Brussels: 'If you decide to go on a diet, leave'

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

There's more to Belgian cuisine than waffles. Lena Corner takes a culinary tour of the capital as it hosts a 12-month food festival

It has been said that Belgian cuisine is the quality of the French, served in the generous portions of the Germans. While we know the Belgians are pretty good at making chocolate, beer and moules-frites, the country still doesn't have anything like the international gastronomic reputation of France. This year, Brussels is hoping to redress that by hosting an ambitious 12-month festival of food called Brusselicious (00 32 2513 8940; brusselicious.be) to shine a light on its culinary credentials.

The obsession with food was clear from the moment I stepped off the Eurostar. Intermittently the air was thickened with the sweet smell of warming waffles, while the city's rich culinary history came written on the cobbled laneways that wind around the centre – Spice Street, Butcher Street, Cheese Street. "Brussels is a place you eat well," my guide Didier Rochette told me. "If you decide to go on a diet, leave."

The obvious place to start any walk here is the magnificent central square, Grand'Place. Take the Rue au Beurre (Butter Street) on the north side and half way up on the left you'll find Dandoy biscuit shop (00 32 2511 0326; biscuiteriedandoy.be). Here you'll find macaroons, pain à la grecque and much-loved Belgian speculoos, the buttery biscuits made with ginger and cinnamon.

Continue past the Bourse, which features engravings by a young Rodin, and turn right on to Rue de Tabora where an unsavoury looking corridor opens up to the left. "These passages may look like they are heading to a brothel," said Didier, "but ignore them and you'll miss something." Corridors such as this were built to create streets behind streets in the compact city. At the end of this one was a cloak-and-dagger pub, La Bécasse (00 32 2511 0006; alabecasse.com), which looked like something from the Prohibition era. The house beer was Lambic, brewed in the city's Cantillon Brewery, which is deliciously sweet – a little like cider – and served in ceramic jugs big enough for 10 people to share.

Turning left up Rue Marché aux Poulets, we came across Corica (00 32 2511 8852; corica.be) which any Belgian will tell you is the place to come in Brussels for coffee. Corica claims to have beans from every coffee-producing country in the world and the stack of coffee sacks labelled with the flags, suggested they're probably right.

We crossed the busy Boulevard Anspach and up Rue Ste-Catherine. Here, Charli (00 32 2513 6332; charliboulangerie.com) is a recently opened bakery dedicated to the concept of delivering the best ingredients in the greenest way possible. Everything here is produced from a modern glass kitchen which sits in the centre of the store, so things go from oven to plate in a matter of seconds. As you leave Charli check out the Champigros next door (00 32 2511 7498; champigros.be). I counted 15 different type of mushroom in the window.

This is also the place to find good seafood. Noordzee (00 32 2513 1192; vishandelnoordzee.be), on the corner of Place Ste-Catherine, is usually filled with Belgians standing at the counter feasting on caracoles – sea snails boiled in a spicy sauce. On the other side of the square is Brasserie Jaloa (00 32 2512 1831; jaloa.com, closed Sunday and Monday), one of the best seafood restaurants in the city.

Walk behind the church, and double back over Anspach, keeping the Opera House to your left. Turn right into Rue des Fripiers, left on to Rue Grétry and up to Rue des Bouchers. Here, the narrow cobbled streets are known as the "belly of Brussels" and the maître d's stand around hassling you to come inside. The only place worth stopping at is Fromagerie Langhendries (00 32 2512 2218; cheese-langhendries.be) on Rue de la Fourche. Here, great big stinking rounds sit on wooden shelves across the back of the shop, with 300 different cheeses to choose from.

Carry on up Rue de Bouchers, cutting through Galeries Saint-Hubert and a little way up you will come to Délices et Caprices (00 32 2512 1451; the-belgian-beer-tasting-shop.be; open Mon-Thurs), one of the city's favourite beer shops. It's run by Pierre Zuber, who has around 200 beers, which he lets you taste before you buy.

Cross Place d'Espagne, go right, past the museums of Art Hill, until you come to Rue Haute (High Street), one of the oldest streets in the city. Here at the bottom is Place de la Chapelle, where we stopped to sample another Belgian delicacy – chips. There used to be a fritkot (chip kiosk) on every street corner, but fewer remain today. In November, as part of Brusselicious, there will be a competition to discover the best in the city. The one at Place de la Chapelle is a favourite of Belgian tennis hero Justine Henin-Hardenne.

Feeling happily sated we crossed Boulevard de L'Empereur and Place de Dinant-plein and wound our way through the backstreets to the Manneken Pis, the little bronze boy urinating into a fountain. It's a bit of a tourist trap, but Le Poechenellekelder (00 32 2511 9262) just to the left is a cosy bar with a serious beer menu. There was just time to sup a strong trappist ale before heading up L'Etuve, past the enormous Tintin mural, and back to the Grand'Place where we started.

 

Fresh cuts

Patrick Roger, one of France's best-known chocolatiers (00 32 2514 7046: patrickroger.com), recently joined the big names in Belgian chocolate clustered around Place du Grand Sablon. The store is worth checking out for the life-size chocolate gorilla in the window alone.

Laurent Gerbaud is another newcomer (00 32 2511 1602; chocolatsgerbaud.be). He is one of just two chocolatiers (the other being Pierre Marcolini, 00 32 2514 1206, marcolini.be) who doesn't buy his chocolate from major Belgian producer Callebaut, so theirs both taste genuinely different. Try the gare aux noisette – a chocolate ball that explodes in your mouth leaving behind secondary notes of salty nuts.

Travel essentials

Getting there

Lena Corner travelled with Railbookers (020-3327 2439; railbookers.com) which offers two-night packages to Brussels from £229 per person, including B&B at the Royal Windsor Hotel, and return train travel from London St Pancras.

 

Visiting there

Brusselicious (00 32 2513 8940; brusselicious.be) runs until the end of the year. A city tram has been given a makeover as a dining car, serving menus from the city's star chefs as it trundles through the city. The two-hour circuit costs €75 (£62) per person.

 

Go guided

Guided tours can be booked through the tourist office (020-7307 7738; visitbrussels.be)

Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Mystery man: Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in '‘Gone Girl'
films... by the director David Fincher
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
Kim Jong Un gives field guidance during his inspection of the Korean People's Army (KPA) Naval Unit 167
newsSouth Korean reports suggest rumours of a coup were unfounded
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
stoptober... when the patch, gum and cold turkey had all failed
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
people
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?