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)

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
books
Sport
Diego Costa
footballEverton 3 Chelsea 6: Diego Costa double has manager purring
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
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
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

    Business Development Manager / Sales Pro

    £30 - 35k + Uncapped Comission (£70k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Business Develop...

    Graduate Sales Executive / Junior Sales Exec

    £18k + Uncapped Commission (£60k Y1 OTE): Guru Careers: A Graduate Sales Exe...

    Web Developer / Software Developer

    £25 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Web Developer / Software Developer is needed ...

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Day In a Page

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference