Bite Me, Brussels.

Reviewing food for the foreigners, without all the fluff.

Posts Tagged ‘cafe’

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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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.
L’Atelier
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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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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