Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Archive for the ‘Chill Corner’ Category

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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Thai food AND massage

Posted by rachelinbxl on June 6, 2013

Well, this post is about gettin the best of both worlds – a Thai massage and thai food – prepared by your masseuse no less!

I discovered Luang Pak Dee spa at the Thai festival held out in Stoekel last year. They had stands from many Thai restaurants across Brussels and cooking demonstrations from chefs. It was a meltingly hot day and we were tired from the trek out there, so we stripped off to test one of the many Thai massage stands. For the same price, the 3 of us got very different massages, but we were all impressed, so I booked for a friend and I to test a full 1 hr massage. The spa is very near the Grand Place, in a somewhat seedy street near the Casino. Inside, you are transported to Thailand with magnificent furniture and decoration. They speak all languages, but none well. The guy upstairs seemed confused that I had booked and had to get someone on the phone. Shortly afterwards, 2 women came running up the street wearing not enough clothes for such a cold day. He took us downstairs to get changed into the supplied massage clothing. I chose traditional Thai massage that is a mix of pressure point and almost chiropractic manipulation and stretching. If you choose aromatherapy with oil, I imagine the massage is conducted without clothing.

In Thai massage, your masseuse gets on the table with you and pulls you into various positions. Neither of them spoke English or French, so we communicated in sign language when she needed me to turn over, to lace my fingers, to resist or go with her motion. The pressure point massage is tough. They really go for it… I almost screamed a few times, but came out feeling like I was walking on new legs! My friend had a similar experience. I prefer focus on the neck and shoulders, where I tend to keep my stress, but I let them do their thing – and they do focus more on the legs, without ignoring any part – they do your head, face, back, arms and hands.

For me, the major advantage of this spa is that it is open on a Sunday. It is 50 euros for a 1hour Thai massage and the reason this is making it onto a restaurant review blog… is that they also run a Thai restaurant nearby. It’s called Thai Talks and is more of a snack bar than a long relaxing sit down dinner…. and our meals were prepared by our masseuses. They clearly had been summoned from there when we arrived and they left before we were dressed… so I am moved to wonder who was cooking during our 1 hour massage – as I saw noone else working there.

I have no photos of our food, as I did not take a camera with me for a massage! I chose the typical Phad Thai noodles – served with 2 giant prawns, chicken, peanut and tamarind. This was delicious, if a little sweet from the tamarind. Not too spicy, and a good serving size. The noodles were well prepared; in short I really liked it. My friend took the red curry with mixed seafood and this was nicely spiced. The seafood came from the freezer (we could watch the preparation, so we know)… but they were good quality. We hesitated on drinks, so our waitress recommended ‘Thai Ice Tea’. This is homemade with longan fruit. It is sweet, with a prune-like flavour. I found it refreshing with the meal and very pleasant. The whole thing was very good value (we paid 30 euros for the two of us). The service was very much ‘leave you to it’. Given the basic language skills, this was optimal.. we were in the back room and could chat comfortably while they chatted to each other (it was quiet time.. we were alone in the resto). We did not wait long if we needed anything, but they didn’t come on check on us. I prefer this sort of service in a snack bar anyway!

It’s not a big place; nor overly comfy. The chairs were basic and the toilet was down a spiral staircase through the kitchen.
I was just amused that you can get authentic Thai massage and cuisine from the same woman in 2 short hours, near the grand place, for a good price. So, I recommend it to you, dear readers.. if you fancy a massage or a thai snack!

Luang Pak Dee
22 rue Duquesnoy, 1000 Bruxelles

English and French spoken at reception, masseuses use ‘sign language!’

Thai Talks
Rue des Pierres 51, 1000 Bruxelles

Food: B
Atmosphere: B
Service: A Very friendly
Price: A
Languages: English of some sort,…?

