Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Archive for the ‘Break your fast’ Category

Charli’s Chocolate Croissant

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 21, 2012

I enjoy reading the Eurostar magazine on my train rides to and from London. They have interesting short reviews on London, Paris and Brussels ‘places to be’. New restaurants and cafes are highlighted, as well as an interview with a local person on their average saturday wander, including a few favourite shops and a cafe. That was how I came to read a review of Charli’s Boulangerie. I’ve seen this bakery a hundred times. It’s on the street down from the Asian supermarket, next to the shop dedicated to all things mushroom /fungi and opposite the Noordzee, just before Place St Catherine. I had never noticed the queue, however. Once I heard that it did ‘the best pain au chocolat’ in Brussels, I had to try. So, having made my Sunday pilgrimage to South station market, and then the less frequent shop at Kam Yuen for Thai curry ingredients, I dragged my heavy shopping bags to Charli in search of a quick sugar and butter rush. Well, with that queue, in the drizzle, it had better be the BEST pain au chocolat EVER.

I am not a pain au chocolat fan. I don’t like the shape, I think. Croissants have this beautiful, promising crescent moon shape (hence their name), and the middle tip that is folded over is often delightfully crunchy for its extra exposure to the heat of the oven. Pain aux raisins (sometimes called escargots) have a delightful snail shell shape, and are stuffed with raisins, which I adore. They come in crunchy, or soggy with the sort of custard cream they envelope in the spirals. I love both. But pain au chocolat is like a long fat sausage roll. It is unappealing. Also, whilst I adore chocolate, I am not a fan of it IN my bread products. So luckily the review had spoken highly of a pumpkin seed coated loaf of bread made with beer. This encouraged me to stay in the queue. I could at least watch through the tall windows as the staff feverishly emptied fresh products from the ovens and stocked the shelves. The 2 servers were also working very efficiently (most un-Belgian), so I felt sure that the queue down the street wouldn’t take long. Indeed I was served in less than 10 minutes. Not even the time I had had to wait for a tram to get into town. Not bad.

There was no pumpkin beer bread. I opted instead for a loaf with figs and walnuts (3 eur). I resisted (with difficulty) the fresh almond croissants being unloaded into the display and took a pain au chocolat (1.3 eur). I started eating the ‘slug’ on the way to the tram stop. Charli opts for the double chocolate tram tracks in their pain au chocolat. A good start, because if you’re going to put chocolate in pastry, it should be very present. The top was a crunchy shell, but the interior was very bread like (white fluffy bread – not the sourdough type that I had just bought too, but not fine layers of patisserie). I was rather unimpressed, but felt it would really benefit from being warm, so managed to hold myself in until I could get home and wack it in a hot oven for 3 mins.

Pain aux figues et noix... et un pain au chocolat

This is the loaf and the half eaten pain au chocolat before they went in the oven. Since I was warming things, I also put in a slice of the bread and enjoyed that with butter and marmalade. The bread is excellent – the fig and nut add a little something without being too overpowering. The texture is fantastic. The pain au chocolat was improved by the warmth. The chocolate that had escaped on the underside was runny and hot, but inside the roll was still solid. The top was definitely crunchy, but the inside still a little bread-like. Almost brioche. I have to say I might have been better with a croissant.

Charli’s has a sit down area, but it was packed on a Sunday at 11:30. Maybe a place to try mid-week! Next time I’m in the area I’ll see if I can test that beer and pumpkin loaf… and maybe give in to an almond croissant.

Charli Bakery

34 rue Saint Catherine
Brussels

Food: A
Atmosphere: C
Service: A
Price: B
Languages: French, English, probably Dutch

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Weighing anchor

Posted by rachelinbxl on November 15, 2011

Anyone following this blog will have gathered that I am a beer fan. So, when I discovered that you can eat (and drink) in the Anker brewery in Mechelen (where they make the very decent Gouden Carolus series of beers as well as specials like the Maneblusser – named after the nickname for the inhabitants of Mechelen), well, I was determined to test it. We booked for an evening meal on a saturday. By email worked well – I had a confirmation within half an hour. However, it was not overly busy and it may have been possible for 2 people to go without a booking (I wouldn’t recommend that for larger groups, however, as the room is not that big). There is a gift shop, where they stock all the beers (cheap!) as well as merchandise such as T-shirts, beer mats, chocolate with beer in (not tested.. !), and there is a hotel. The restaurant is on the ring of Mechelen, quite a walk from the station, but we visited the town first, so this wasn’t an issue. The Begijnhof isn’t as pretty as some Flemish begijnhof’s, but worth a wander, obviously.
The restaurant is on two floors and overlooks the brewery – so out the window you can see lots of bottles. I was disappointed that they didn’t have the full selection on tap (you may have more choice of beer on tap at the Ankertje in central Mechelen!).

Mechelse koekoek met witloof en kroketten
We ordered the Mechelse koekoek (a small bird stewed in the Maneblusser beer) and the beef carbonnade (stoofvlees), a flemish specialty, this time with the Gouden Carolus Classic – a dark brown beer. We tested the Maneblusser (a nice fresh pils-like beer, but with more taste), the Classic (dark, malty) and the Christmas (a more spicy, clove and nut version of the classic). The food was good, but not outstanding. The beef stew wasn’t as good as some I’ve eaten, and the fries were certainly a disappointment. The Mechelse koekoek was better. The sauce had the fresh tang of the Maneblusser beer, and the croquet potatoes were herb flavoured and really delicious. I don’t eat endive, but my friend said they were good.
Stoofvlees, sla, frietjes
None of the desserts inspired us (the Sabayon flavoured with beer sounded intriguing, but had to be ordered for 2 people, and was 9 euros a serving!). This was almost as much as our main dish! In the end we opted for a cheese selection, which was in the menu of ‘snacks with beer’, but is a selection of Belgian cheeses by the hotel’s fromager… so we thought it would be nice. The Achelse blue mouldy cheese was a good blue. The mechelse was strong and had a bitter aftertaste that I found rather overpowering. There was also a local ‘brie’ and ‘camembert’ that were creamy and pleasant, but nothing special and then a harder cheese that I have forgotten the name of. This was served with excellent bread – a choice of dark brown bread that clearly contained rye flour, or a paler multi-grain bread. We couldn’t finish all the cheese and we shared the dish of 5 small slices between us. It is rich after beer-flavoured stews and potatoes! But it was tasty for 12 euros and a good match for the local beers, so I’d recommend it. I didn’t take a photo as we demolished the plate quite fast! Overall, I like this restaurant. I realise it’s a long way to go, but should you be visiting Mechelen (and you should), I can think of worse places to eat than this brewery!
Het Anker
Guido Gezellelaan 49
Mechelen (in the Begijnhof)

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

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Ethiopian Coffee in the Marolles

Posted by rachelinbxl on September 18, 2011

On a particularly hot and humid Sunday as I was showing a few tourists around the Marolles area, we noticed this charming little cafe that I don’t remember seeing before. Since one of my friends was in caffeine withdrawal and I know Ethiopian coffee is powerful, we stopped in. The cafe is small but pretty, and sells a few Ethiopian fair trade goods. They make fair trade tea and coffee also. We were disappointed with the black tea which had a strange earthy taste. The coffee was not quite as strong as we had hoped, and no coffee making ceremony. I tried a Baobab juice drink, which was not particularly tasty, but certainly refreshing and apparently very good for me! The food looked good, and the cafe had cards for some of my favourite Ethiopian eateries (see other posts). I think it would be worth another try at a moment when we wanted to spend a little longer lounging! The toilets had interesting lights (that weren’t very bright, both of us were looking for the light switch as we went in, before realising the were already on!). Overall our experience was not the best, but not the worst cafe in the Marolles. So take that for what it’s worth 😉

Aksum
Rue Haute / Hoogstraat 140
Brussels

Food: n/a (we only tasted the drinks!)
Atmosphere: B
Service: A
Price: B
Languages: French, English

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Rachelbxl

Posted by rachelinbxl on July 18, 2010

My name is Rachel, so when I learned of a new bagel place in Brussels called Rachel’s Bagels, I thought I should check it out. Just outside Anneesens tram station, in Koolmarktstraat, Rachel’s is a small cafe with a pleasant terrace. On Saturday and Sunday they do a brunch for 18 euros.
I photographed the buffet, and the selection was fairly decent. You also get one fresh hot bagel, fresh pressed orange juice and tea of the day or coffee.

brunch buffet

Brunch buffet

This runs pretty much all day Saturday and Sunday, and at 3pm on Sunday it wasn’t very crowded… so if you are hungry enough it would be a good spot to check out near the centre.
We weren’t that hungry though, so we tried one bagel each:

Nina


Nina is a spicy tuna (ginger and curry) with coleslaw bagel. Served with salad and nachos, as are all their bagels. I didn’t ask if something other than sesame bagels was available. The tuna was good, but the combo was a challenge to eat. I wasn’t sure that nachos complemented the meal, but they were good nachos.

