Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Posts Tagged ‘Belgian’

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.

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,

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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Brusselicious Tram Experience

Posted by rachelinbxl on April 4, 2012

Part of the Brusselicious festival of food experiences this year (2012) is the Tram Experience. The menu changes every 2 weeks, with Michelin star chefs from different restaurants inventing menu’s to be prepared (at least partially) and served on board of a specially converted 50 year old tram as it performs a 2 hr tour of Brussels. I HAD to experience this!
I didn’t select the date based on chef, but on availability of a weekend date when a friend from the UK could join me. So, by chance, it was Pierre Resimont of L’Eau Vive who came up with the menu we experienced on Sunday 1 April (no joke). The boarding pass said 11:45 for a 12 noon departure. This was very optimistic! We boarded nearer 12:20.
One of my first questions was whether a table was reserved – or whether it was a free for all as couples fought for the tables for 2 (which are more popular than the tables for 4). But no, you are assigned a table by the gentleman receiving guests at the Poelaert tram stop. People were a bit more dressed up than for a normal tram ride, which I thought was really cute, as it is NOT the same as a Michelin star restaurant!
There are hosts to welcome you, and take your coat, however. The chef preparing the dishes came through and explained the amuse-bouches, which were not on the menu, and our waiter explained each wine (selected to go with the food). So.. what you see here are:
The tram table for 2 seen from the outside as the tram pulled in ; the amuse bouches – foie gras with a granny smith mousse, a double layer pea conconction with a quails egg and mushrooms at the texture change, and pizza dough worked into a crunchy bread, with truffles in. All very tasty and served with an excellent glass of cava.

The menu then listed: mushroom soup with farmhouse eggs, foie gras, artichoke, chestnut. This was very good – though the crunchy bread added nothing. Then there was Anjou-style young pigeon with puree of Jerusalem artichokes, buttered cabbage and legs a la Royale (a source of great amusement to my dining partner who was unimpressed with the actual presentation of these legs!). These were accompanied by a Macon village Chardonnay (very pleasant) and a Mas from Roussillon (less impressive, very French, which is not my thing – too much tannin) respectively. There was then a Rum Babe with pineapple and mango. This was mini, and the service lacked flair. The table of 4 next to us had eaten their mini portions before the little jug of rum arrived! Luckily we had been served a lot later – with rum before dessert ;-).

The chef can be seen preparing our pigeon in the small kitchen. Not bad for a small area, and yes, there is a toilet on board – though the unlock on the outside works even if it is locked from the inside.. and there is a sign explicitly requesting that gentlemen sit to urinate.. which given the bumps is probably necessary. The tram driver tried desperately not to shake us around too much, and compared to most tram drivers, it was smooth. There was only one time I was serving water and almost missed. The tables have sunken circles to hold the glasses, plates etc in place.
The two hour tour follows this route. The tram itself looks better at night (see another blog), but I was glad to have the view during the day. And we were lucky that it was cold, but sunny!

But was it good??? Well, I really enjoyed each of the courses. The mushroom soup was probably my highlight, and I could definitely have skipped the dessert without feeling I had missed anything. Wine and water were a volonte, which was surprising, considering that the website had specified there would only be 1 glass of each. The service was swift.. but not rushed. In fact the two hours passed very quickly. My friend from the UK was delighted, but I won’t be offering a Michelin 3 course meal to every visitor! Still, an experience indeed.
And when we disembarked, our chef got out to say goodbye – see the last pictures.

Posted in Far and away, Get it to go, Hot List | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Cellars and lofts in Ixelles

Posted by rachelinbxl on February 11, 2012

My Christmas present to myself this year was 2 books on Belgian beer. The first – Best of Belgian beers and where to drink them in Belgium… the second, 100 Belgian Beers to Try Before You Die!!
A rather dramatic title.. but gives the highlights in each category of beer, and doesn’t just focus on Westvleteren 12 (tried it, it’s good.. but so is Watou, St Bernadus and others from the area with similar recipes 😉
BUT.. as usual.. these ‘best beers’ are not on tap (or even in bottle) at most of the bars in Brussels. Moeder Lambic and Delirium are well known, and rightly so.. but rather popular.. and one needs a change now and again. So, when a friend suggested we test L’Atlier in Ixelles which has 150 beers on the menu, I was all for it! It’s near the Roffian tram stop, so easy enough to get to (and home from, as most of the Beers To Try Be4 you Die are strong enough to kick a few years off your life, certainly if you try to cycle home in the snowy February weather we are having)…. so off we went. It happened to be a Thursday, and in Ixelles near the university, this means lots of students. This meant the bar was busy.. but be warned that it still LOOKS closed. In fact, you could walk past without really realising there is a bar in Rue Elise. It’s got a sign out, but the door looks like a garage door, and the friend I was meeting actually called to say it was closed and was surprised when I said I was inside! Just push!
The permanent beer list is sorted by category and alphabetically. There are also black boards with specials. The service is fairly slow on a busy night, and the beers do not all come in their own special glass (somewhat sacriligeous in Belgium), but the choice is wide and I could tick two more of the list of 100 I must try (now up to 31 of them). The bar is cosy enough, in the typical hard wooden stool and table Belgian style; the toilets are down some steep stairs. Worth a try for the beer lover in Ixelles. Beer makes you hungry, however… and just round the corner we found a pleasant resto to test.
Elizastraat 77, 1050 Ixelles, Belgium
Beer: A
Atmosphere: B
Service: B
Price: B+
Languages: French, English

