It is a foodie’s paradise. Sat with my friend L, inside one of Brussels’ most understated restaurants, Bonsoir Clara, eating ‘deer country style’ (essenitally venison stew) by the spoonful, I flicked through the photographs that I’d taken of my first day exploring Brussels and noted how I had considerably more pictures of food than I had of any of the city’s impressive Gothic architecture or major landmarks. So, here are my Belgian highlights based around all the fabulous food that we found along the way.
The good food doesn’t necessarily jump out at you. In the run up to Christmas, the unevenly cobbled streets are lined with markets selling all manner of sugary treats from Belgian waffles to mulled wine. On arrival, this typically Christmassy scene is inviting but after a day, it left me craving meat, vegetables and a bitterly strong coffee. Luckily, our airbnb hostess had left us with an entire list of her favourite restaurants and cafes near to our home-from-home; the beauty of living like a local and having a hostess to point you in the right direction.
Arriving in Brussels after dark, the streets were lit up by Christmas lights and the markets in full swing. We wandered around the Grand Place, getting our bearings and peering longingly in all the chocolate shops. Defeated, we got one of these hot chocolate stirrers – a dark orange chocolate one and a white chocolate and raspberry one.
Saturday lunchtime, perusing all the delicately parcelled goodies in a lovely little chocolatier’s called Elisabeth. The shop assistant spoke very good English and, when we asked him where he went for good coffee, he pointed us in the direction of Coffee Company, ‘where all the cool people go,’ he said.
Dinner was at Bonsoir Clara, ‘deer country style’ was followed by a generous board of French cheeses and then the biggest creme brûlée I’ve ever seen with a thick, crisp lid of sugar, just waiting to be cracked.
After our hostess had described her favourite boulangerie, Charli, we were determined to find it and Sunday morning breakfast time seemed like the perfect opportunity.
A little bit of to-ing and fro-ing and an emergency google-map consultation later, we located the bakery.
Our hostess had repeatedly insisted ‘these are the best almond croissants you have ever tasted,’ and, she was absolutely right. Not only that but this boulangerie experience was one of a kind. The cafe is laid out around the bakers’ workspace and separated by a glass wall so you can watch the bakers mix, knead and roll while enjoying their amazingly fresh produce.
Now, back to England with armfuls of Belgian chocolate truffles – it’s a shame that almond croissants don’t travel well!