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Ce soir on dine a Marrakech

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 18, 2013

Ce soir on dine a Marrakech (tonight we dine in Marrakech) is one of those restaurants that is so near by that I never get around to going. Ave Brugmann is not a concentration of restaurants, so you have to choose to go to this one. I finally made it with 2 work colleagues. which means the photos are lower quality (it is strange to be photographing a colleague’s dinner so I didn’t like to try a few times to get a picture without steam)!
The decor is very Moroccan – possibly more so than IN Morocco. The tables are large round ones on metal legs, with the trays on them for tea and so on. The chairs around the walls are laced with cushions in bright colours, and those Moroccan lamps hang everywhere.
The owner is clearly Moroccan and the welcome is thus warm. They immediately brought olives and the menu. It was a hard choice.

The restaurantTray tables

In the end I went for chicken with preserved lemon and olives – a reliable favourite dish. My colleagues chose lamb with mixed vegetables (shown on the left) and lamb with apricots (too far away to photograph). We ordered couscous to go with these. All of them were tasty.  Dried fruit goes well with lamb, but does make the tajine sweet. I prefer green olives to the violet variety, but these are more tangy and go well with the lemon. All of us felt there was a lot of meat (and bones – be careful). The service was attentive, but not overly so.

Lamb and vegetablesChicken and preserved lemon

I’d have loved to try sweets, but we didn’t have space for anything more than mint tea. but this was served traditionally and was excellent. I’m only giving it a B on price because it is not the best value for money Moroccan I have tried in Belgium. It’s also not the widest choice, nor the highest flavour rating.. but it’s good… and if you are in the area it is worth stopping in to Dine in Marrakech.

Mint Tea

Ce soir on dine a Marrakech
Ave Brugmann 408,
1180 Uccle

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

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Best Hot Chocolate Competition part 1

Posted by rachelinbxl on October 15, 2012

Of course, one of the things we are spoiled for choice on in Belgium is all things cocoa related!

I have my favourite chocolatiers – Zaabar and Blondeel are on the list. Zaabar for their chocolate bars of different cocoa origins, and Blondeel for their hot chocolates. There are others I must try – Wittamer is one I have often heard recommended. But I stick to St Catherine for this post.

The tea house has varied the selection in the past, but recently stuck to tried and tested – Venezuela – lower cocoa content but with chili powder and lemongrass flavour, Ghana (85% coca) with vanilla, cinnamon and aniseed (not strong), Madagascar (63% simple cocoa and milk), Safraan – more expensive 63% topped with frothed milk and real safran, and the 100% cocoa with mountain honey – that I love but that shouldn’t be considered as a drinking chocolate 😉

Madagascar Ghana – velvety smooth, vanilla undertones
Ghana Venezuela – more milky, with chili powder and lemongrass
The tea room The decor – Mayan?

If you go with  few people, try each! I’m also told their coffees are excellent. Their tea suffers from the typical Belgian problem of not being served hot enough in my British opinion. The Ghana is stronger on the cocoa content, and velvety smooth. The Venezuela was very hot on the chili to start with, with the lemongrass coming through more towards the bottom of the cup. This one is harder to taste the cocoa, it’s somewhat overpowered. The safran one was the biggest disappointment to me. It’s more expensive and much milkier. Maybe my palate is not refined enough, but I couldn’t taste the safran in this. My favourite remains the 100% – but I eat it with a spoon. It is not sweet, nor milky, despite being based on milk and chocolate. The honey adds a delightful wild flavour to the cocoa, but this is not a refreshing drink. It’s a medicinal pick me up filled with endorphins and feel-good factor!

They always put 2 chocolates beside your hot chocolate, as well as a glass of water that is much appreciated. One is their most famous praline based on florentine pieces – caramelised sugar with small nuts in it. You can ask to select chocolates from the counter for a small extra cost to enjoy with your drinks  (the price varies with who is serving!). They offer great flavours – including chili, wasabi, sea salt, earl grey, jasmine and rosemary. At 10 euros per 100g, you will only take away a few chocolates in a plastic bag unless you are on a splurge.

This place is often busy for the sit-down, but worth a visit! if it’s too packed, pop round the corner to Charli to test their pain au chocolat. I’ve since tested their beer and pumpkin seed bread and it is worth the trip!

Frederic Blondeel

Quai aux Briques 241000 Bruxelles
Drinks: A
Atmosphere: B
Service: A
Price: B+
Languages: French, Dutch, English

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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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