Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Archive for the ‘Brew in Bruxelles’ Category

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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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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Wine and dine in the Marolles

Posted by rachelinbxl on June 29, 2013

This Bite Me Brussels contributor is a big fan of beer and wine, as well as good food. Of course, this is also due to the delightful way wine and beer can complement food. I joined a Meetup group that goes wine tasting twice a month, and my first attendance was a delightful discovery.
I already like the Marolles area of Brussels, below the Palais de Justice, really just two parallel streets of antique shops, the giant flea market and vintage shops that spring up around it, endless brunch possibilities and it’s open on Sundays. What’s not to like?
But I have never been there in the evening during the week.
So, Wednesday evening in the Marolles, this Meetup took 20 wine fans to the relatively new ‘Studio 126’. This opened in March 2013 and is run by a lovely Belgian-English-Italian couple. He is an oenologist and makes his own wine (in italy). He takes care of the wine side of the shop. She is an interior designer, hence the lovely wall painting, and takes care of the ‘knick-knacks’ side of the shop.

Our oenologist and the lovely interior design of Studio 126

Our oenologist and the lovely interior design of Studio 126

The wine selection is modest, but well chosen for variety and price range. It is not exclusively Italian, but does concentrate on Italian wines.
There offer tasting by the glass on a selection of bottles (price varies according to the price of the bottle). They also have Italian charcuterie and cheeses to go with the wines (all excellent in their own right, and hard to get hold of in Belgium).
So.. one can drop by for some excellent council in Italian grape varieties, styles, regions and flavours… taste a glass … try some Italian treats, and maybe buy a bottle for later.
Every other Friday evening, they serve an Italian aperitif, with a dish and a glass of wine at a fixed price. They also offer 3 small tables during the weekend and serve pasta or risotto, again with wine. The offerings are typically Italian, so you might want to call and check if you don’t want to try squid or intestines.

In short, I went to a wine tasting and discovered a place that I want to go for a Friday night apero, or a Sunday meal! Guests are welcomed as friends and the mix of wine and interior design makes for a lovely setting to discover some sunshine in a glass. Really necessary this June in Belgium!

My favourite of those sampled

My favourite of those sampled

Studio 126
Rue Blaes 126, 1000 Bruxelles (in the Marolles area)

Food: not yet tested
Wine: excellent
Atmosphere: A
Service: A  very friendly and knowledgeable
Price: B
Languages: French, Italian, English, a little Dutch

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Not such a cool bun

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 6, 2013

Well…. I finally made it out to Cool Bun. It was for a friend’s birthday. That’s my excuse and I am sticking to it! I certainly didn’t need a burger after the Hard Rock overdose… but I did feel the need to check out the last in the competition.
So, Cool Bun near Place Stephanie. Well, the service is good. The decor is a little boring, but not bad. The toilets weren’t up to much, but were at least clean. My difficulty was finding it. I thought it was closer to Place Stephanie, but you actually need to go up past Mig’s World Wines (a favourite wine shop of mine on Chaussee de Charleroi – but this isn’t a wine blog)….
Saturday lunchtime it is open till 15:00, which fits well with the generally late shift of my habits on Saturday. It was even quite busy up till the kitchen closed.
The 2 waitresses were welcoming and even a bit fast to try and take our orders. In fact we both opted for the Apple Jack Burger, since the special I wanted to try with echalottes fried in Westmalle and mushrooms was off the menu. We both went for ‘a point’ – I don’t like meat too bloody, especially a burger. This burger includes onion rings, oven-dried tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and BBQ sauce (with a choice of spicy or plain). I took spicy and it wasn’t really spicy.
The onion rings weren’t a highlight for me. They weren’t bad.. but not outstanding. The fries were a mixed bunch. My dining companion actually got a fairly decent plate of chips, I got little crispy bits of potato. We realised later on that he preferred the crunchy bits and we could swap so I could have something resembling potato…. but I still have to give their fries the thumbs down. This is Belgium. We have standards.
The homemade bread was good, and I liked the little salad that comes with the burger. The meat was good, not over seasoned, and cooked as requested. I still prefer Ellis Gourmet Burger and Les Super Filles du Tram/ Houstiplou. My last gripe would be the prices here. The apple jack is one of the cheapest burgers at 15 euros (includes fries, not the case at Ellis). The specials are at about 20-22 euros. This is over my limit for a burger. The wines and bio beers are not overpriced, but not cheap either, and I thought the wine selection by the glass was a bit poor. I chose a beer.

Cool Bun

Apple Jack Burger

All in all, not a place to avoid: I encourage bio, friendly restos near the centre… but not an outstanding burger.

Cool Bun
Rue Berckmans 34
1060 Saint-Gilles (near Place Stephanie)

Food: B-
Atmosphere: B
Service: A- Friendly but card reader broken so I had to wait while my friend went out for cash
Price: C
Languages: English, French

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Public brewing at Cantillon

Posted by rachelinbxl on December 19, 2012

Brussels is home to 2 breweries that I know of – Brasserie de la Senne and Cantillon. There are also a few bars that make their own beer and serve it only in their establishment – one on Grand Place, L’Imprimerie in Uccle and the SchievenArchitect on the Vossenplein. There may be more!
Cantillon is also known as a museum of gueze. Here they make this traditional Brussels beer in the old way – meaning that the wort is left open to the air overnight in a giant copper vat – collecting yeast naturally present in the air of Brussels (near the river Geuse, hence the name apparently) that starts the fermentation. These beers are kept for years in oak barrels before being blended, or having fruit added to make various different gueze blends or krieks etc. Cantillon works with natural sugars and yeasts, so these are very sour beers – not everyone likes them.
I went along to one of their public brewings -which start at 6am and allow you to witness almost the entire preparation process (you can’t stay overnight to see if you can spot yeast spores falling into the liquid!).

The actual brassing

Brassage of the wort (hot water added to the cereals and stirred)

There are frequent tours offered in many different languages and you get a stamp on your hand when you pay, allowing you to come back several times during the day and check on the progress. This is a busy day – so I would also recommend visiting the museum at another time. They show the cleaning of the barrels, the bottling and sell their beers way cheaper than you will find them anywhere else.

testing
You can drink the wort – it tastes a bit like Horlicks

Keg overflow

It’s a bit different, but I recommend a visit to Cantillon for any beer lover!

Cantillon Brewery and Museum of Geuze
Rue Gheude,
Brussels

Food: None available
Atmosphere: The attic is cold – bring a jacket, but the warmth of the welcome compensates
Service: Excellent
Price: 5 euro includes a beer at normal times
Languages: French, Dutch, English and more!

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