Justin BLT

Justin BLT


Justin – or The BLT was well supplied with salad and had crispy bacon. My friend was pleased.
The fresh OJ was good, and the tea of the day was moonwalker (a green tea with jasmine, rhubarb and red fruits) which was very pleasant.
The guy running this bagel bar named it after his Grandmother. He was very sweet. According to their menu they won the prize for the best pastrami bagel in Brussels recently. I wasn’t sure how much competition there was for that award as I can’t think of any other places to get one… but they were pretty good bagels. My only quibble would be the price. 5 euros is the minimum for a bagel to takeaway, and the eat-in club bagel (3 layers, it did look impressive) runs to over 10 euros. Tea of the day in a mug was 1.5 euros, but a pot of a different tea would set you back 3.6 euros. 4 plain bagels to take away costs 6 euros. It’s not break-the-bank expensive, but its not the cheapest snack in town! It is ‘different’ though, and has a nice atmosphere.

Overall, a nice place for brunch in the centre. Would go back to try their muffins or cheesecake and another one of their interesting teas, but it won’t be a regular address for me…. I just really like the name!
Their domain name is even really similar to my wordpress login!

Rachel’s Bagels
Rue du marche au Charbon 100
1000 Brussels

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

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A gingerbread house in the woods

Posted by rachelinbxl on May 7, 2010

Friends of mine recently helped me discover The Wood.

The Wood

Deep in the heart of Bois de la Cambre (TerkamerenBos) on the edge of Uccle, Bruxelles Ville and Ixelles, there is an idyllic centre of calm and strange plant life that serves a decent brunch on sundays. The door is round on the far end of the building (many of the windows look like doors!)

We were 10 people, and had booked, but it was not actually very busy; it might have been because of the crazy rain we had! For 25 euros you have access to the buffet from 11am till 3pm (and I hear they have stayed later, but were finally kicked out at 4pm).

The buffet bar


There is a very decent selection of cold cuts, warm dishes, salads, breads and pastries, really good fresh juices… etc. I’m not sure how much changes each week, but will be going back to test it again for sure!

Herring

I was really pleased with their fresh fish. The herring was excellent, as was the salmon. The beef carpaccio was also good, served with shaved parmesan and a mustardy sauce. The salad was well dressed, but in a rather small bowl. The coffees were generous, although not included in the price, which I had misunderstood, but never mind.

Lait Russe


There were also warm dishes that I didnt photograph. They had canneloni, another meat dish with bacon and something else that I avoided. I had just had a BBQ the night before so I was more in the mood for salads and fish. Plus, of course, the desserts.

Pastries and bread

They also add a few specialities each time. Last time it was pancakes cooked in front of you. This time it was profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce.

Profiteroles with hot chocolate sauce

All these delights are served on Villeroy and Boch china, with their matching cutlery (frightfully chic, take a large bag and something to muffle the sound of you nicking one of their Bodum themo glasses)…. in fact those Bodum glasses are dangerous. You can’t feel the heat of your lovely fresh mint tea, so you burn your mouth.

I would suggest staying long enough to need to use the facilities, as the toilets are a tourist attraction in themselves. I won’t say any more, or the post will need a spoiler alert. Take a while to wander around and admire the fountain and the strange bottle of Absolut vodka near the door.

My only 1 negative point was that, since it is a serve yourself buffet, the waiters are much more involved chatting to each other or serving the few other guests who order a la carte. Getting their attention to order coffee/tea required really walking up to the bar. But its a small gripe.
It is off the beaten track, but I imagine in the summer it will get busy with people wanting to spend a day in the park. There were seats outside, but the joy of this sunday buffet was having the whole spread to ourselves!

The Wood
Floralaan, Bois de la Cambre

Food: A-
Atmosphere: B+/A-
Service: B+
Price: A-
Languages: French, English, Dutch

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