a long time. Brussels being somewhat the headquarters of this artistic movement we took advantage of our escapades in the districts of Ixelles and Saint Gilles to discover its superb organic facades and to review our old courses at the university.
If you want to reach the ultimate Art Nouveau experience, it is possible to visit the house of Victor Horta, a famous architect of the art nouveau mouvement. We can not show you pictures because taking pictures inside was forbidden but we strongly recomand the visit.
When you have finished the visit you can also hang around the shops in the neighbourhood wich are full of surprises. There are one of a kind bookshops and stationary stores.
The beautiful museum of music also called MIM
The MIMA and the flea market of the Marolles
We continue our walk in Brussels with the district of Marolles and Sablons where we find all kinds of second-hand clothes and old kitcheware. Baubles as far as the eye can see, to delight fans of vintage memorabilia.
It was hard not to bring home too many things. This was one of the biggest flea markets we have seen. We also likes the neighborhood shops who had old books and varieties of maddening succulent plants.
Later we moved to the north west parts of the city and visited the MIMA and the quayside of the Molenbeek district. MIMA is a museum housed in old industrial buildings which offers a collection mixing street art and modern and contemporary art.
A design shop that opened a few days after our stay.
The exposition was called “City lights”
A work that seemed to be dedicated to us haha
Impressive cutting and linocut work by artist Swoon
What to bring back from your weekend in Brussels
Besides seafood, fries and beer, Brussels is also specialized in the manufacture of the famous Speculoos. Indeed this delicious cinnamon biscuit has its origins in our neighbour country and we can taste it in different forms: jam and confit for cooking or the traditional biscuits and cakes. During our escapade, it was the period of Saint Nicolas so we brought back to our friends some giant speculoos in the form of a little guy. We got them at Maison Dandoy a shop that you can find all over Brussels. Although it is a chain their products are very good and the packagings are elegant.
And frankly, it is better to bring back a good speculoos than a plastic manneken pis as a souvenir;)
So when are you going to Brussels?