Le Grenier d’Elvire has a very French feel to it – the curtains to keep the cold out, the menu, wine by the glass. The prices are a bit above normal for Brussels, but fair given the portions. My companion took the cheeseburger and fries. Apologies for the quality of the image – I only had my mobile phone with me, not the real camera.
Cheeseburger and fries
This was polished off in double quick time, so I didn’t get to test.. but the meat was not overcooked, but not bloody, and there was a good portion of fries.
Goats Cheese Salad
My goats cheese salad was a little light on the actual green leaves, but very tasty with the lardons, honey vinagrette and the toasted cheese on bread. The service was fast and friendly. When we arrived, it was empty, but by the time we had finished it was definitely filling up – clearly a popular address in the area. Maybe I should pop back and see if they make a good tartiflette. It was on the menu.. but I couldn’t quite face it after 2 beers!
Le Grenier d’Elvire
Chaussée de Boondael 339/A, 1050 Ixelles, Belgium
Food: B
Atmosphere: A
Service: A
Price: B
Languages: French, English

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I’m singing in the snow

Posted by rachelinbxl on January 16, 2012

Le fou chantant on ave de fre in uccle is well hidden from passers-by. It is set back from the street down a small path that could almost be a driveway for cars, but isn’t. to note at this point: it doesn’t offer parking for clients which, given its rather off the beaten track, is rather a disadvantage. I found it thanks to a fan of the establishment who hosted his birthday party there. He booked the entire restaurant so i cannot comment on usual lay out or clientele. It was the day of snow in brussels, dec 2011, and getting down the drive was perilous. But i digress.
The crazy singing man is so-called because the focus of the cozy room with its mezzanine is a grand piano, where an expert comes to sing old favourites (mainly french language). There are song books on the tables and diners are encouraged to sing along. Dinner and karaoke. A few great classics by the likes of the beatles and elvis have made the list, but otherwise you can go observe the massacre of Jean-Jacques Goldman, Johnny Halliday etc.
The food is based around a grill. The open fire heats BBQ style grill prangs and the meat is high quality. We started with oysters, then a plate of foie gras. Neither of these is really my favourite, but the pate was good, served with onion jam and bread.

Foie gras

Foie gras

The piece de resistance is the steak, however. They came round to ask how you want it cooked and I would advise against saying anything darker than saignant-bloody. This is the third grade after bleu and rouge. I had never even heard this first, i think it means raw!!
I took bloody and enjoyed all but the very centre of my very thick slab. Had i had a thinner piece i think I could have eaten it all. It came with caramelised witloof, which is one of my pet hates in Belgian cuisine, and the ubiquitous fries. The witloof was actually edible, with sauce. 3 different sauces were on the table, of which the pepper cream sauce was my favourite, but the bearnaise was ok too. The tartare was too much like garlic mayonnaise for me. The wine was a robust french offering that went well with the meat.

Singing started in the middle of the main course. Dancing started once we could safely stand after all that food and only paused when dessert arrived. By this point i was not at all hungry but tested it out of gourmandise. It was a chocolate mousse cake on a wafer base with a fruit coulis. delicious, and luckily small. But I shouldn’t have indulged!!
Since this was a private party i cannot comment on the price of a normal meal in the resto, though I have read mixed reviews on that front. However, if you are looking for a sing along grill, look no further! A great time was had by all…

Le Fou Chantant
Av. de Fré 176
1180 Uccle

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

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Test all the restos at once!

Posted by rachelinbxl on August 23, 2011

The first weekend in August, Leuven hosts Hapje Tapje – a name meaning small drinks and snacks. Restaurants have stands in the streets and vie to make the best tasty morsel to tempt the passers by. There is even a prize for the best snack.
It has become quite the institution and people go for lunch and dinner, eating at the small tables in the streets, as well as on any green patch of grass. Snacks vary in price from 1-6 euros. Some are hot, some are cold; some are better value for money than others.

The main restaurant stands are in the Muntstraat, the Hogeschoolplein and the small street between the two, as well as the start of the Naamsestraat. Old favourites are Mykene and Kokoon, who always have something interesting to test (this year ZEBRA with wok noodles!)… we also enjoy comparing samosas from all the Indian/Nepali restaurants, though were most disppointed in 2008 when our winning restaurant closed down soon after. EverestBasecamp is also reliable though, and De Werf’s desset buffet is always insanely popular.

The Oude Markt hosts the annual bar man race – which is worth a visit. The winner from last year starts the race, and the bar(wo)man who completes the fastest circuit of the packed Leuven streets with the most beer still in the glasses on their trays is the winner. Some take it more seriously than others – but onlookers certainly have a laugh!
This year, for the first time, the Oude Markt had Hapje Tapje glasses for rent (we kept ours), meaning one could take smaller (cheaper) beers. The selection of beers is always better than for the rest of the year, with some interesting breweries attending. This year we also tested Belgian wine (not so impressive).

I heartily recommend the Hapje Tapje experience to all foreigners – and Leuven is a must see in Belgium anyway!

Hapje Tapje (in dutch)
All over Leuven
First weekend in August each year

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