Saturday, 23 April 2016

Hana (rue Saint Boniface)

When faced with every restaurant blogger's least favourite question - 'What places to eat do you recommend?' - I've started to give increasingly vague answers. Not the rue des Bouchers, of course. The rue de Flandres, though, is a good bet. Or, further away from tourist central, the place Saint Boniface. I've had good and indeed very good experiences in its environs and I can't think of anywhere in Brussels that matches it for sheer variety of different cuisines, from traditional Belgian to African to Asian, including one of Brussels' few Korean restaurants, Hana.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Antas (chaussée de Wavre)

It is not often that Sunday lunch brings you face to face with existential despair, but then Antas turned out to be exceptional in several ways: exceptionally good food, exceptionally slow service, and exceptionally disturbing menu art (see below: I found the 'screaming mouth' on the right hand side especially striking, though the dead-eyed mask on the left is still haunting me too). A slightly mysterious enterprise in several ways - it's very close to the place Jourdan but the restaurant entrance is well hidden within a takeaway pizza outlet - it's not like anywhere I have visited in Brussels or, indeed, elsewhere.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Au Vatel (place Jourdan)

I've previously reviewed other establishments on place Jourdan, but it took me a while to realise that Au Vatel wasn't just an upmarket bakery selling intricate cakes and also offers sit-down meals. It has the feel of an Etterbeek institution (albeit one that appears to have gone bankrupt in 2014 - strangely, I can't find any reports of the recovery it must have experienced since then).
In order to eat in you walk past that tempting cabinet of pastries and to a seating area at the back; there are windows but they don't really have much of a sky view, so the space is slightly dark and some of the furniture is a bit too close together. This definitely feels like a bakery with tables rather than a café. Oddly, this distinction was also reflected in the people serving: those behind the bakery counter (where you pay) seemed more jolly and engaging than the waiting staff.
On my first visit I went for a breakfast: for 10.50E you get coffee, orange juice, rolls and two eggs. I chose these to be served as an omelette and felt my order had been executed over-literally: if you made an omelette with two eggs alone and without any oil, butter, herbs or salt it would probably look like this. It was also not only dry but rather over-cooked, hence the brown crust on the outside. The rolls, meanwhile, were fresh (although not warm), which is the least you'd expect here, but would have been better served by something other than mass catering-style portions of butter and jam.
(forgive the artistic background; it seemed appropriately decadent)
There are also plenty of lunch choices, including quiches, salads and sandwiches, but on another day I went for the daily special of onion soup (4.95E), which wasn't photogenic enough to be reproduced here. It wasn't quite the caramelised French-style extravaganza that I expected (although in a nod to that version it did arrive with a side dish of grated cheese) but it did taste better than it looked, and I was actually quite impressed by the depths of flavour that the kitchen had drawn out of what was essentially pureed onion with seasoning. It came with bread that was just on the unacceptable side of the fresh/stale boundary: obviously bakeries want to use up day-old products, but still... For the purposes of comprehensive reviewing I followed this with a salted butter caramel tart (4.95E, quite a hefty - and unadvertised - mark-up from the takeaway price of 3.50E). This comprised a notably hard pastry shell filled with rich buttercream topped by even richer caramel, with not much salt to counterbalance this. Nice as a treat, I suppose, but one that left me without much of an appetite for the rest of the day.
So, there are plenty of goodies on offer at Au Vatel, but I'm not sure if dining in is the best way to appreciate them. In future I think I'll stick to buying bread (and maybe the odd cake) to take away.

Au Vatel
place Jourdan 27
1040 Etterbeek


Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Manhattn's Burgers (rue Henri Maus/avenue Louise)

I have a confession to make: I don't really like the idea of burger places. When I go out to eat I like choice, uncertainty, a bit of mystery even. I'm not that excited by restaurants that offer variations on one meal. Still, the high-end fast food joint trend of the 2010s has clearly reached Brussels, and one day (fortunately when I wasn't doing any proofreading work) I had the chance to visit Manhattn's (sic) Burgers.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Eurostar, Standard Premier food

By now, many of Brussels' expat residents will have headed back home - some by car, some by plane, and some by the (usually) trusty Eurostar. Regulars on that service will know that the vagaries of the booking system mean that, once the cheapest Standard class fares have gone, sometimes it's no more expensive to travel in Standard Premier. For your failure of organisation (or willingness to pay more in the first place), you get extra legroom, a small selection of magazines, and a meal. I realise this isn't quite the same as assessing a paid-for restaurant experience, but this year's final In Brussels, Will Eat review will do its best.

Friday, 20 November 2015

Cook and Book (place du Temps Libre)

Woluwe-St-Lambert is a mostly genteel and fairly attractive suburb of Brussels, but the area around Roodebeek metro station is not exactly the jewel in its crown; on emerging amid driving rain, I was confronted with waste ground and strange, impersonal-looking modern buildings. One turned out to be the massive Woluwe shopping centre; the other Wolubilis (Latin pun alert!), the shiny new local arts venue. Only on a third glance did I realise that the semicircle of buildings behind it was occupied by Cook and Book, the object of my journey.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Déjeuner sur l'Herbe (rue des Deux Eglises)

The main reason we decided to go to Déjeuner sur l'Herbe was that it seemed to be a highly popular establishment. A scouting expedition at lunchtime had shown its somewhat Belle Epoque-style, all fresh gilding and mirrors (and random tropical fish tank) dining room to be full. There are plenty of reviews online praising its quality, good value and friendliness. So it was with some trepidation that in the evening we poked our heads in, hoping that there might be a free table for three somewhere in a corner, only to find an empty restaurant and a waitress who was more than happy to seat us by the window. I realise that the edge of the Eurobubble, the hinterland between the rue de la Loi and St-Josse, is not exactly Brussels' hottest ticket on a Friday night, but although our experience was broadly good, atmosphere was not one of its highlights.