Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Solid Belgian food in Art Nouveau decor

Posted by rachelinbxl on February 6, 2014

I’d been to the Porteuse d’Eau before but just for a drink. I had Japanese friends visiting and wanted something Belgian, and pretty. The Porteuse d’Eau is a wonderful Art Nouveau cadre, without the food being insanely overpriced (.e.g the Museum of Musical Instruments which is another beautiful location I took them too, but the food was severely unimpressive for the price).
It was only when we got there (an easy walk from South Station) that I realised there are steps (3) to get in. But they were very accommodating of my friend in the wheelchair. We carried her, and they carried the chair! They set us up near the bar and were very friendly.

Art Nouveau ceiling and paintings

Art Nouveau ceiling and paintings

My friends loved the decor.
La Porteuse d'eau

La Porteuse d’eau from outside – it looks inviting, doesn’t it?

Choosing dishes was challenging. We went for 4 very different dishes, of different sizes, and just shared everything. The traditional black and white sausage with potatoes and apple sauce had to be tested! The white sausage was quite bland, but the black one was well spiced. I don’t particularly like the sweet apple with this, but it is traditional, and was well prepared.

Duo de boudins, apple sauce and potatoes

Duo de boudins, apple sauce and potatoes

As did witloof gratin – the famous Belgian endive, wrapped in ham, cooked in a bechamel sauce, covered with mashed potato and put in the oven (a bit like shepherd’s pie). I have an intense dislike of endive..  despite really trying to learn to like it. This did not change my mind. The bitterness of this vegetable is too much for my palate. But the japanese loved it.

Chicons au gratin

Chicons au gratin

Our third dish was a bit more Dutch – maatjes – or herrings. They came with more endive (but raw – a little easier to manage) and apple, in a salad. This was fresh and very tasty. Quite smokey, and a smaller serving of course. We all enjoyed trying it, but I think a whole plate of this would have been herring and endive overdose for me.

The fourth dish (in the background) was an aubergine gratin. This was cheesy, crunchy and decent, but didn’t offer a particularly interesting flavour. Compared to the other dishes, this was a disappointment. But it was good to have a few vegetables on the table!

Maatjes with endive and apple salad

Maatjes with endive and apple salad

La Porteuse d’Eau has an impressive list of beers. I tried another off my list of 100 Belgian beers to try before I die. It was pleasant, but not as tasty as some of the others. My Japanese friends are very sensitive to alcohol, so tried the Jupiler without alcohol. I had not previously tested Belgian beer without.. but this one is surprisingly good. Hoegaarden 0% doesn’t really taste like beer to me (though it is a very refreshing lemon/coriander fizzy drink, and I like it).. this is more like a beer, though a bit more honey-flavoured. It went well with the Belgian food – where I find other soft drinks quickly mask the taste.

Good choice of beer, including no alcohol

Good choice of beer, including no alcohol

By sharing the heavy, and less heavy, dishes, we had space to share 2 desserts. I had already introduced my friends to Liege waffles that one can eat while wandering Brussels streets. The Brussels waffle is much harder to do this with, so we had one here. It was not a great example of one – not being very hot, and just coming with icing sugar and whipped cream. They preferred the light and fluffy texture of this waffle however. Perhaps also because Liege ones are So sweet.

Brussels waffle with whipped cream

Brussels waffle with whipped cream

The apple pie came warm, with nuts and raisins and cinnamon, served with ice cream. It was pretty good.

Warm apple pie with ice cream

Warm apple pie with ice cream

All in all, I’d say this was a great place to take visitors for a Belgian meal that doesn’t break the bank. It also want astound your taste buds… but it’s a beautiful building. We even made sure to carry my friend upstairs so she could see the upstairs room and the lovely toilets, that are also decorated. The staff were very friendly, the service was efficient whilst still being a bit Belgian (we don’t really care, you’ll have to wave to get another beer)….I wouldn’t bother for myself… but for visiting foreigners, I’d say this was a good location for a meal.

La Porteuse d’Eau
Av Jean Volders
1160 St Giles

Food: B
Atmosphere: B
Service: B
Price: B
Languages: French, English

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Japanese Noodles

Posted by rachelinbxl on October 27, 2013

Another interesting eatery has sprung up on a corner of the Flagey square. This is a really good area for choice of food. The Walk in Thai is a great, cheap thai eat-in/takeaway place, there’s Mama Roma’s, Les Super Filles du Tram (burger joint) and Quartier Libre (tapas), as well as Slurps and Dolma for the vegetarians.
The latest addition that we have tested is Unamido. Opened by a Belgian with a penchant for Japanese cuisine, this focuses on Ramen noodles – in their traditional broth. There is a veggie option, but the rest are served with pork neck and half a (perfectly) soft boiled egg. One can choose the addition to the broth – miso paste, soy sauce, spicy miso, pork fat etc. There is also a ‘Ramen of the week’. This was autumnm chestnut yesterday. I stuck to traditional – and went with miso. My friend took soy sauce.

Soy Ramen

Soy Ramen

Both were excellent. The noodles were al dente and freshly prepared. The pork neck is cold and added to the broth like that. There’s a lot of fat in it, but tasty. The egg, as mentioned, was perfectly cooked. Diners get chopsticks and a spoon in order to enjoy the broth and the contents. In addition to the basics, there were mangetout, spring onions and a few leaves of spinach. The broth was not overly salty (though the soy sauce one was clearly more salty than the miso), and well balanced in flavour. The portions were generous without being impossible to finish.

Miso Ramen

Miso Ramen

 

They serve a selection of Japanese beer, as well as hot or cold sake, but we didn’t sample those yesterday. The service was speedy and courteous and completely bilingual (in fact, the waitress and chef were discussing in English). The basic noodles are 13 euros per bowl. There was a lunch menu advertised with 3 gyozas and a bowl of ramen for 12 euros. Shame I can’t get to Flagey for lunch.
The chairs were not particularly comfy – one is not meant to sit and chat all evening. This is a quick eat joint – they do not seem to do takeaway. There was only one dessert option. But with Capoue ice cream next door, do you really need more?

In short – a good stop for Japanese noodles with no fuss. I only didn’t give As because I think it could be cheaper for a quick meal, or more comfy if you are meant to hang out longer. But it goes on my list of reliable places for good food near Flagey. It’s quite a long list..

Unamido
1 Chausee de Vleurgat, near Flagey
1050 Ixelles

Food B
Atmosphere: B
Service: B
Price: B
Languages: French, English

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A web of seafood

Posted by rachelinbxl on August 25, 2013

I had heard of the Spinnekopke, but had never tried it. It is a little off the beaten path around Grand Place, St Gery and St Catherine areas for me, but not a long walk at all. I called in advance, as I was taking a friend in a wheelchair. They confirmed step free access to the toilet, so I booked a table. When we arrived, they were very welcoming…. but there was one giant problem. The square itself is on a hill, and the entrance to the old brasserie is down 3 steps, unless you do a long tour down the side street and approach from that angle – but my friend wanted to sit on the terrace. This is on the square at the top of the steps, surrounded by plant boxes. The waiters very kindly moved a plant box, and we installed ourselves. Of course, this meant there were 3 steps to get to the toilet, and we were trapped until they helped us leave. But still….

The Brasserie Spinnekopke

The Brasserie Spinnekopke

The place itself is lovely, as is the square. The terrace is close to the road, but there is not much traffic. We were a group of 4 and they were quite happy for us to order 2 starters to share, and just 2 main courses. I am glad we did, as they were filling!

Prawn or cheese croquettes

Prawn or cheese croquettes

As starters, we had one plate of prawn croquettes and one of cheese (Maredsous abbey cheese, a good choice). These were both excellent, crispy and runny in perfect measures, served with a little touch of salad. I tried the house white beer (brewed by the owner). It was excellent.

Mussels with beer sauce

Mussels with beer sauce

For the main courses we took a pot of mussels with the homemade beer in the sauce. The mussels were excellent, even though July is really not the season for them. The beer sauce is rich and thick – and still comes with leek in the mix, to add a little freshness. They replaced the bread as often as we asked. The other dish was cod in white wine and parsley sauce. This suffered from us being on the terrace. It cooled quickly and cold fish is not my thing. The sauce was good, but subtle compared to the zingy, rich beer sauce on the mussels, so the mix and match didn’t do it justice. The fish itself was good quality, however…

Cod with white wine sauce

Cod with white wine sauce

I found the vegetables a little overcooked and the frites were not Belgian double fried quality (I had to take my guests for those another time.. but a frietkot is a MUST in brussels anyway). We tried the house blond beer too – which was also good but less outstanding than the white. The brown (double) was unfortunately off-tap.. so we missed trying the full selection.

We were full after this, but the table next to us took a dessert sampler tray and my guests eyes lit up. One between four didn’t seem like a terribly bad idea ;-)

Dessert sampler tray

Dessert sampler tray

There are 4 types of ice-cream/sorbit, profiteroles with cream and chocolate sauce, a creme brulee, chocolate mousse and a layered cake in here, as well as the fruit salad.

Dessert sampler from another angle

Dessert sampler from another angle

They use real dark Callebaut chocolate for the sauce, and this was absolutely the highlight in the flavours. The chocolate mousse was good, as was the creme brulee. We detected passion fruit sorbet.. a rum and raisin style one, a raspberry one and vanilla on the fruit salad. The layered cake was my least favourite – it had some coffee flavour to it that I didn’t like. We were fighting to finish – these are small portions, but after a large meal. the richness was a challenge.

The total was not too expensive for 4 people, but we only had 2 starters, 2 mains and one dessert ( and 2 beers and water). This is not a cheap place, with a bowl of mussels costing nearly 25 euros. You can certainly get it cheaper in Brussels, but I have never had such an excellent sauce. I’d say this place was worth the splurge.

And we managed to carry my friend to the toilet, and shift the flower boxes to escape… even with the terrace very much busier than when we had first arrived.

Our waiter was friendly and funny (in excellent English) but sometimes hard to catch given how busy it was. I’d recommend booking if you are a group.

In t’Spinnekopke

Place du Jardin de Fleurs
1000 Brussels

Food: A
Atmosphere: B
Service: B
Price: B
Languages: French, English

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African sunshine

Posted by rachelinbxl on August 11, 2013

One of my favourite places to eat in the summer is the Matonge. This area, near St Boniface, is full of life, character(s). warmth. good food and cheap beer. Their spicy chicken wings get your fingers sticky and you can smell Africa even the next day. The terraces are heated. You share long tables with other diners and everyone is enjoying themselves. Once Brussels jazz kicks off, I have to go to the Matonge for my dose. My boyfriend would go every week if he could.
I won’t pick out one particular restaurant, as “rue de la longue vie” has many and they intermingle. They all serve chicken with onions or peanut sauce, mafe and spicy dip. They also all have tilapia (a fish that is fantastic grilled), goat, plantains, rice. samosas (vegetarian or not) and giant bottles of jupiler served at the table with tiny little glasses. The tables out on the terraces have boxes of tissues to clean your fingers and bowls of insanely hot red chili sauce.
The food is not haute cuisine… and one cannot really go and sit there alone and expect to be left alone.. but everyone is friendly, the food is never bad (though the plantains have been very dry on occasion). Food is cheap. the company is good and you come home feeling warmer just for having been there. Try a mixed plate that features samosas, chicken wings, plantains, rice and peanut sauce (at last testing not very peanutty)….

Tilapia,  plaintain and some leaves

Tilapia, plaintain and some leaves


Their opening hours are indiscernible. Whenever the weather suits eating on a terrace… and they are busy from 12 noon through to 12 midnight!
 

Anywhere in the Matonge, especially Rue de la Longue Vie
1050 Ixelles
Food: B (varies down to C if you are unlucky)
Atmosphere: A
Service: B Friendly but disinterested.. but that’s OK!
Price: A
Languages: English  and French, or a sort of mix

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Fancy a cuppa?

Posted by rachelinbxl on July 29, 2013

Finding a good brew in Brussels when one means tea rather than beer is a challenge. Once a year, tea amateurs Eric and Adeline de Vrij set up a Tea Garage in Brussels where one can go and taste fantastic Japanese and Taiwanese tea made really well.
Eric worked previously at Tea Smith in London Spitalfields – a great place to try when you are travelling. Their collection is built up from many sources, and I tried a Japanese Puerh called Rosecha that he found in Budapest!

Other than that, it’s make it yourself… but where can you buy it?

L’Heure Bleu. Avenue des Arts 12, 1210 Brussels (Metro Madou)
Nong Cha. Dansaertstr 4, 1000 Brussels (Bourse)
Eden, rue du Page 27, 1050 Brussels
Tea and Eat, place Stephanie, 1000 Brussels (Betjeman and Barton teas)
Septieme Tasse, rue Bailli
Maison du The, Rue du Postillon, 1180 Uccle
Do you have any other good tea recommendations in Brussels? Let me know!

Tea Garage
Drinks: A (they do offer homemade biscuits, but I won’t pay that for shortbread!)
Atmosphere: B (well, its a garage, but all customers are into tea and easy to chat to!)
Service: A
Price: B+
Languages: French, English

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