The Hedonist: Brussels

What to see and where to be seen

Brussels, you say? Besides Tintin, moules-frites and some chocolatiers with funny names, I hadn't heard much more about the Belgian capital. It seems the tour guides forgot to mention the pulsating jazz scene, the antiques havens and party-hungry locals who certainly pull their weight against their European neighbours.

Sitting pretty on one of the quietest streets behind the busiest tourist site – the impressive Grand' Place – is Rocco Forte's Hotel Amigo (00 32 2 547 4 747; hotelamigo.com). A fitting name, given how friendly and welcoming the staff are. Like most of Mr Forte's hotels, the décor is comfortably unassuming and the subtle Belgian displays, such as the tiny framed cartoons hanging over the toilets and the complimentary biscuits, can easily be missed.

Straight after dropping my bags off, it's on to Kwint, at Mont des Arts 1 (00 32 2 505 9595; kwintbrussels.com) – the sister restaurant of Maison de la Truffe in Paris. Even those with a limited grasp of the French language can guess what this place is all about. Beautiful round, dark chunks of truffle-flavoured salads, soups, pastas and even the breadsticks that I munch between courses.

Soaring on a truffle high, I make my way to meet some friends in Halles Saint-Géry. After a refreshing beer (of course) in Le Roi des Belges (00 32 2 513 5116), one of the cooler bars on the square, we walk to a quiet road, and stop in front of an unmarked door. My local colleagues seem to know something I don't. Two knocks later and we are transported into the modern Art Deco universe that is L'Archiduc (00 32 2 512 0652; archiduc.net). Melancholy women wearing black and men with thick beards tap their feet to upbeat lounge music. The martinis are divine and I dive right in. As the evening wears on, the music heats up and the crowd gets livelier. By 3am we are well on our way to dizzying territories of martini madness.

But there's no rest for the wicked in this city. With a few new "friends" in tow, we head to Fuse, Rue Blaesstraat 208 (00 32 2 511 9789; fuse.be) where electro heavyweight Ricardo Villalobos is playing. It could have been the multiple drinks or the calorie-burning dance routine that gets my tummy rumbling, but the waffle I pick up from a street vendor on the way back to the hotel is to die for.

For better or worse, the next day is beautifully sunny. The birds are chirping and the tourists are out en masse. But I need food and a Bloody Mary asap.

On a corner restaurant in St Catherine's Square, bloated bald waiters shuck oysters for standing customers sipping vin blanc. But I can barely stand, let alone ingest slippery sea creatures, so I go to Le Fourneau (00 32 2 513 1002), a tapas-style eatery that does serious justice to Belgian cuisine. It's at that point that I run into two people I must have met the night before. I can't remember their names for the life of me. After being regaled by stories that have something to do with glow sticks and a tranny named Fantasia, I make a quick escape in search of dessert.

On Place du Grand Sablon, chocolatiers such as Godiva, Neuhaus, and Pierre Marcolini have set up shop and offer samples of their heavenly goo. I spend the rest of the afternoon stumbling upon buildings covered in murals of graffiti featuring Tintin and his friends, and picking up hidden treasures in dusty antique shops in the Marolles district. In Place du Jeu de Balle, a daily flea market sells everything from shoelaces to 19th-century antiques. The North African vendors shout across to each other in Arabic while bohemian try-hards are hanging out on corners. I'm not taking any chances of being spotted again, so I pick up a pair of cracking heart-shaped sunglasses to hide my bloodshot eyes from any other witnesses from last night.

The writer travelled to Brussels on Eurostar (08705 186 186; eurostar.com ) which offers return fares to Brussels from £69.

A 'Hedonist's Guide to...' (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: International Project Coordinator / Account Coordinator

    Circa £26,500 DOE: Guru Careers: An International Project Coordinator / Accoun...

    Guru Careers: Plumber / Maintenance Operator

    £25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Plumber / Mainten...

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen