Monday, 16 July 2018

EAT! BRUSSELS

Reposted from Brussels Express  https://brussels-express.eu

List of Brussels chefs taking part of eat! BRUSSELS

eat! BRUSSELS is a free event that will take place in September. Around twenty Brussels chefs will be running pop-up kitchens in the heart of Brussels. Every day, they will take turns to present to you their cuisine by offering their signature dish. To taste our chefs’ dishes, you will need to use credits. One credit = €1. One dish = 9 credits. All the dishes are offered at the same price.

The chefs

Laure Genonceaux – Brinz’l

Laure Genonceaux affirms and proudly showcases her Mauritian roots with a little nod to the Brinzelle, Mauritius’ local aubergine. Her cuisine is nevertheless French, and highly creative. Laure will be present on Thursday and Sunday

Alex Joseph – Rouge Tomate

Without a doubt, one of the finest spots in town. Since he took over its kitchens, Californian Alex Joseph has led Rouge Tomate toward a refined contemporary cuisine that always offers something new. Alex won the San Pellegrino best young chef title in 2015. Alex will be present on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Denis Delcampe – Le Tournant

Le Tournant is located in the heart of Ixelles at the edge of the Matongé neighbourhood. This is where Denis Delcampe puts together a gourmet market cuisine influenced by cuisines from all over the world. The restaurant also emphasises its natural wine menu and the food-wine pairings that come from it. Denis will be present on Friday and Saturday.

Giuseppe Zizza – Il Passatempo

A well-kept secret in fine Brussels Italian cuisine, Il Passatempo has a good many fans both famous and anonymous who love Pino Zizza’s instinctive cuisine. This is a place where the chef’s inspiration determines the course of your meal, much to your great delight. Pino will be present on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

François-Xavier Lambory – Stirwen

Alain Troubat ran the Stirwen from 1992 to 2014 and in that time developed a formidable reputation among foodies. Succeeding him in 2014 was a challenge that François-Xavier Lambory has passed with flying colours! Having previously learnt his trade is great sea food restaurants such as the Sea Grill and Bon Bon, his cuisine is regional and seasonal, without nostalgia. A gem nestled in a neighborhood close to the European institutions. François-Xavier will be present on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Minoru Seino – Restaurant Seino

Whatever you do, don’t talk to Minoru Seino about fusion cuisine. Seino serves French cuisine peppered with Japanese influences within the walls that saw Pascal Devalkeneer blossom in his day. His food has an extremely personal touch, the result of the chef expressing himself as he goes off the beaten path. Seino offers the best of both worlds: French culinary heritage and the refinement of Japanese cuisine. Minoru will be present on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Ugo Federico & Francesco Cury – Racines

Above all, Racines is a culinary journey. It’s a trip to an authentic, flavourful, and lyrical Italy. An Italy that offers us a limitless supply of first rate products. An Italy where the Slow Food Movement began, which shines through the cuisine of these two partners. The soul of Racines can be summed up in a few words: “From Capri and Florence to Flagey.”Ugo & Francesco will be present on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Issa Abdul – Restaurant Vincent

Restaurant Vincent is a century-old institution that showcases Brussels specialities. You can savour home-made dishes prepared with care, such as North Sea prawn croquettes and delicious meats selected by Hendrik Dierendonck. Issa will be present on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Joël Geismar – Garage à manger

The Garage à Manger is first and foremost the story of a food truck, El Camion, which Joël Geismar has presided over for several years. To complement his rolling restaurant, the chef took over an old mechanic’s garage where he offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks over the course of the day. He even does brunch on weekends. It’s a spot where it’s always the right time to come in and enjoy his cuisine. Joël will be present on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

Luigi Ciciriello – La Truffe Noire

La Truffe Noire has been delighting lovers of fine food for nearly 30 years with the truffle as the star of the show. Whether black, white or summer, the truffle is turned into poetry by Luigi Ciciriello in his elegant venue near to the Cambre. This eatery dedicated to refinement and to the powerful magic of this extraordinary ingredient ensures an unforgettable experience at this gem of the culinary world. Luigi will be present Thrusday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

ANTHONY MON AMOUR




The foodie and television world was shocked and stunned exactly one month ago by the news that Anthony Bourdain had taken his own life by hanging.  As the news filtered through, disbelief spread through the legions of his fans.  Not Tony - fearless, brash, combative Tony?  There must be some mistake!  

Well there wasn't.  It was indeed suicide.  There was no suicide note, indicating it was a spontaneous act.  There were no narcotic drugs in his system, although plenty of alcohol, but that wasn't unusual for him.  He was working on an episode of Parts Unknown, set in Strasbourg, when he suddenly decided to check out. 


I sat down and re-read his autobiographical book Kitchen Confidential and then the follow-up book Medium Raw.   I realized that he was a much better writer than anything else.   A self avowed fan of Hunter S. Thompson, his style aimed at a kind of gonzo journalism for kitchen workers.  He was fearless (or so we thought), and without pity for those he despised, and especially for himself.

I reviewed his early work on "A Cook's Tour", in which his unfamiliarity with presenting (or perhaps the demands of the Food Network) showed through in his uncharacteristic winsome smiling for the camera.  In later work, over which he had more control, his sardonic gonzoness came through.  He didn't do winsome very well.  He was more attractive when snarly and world-weary.  I imagine the election of Trump and what has happened to America since then may have made him even more so.  I first encountered him midway through No Reservations, when I stumbled across his second trip to Lisbon, and was immediately hooked.


By the time he got to "Parts Unknown" which he wrote himself and filmed with his own hand-picked production crew at Zero Point Zero Productions, he had got the gonzo travelogue down to a fine art.  It was barely about the food any more.  A whole load more social commentary.  A smattering of dark humour.   And a kicking rock 'n' roll soundtrack. And the camerawork and editing was superb   It was like a smouldering Clive James meets Simon Reeve filmed by Michael Slovis.  Only better.  And highly addictive.

Suicide is an incredibly selfish act - especially if you have children, parents, partners and other people who love you - but it's also something that can happen in a moment of madness.   Impulsiveness can be an attractive trait.  It can also be deadly.  


Fans were reluctant to believe it was simply a moment of madness.  But he had been so happy this last year!   He had an 11-year old daughter he adored!  He was so in love with Asia Argento!  Parts Unknown was in its 13th series and had scooped up the awards last year!  He was now best friends with the chef whose shoes he famously did not deem himself fit to clean when he started off! He had been clean of drugs for over 20 years!  There must have been something else. 

Asia Argento had been papped in Rome snogging a younger man.  They had famously declared they had an 'open relationship'.   I don't think he would have topped himself over the betrayal.   It may however have brought home to him that there would always be someone younger.  He hated the idea of getting old.  So, not that fearless then.  


Personally, I reckon he was working too hard and was exhausted;  why didn't he just take a holiday, you may ask?    Well ... fearless Tony was afraid of showing weakness.  His gonzo swagger betrayed all the signs of deep insecurity and shaky self-esteem.  It was probably getting better, with the success of Parts Unknown, but those little demons of doubt will creep up on you at the most opportune moments.  Nothing like success to remind you it can all come tumbling down in the blink of an eye.  Maybe they already had visited him before and someone had been there to hold his hand until daylight.   He didn't need an open relationship with a much younger woman.  He needed a mum.  

Thank you Tony for all the journeys, the meals, the laughs, and occasionally tears.  In the intro to No Reservations you said:  "I eat.  I write.  I travel. And I'm hungry for more."  You left us hungry for more.  





Tuesday, 20 February 2018

HELLO DUCKY




I spent a couple of weeks in Bordeaux and the Dordogne last August, on yet another field trip for what promises to be the best-researched retirement in modern history.   The whole trip could be summed up in four words:   duck, knives, books and the Tour de France.
August, as I knew in my heart of hearts, is the worst time of year to go on holiday in France.  The place was  HEAVING.  Mostly with French holidaymakers, and a few Brits, Dutch, Germans and in Bordeaux, a number of Spanish.   Some picturesque villages such as La Roque-Gageac I had to skip, as there was not even a space in the car park.  
In general one eats very well down in the south west.  One of the greatest cakes in the world, on a par with the Portuguese pastel de nata in my humble opinion, is the cannelé bordelais, a baked custard tart from Bordeaux.  They are quite easy to make yourself, as long as you have the correct fluted moulds, traditionally made of copper.  The real ones cost about 8 or 9 euros per mould, so I make them in batches of 8 in a silicone mould.  I did want to sample the real thing though.  In Bordeaux you cannot escape them, they are sold everywhere by patisserie shops or chains such as Baudrillard or Le moule d'or.




Other specialities of the region are duck magret or confit, foie gras, or salade perigourdine, which involves all three.  However, once you have been round this triangle a couple of times, you start to long for something different. I seem to recall that the novelty of duck wears off quickly.  I even went (whisper it) NON-FRENCH a couple of times. 
Salade perigourdine

My problem is, I am not super hungry at 12:30, when one MUST bag a table in a restaurant if one wants to eat.  And I don't always want a 3-course meal.  I get hungry about 2.00, and usually only want something light such as an omelette or a croque monsieur.  French restaurants are quite uncompromising and it's the dish of the day or nothing.   Not all cafes - especially out in the sticks - offer what they call "petite restauration" all day. There are days when you can long for an all-day English breakfast even down in the gastronomic capital of the world. 



BORDEAUX 
La Brasserie du Midi
My first memorable meal was on my very first night in Bordeaux.  Not wanting to go too far from the hotel, which was near the station, I wandered up to the Gare St Jean and into a brasserie right across from the station.  The Brasserie du Midi is a large restaurant with a huge terrasse.  The service was brisk as usual in France.  The  parmentier au canard was a kind of shepherd's pie but made with shredded duck meat.  So a duckherd's pie, if you like.  It was delicious, but maybe a mistake on top of foie gras and with a dame blanche to finish.  I felt decidedly queasy later that night in bed.

Le Régent
The commercial centre of Bordeaux is rather lacking in small, unobtrusive places to have a quick bite at lunch, rather than the full linen-tablecloth 3-course menu.  This pleasant cafe facing the Opéra National de Bordeaux is bigger than it looks - it has another entrance around the block in Rue de la Maison Daurade.  They do a wonderful Croque Monsieur.  

Marché des Capucins

Markets are one of my priorities when travelling.  You can judge a town by its market. The Capucins market in Bordeaux is sumptuous. There is a stall that only sells bunches of fresh herbs, and people were queueing up, that's how seriously they take their food down there. 





DORDOGNE


Crepe in Eymet

En route from Bordeaux to Bergerac, I made a pitstop at Marmande for the market, just long enough to prang the car, and then a lunchtime stop in Eymet, known as "le village anglais".  The village was festooned with bicycle-themed decorations, having hosted a stage of the Tour de France only a month before. 
Bergerac
Bergerac restaurants were all either quite expensive, or if reasonably priced were offering a standard 3-course menu which invariably involved duck in one of its incarnations or Salade Périgourdine, which is basically duck salad.  At Le Richelieu I had fish to get out of the infernal cycle of duck, but sent the dessert back.  Supposedly panna cotta, it had the consistency of toffee.  I called the waiter over and told him this was NOT a panna cotta, and I wasn't paying for it. He looked quite shocked.  I think they get complacent with all the tourists.  To make my point, I stood the spoon up in the sticky lump and handed it back to him.  Later,  I was brought a mini dessert, and then Chef came out to apologize. They hadn't checked them that morning.  They'd been made THREE DAYS ago. 


Where to go if you don't want the full 3-course menu du jour at lunchtime?  I found a little Thai restaurant in the old town, and was pleasantly surprised.  Le Luang Prabang is tiny, with a pocket-sized terrace, but the food was excellent and light on a hot day.  


Bergerac had also hosted Le Tour, and was still proudly wearing its decorations. 



Vitrac is a two-hotel town.  And that is all there is, unless you want to go canoeing. Not so much as a cafe, a church or a supermarket.  If you want a coffee you have to drive to Sarlat.  The Logis Hotel de La Treille has a superb gastronomic restaurant, where booking is recommended. I even changed for dinner, it was that posh.  I was served by terribly nice ladies who wouldn't have been out of place at a W.I. meeting. And the food really was top-notch. The hotel across the road,  Logis Hotel de la Plaisance, has a bigger restaurant and is more popular.  I managed to sneak in for a soup and a salad without a reservation.  Once again, I found myself on the route of the Tour de France, as I saw signs painted in the road exhorting "Allez Pierre" or "Allez Laurent".    Not one "Allez Chris", I noticed. 

Foie gras cannelés!  Divine decadence
It was a belting hot day when I visited Sarlat, and of course all the shady tables go first.  I found a small courtyard where a tiny restaurant in the corner had the only canopy in town with free tables under it.  A cellist was playing in the blazing sun for the benefit of all the surrounding restaurants.   

A church has been transformed into a Jean Nouvel-designed trendy food market, where I saw possibly the most decadent thing I have ever seen - a cannelé stuffed with foie gras. I should have, I know.  But I didn't. 


You'll know you're in Audrix when you see the giant straw bear with its cub.  I was taken to L'Auberge Medievale by an old friend who lives locally.   There is a beautiful terrace but it had been raining and all the seats were wet so we sat inside. After some complimentary amuse-gueules, we were served a local garlic soup called a Tourin before starting the menu proper.   


French souvenir shop
I followed the Dordogne river up as far as I could be bothered then veered off into the Corrèze to see a bit of the magnificent Causses du Quercy region, which is quite different from the pretty manicured Dordogne, being all sweeping hills and big sky.  Collonges-la-Rouge is a pretty little town but overrun with tourists.   I noticed, not for the first time, how knives are more of a souvenir than a weapon in this part of the world.  I'm a bit of a blade runner moiself, and so could not resist popping into a few artisanal knifemakers.  As I was flying back from Bordeaux I could not treat myself, but earmarked a few beauties for the future.  Every French boy must have his knife, for the cutting of his saucisson, and it's never too early to start them off.  I noticed even round-bladed children's knives.  How different from our own dear yob culture.


Giant Opinel


On the way to Brive I made a short detour to the Lac des Causses, where I dangled my weary feet in the water and sat peacefully for a couple of hours contemplating not moving, ever.  

And did those feet

Brive-la-Gaillarde is a nice little town, which has a poor reputation with metropolitan Parisians, maybe because of a little ditty by Georges Brassens about a catfight in Brive market over the price of onions.  Or maybe because it is twinned with Dunstable.  I was unlucky with the hotel and one restaurant, and the famous indoor market, named after the singer, was closed in preparation for an agricultural fair that was coming up that weekend.   The market was temporarily moved to a side road, and for a hick town they seem to eat a lot of foie gras.  The town reminded me a bit of somewhere like Northampton as it used to be when it was an English county town, with its cattle market and balloon festival.  

So many brave geese suffered for this
The Hotel de Montauban is possibly the worst hotel in the south west.  Wallpaper hanging off the walls, peeling paint, mould, the most ancient shower cabin I have ever seen. Apart from all that it was clean, I will say, and close to the town centre.  It was also only 40 euros a night.  That'll teach me to be a cheapskate.  The restaurant attached to the hotel is reputed to be excellent, but the dingy decor and empty tables did not lure me in like a siren song. I wandered into town in search of something more welcoming.

Le Corrèze is almost certainly the worst restaurant in Brive.  In fact, a reviewer on Trip Adviser has confirmed that it is.   Shame I didn't read it before going in.  It's not the food, which is not bad - usual ducky menu.  Or the general feel of the place, with its outside tables and soundtrack of old French hits from the 80s.  But the manager, or owner, was a poundshop Gordon Ramsay. His staff called him "Chef" but I didn't see him set foot in the kitchen once.  He snapped at them in front of customers, although if anyone seemed incompetent in that place it was him.  The waitresses were young, but were working hard and doing their best.  When I left, my waitress was not around (probably crying her eyes out in the restrooms) so I gave her colleague a 5-euro note, whispering "For your colleague.  And your boss is an arsehole."    I am FEARLESS when I am in France! 

  





Le 4 was a different kettle of fish.  I decided to (a) consult Trip Adviser before going out to eat, and (b) be prepared to pay a bit more.  The meal was superb.  The owner/manageress recommended a dry white local wine with the foie gras, rather than the sweet syrupy wine which is usually served with it, since the foie gras already came with a sweet onion marmalade.   We played a game with the dessert, I had to guess the flavours of the four scoops of ice cream. 

I think it was in Brive that I first spotted one of these book deposit boxes, and found an English book which I borrowed to read on my travels.   I returned the book in Bordeaux, not quite finished.   After Brive I noticed them everywhere.  



Montignac
I was only staying one night at the Hotel Le Lascaux, in order to see to the famous prehistoric cave paintings the next day (which turned out to be reproductions but for good reasons).   The hotel has recently been taken over by a young couple, she is a doctor and he is a chef.  The village was also on the Tour de France route (honestly, I didn't plan this) and the windows were painted with encouraging slogans and pictures. 










Between Montignac and Périgueux I did a bit of a detour along the Vézère river, which is even more pleasant and peaceful than the Dordogne.  Only canoes are allowed on it, and I found the best way to have lunch was to grab a sandwich and a drink from the nearest Leclerc supermarket, and settle myself on a river bank.  I found a village called Les Eyzies which was overrun with tourists, but very few of them were sitting down by the river.  Here is another spot that I had trouble tearing myself away from.




Périgueux
Place St Louis is the place to eat in Périgueux, a central square lined with restaurants. Trip Adviser recommended Cocotte et Cie, but of course I was late setting out for dinner, and every table was taken.  I settled for next door at Au Gré du Vent where I had - you guessed it - duck.  The next morning was Sunday and I headed into town early to catch the market.  Near the market square is a shop selling Coucounettes, or balls of foie gras. 

A load of balls
En route back towards Bordeaux I swung by the village of St Emilion, of wine fame, which was absolutely bijou.  And overrun with tourists.  Surrounded by vineyards belonging to the famous chateaux, it is built on incredibly steep cobbled lanes.  Not somewhere you'd want to visit on a wet day.  It was early-ish for me, so I did not stop for lunch, although there are a number of very attractive restaurants.  


Gazing towards retirement in the vineyards of St Emilion

Back in Bordeaux I had to pay a visit to the new Maison du Vin, which is supposed to look like wine swirling in a glass, although you may have a more prosaic not to mention rude idea.  I didn't bother going inside, it looked too serious.   People sniffing and spitting, that sort of thing.   There is an awfully nice gift shop though, with lots of unusual presents for the oenologist in your life.




On the whole, first impressions of the Perigord were most satisfactory.  I shall be returning to the region at Easter to investigate a little further south, towards the Lot-et-Garonne.  And NEVER going back there in August. 










Sunday, 30 July 2017

A TOUCH OF CLASS: BRASSERIES GEORGES, UCCLE



It has been a long time since I reviewed a single restaurant.  Mainly because I have not found one worth reviewing in Brussels.    How can this be, I hear you cry, in a country that is reputed to have more Michelin stars per square kilometer than Paris?   The simple answer is, I really should get out more. 

As everywhere, Brussels is falling prey to the whims of the young hipsters.  And where food is concerned, spotty yoof knows nothing.  "Gourmet" burger bars are springing up all over the place.  Cooked mince beef sandwiches, pfffftttt.    This is not fine dining and unworthy of my attention.  I am a laydee of a certain age and standing, and I demand a proper restaurant with the proper cutlery and a handsome young waiter.





I have been on the lookout for new dining companions.  Chiquita Banana recently accompanied me to local favourite the dear old Heydenberg, where our presence brought the the average age of the clientele down to about 80.  Aunty Marianne is a reliable dinner or lunch partner and introduced me to trendy cocktail the Apérol Spritz, or "Irn Bru on the rocks" as I call it.  

My latest victim was long-time Brussels denizen Woodbine Kitty, who mixes the dazzling smile and dress sense of Bet Lynch from Corrie with the cutglass accent and health consciousness of Patsy from Ab Fab.   She'd recently had a Big Birthday (I am sworn to secrecy on numbers, but suffice it to say her membership to 18-40 night at the bingo club has been revoked for quite a while now). 

In July many restaurants in Brussels close for the holidays.  I was really at a loss to know where to take her.  At the eleventh hour I remembered a restaurant I have driven past on many occasions and tucked away in my mental filing cabinet.  Brasseries Georges (why is it plural?) is a Brussels institution, situated on the edge of the Bois de la Cambre on the posh Uccle side.   There is even valet parking, that's how posh it is.  In view of the furry dice and the leopardskin steering wheel cover in Kitty's car, I suggested she park it herself in the street.




Brasseries Georges is also an "écailler", meaning it has a fresh seafood counter and a man in wellies whose sole job is to select and prepare the shellfish.   Unfortunately I have an aversion to molluscs verging on allergy, which has resulted in some spectacular projectile vomiting, once from the top of the grand staircase in Geneva station, so we stuck to the regular menu - which is considerable, and includes fish and meat. The wine list alone reads like War and Peace.   The terrasse was full, despite it being holiday season when many Bruxellois are away, and we were lucky to get a table without a reservation.

 

The young waiter was very charming and professional, in a long white apron.  I was immediately impressed. The bread was real crunchy French baguette, and the butter was in a little dish with a paper lid on, which I think always sets the right tone. 

We both had the champignons farcis au pistou to start.  Pistou is a southern French version of pesto, without the pine nuts, but with double garlic.  They arrived piping hot, and you had to be careful how you cut into them, or a squirt of hot garlicky pesto could take your eye out.  We were already dodging projectiles from the adjoining table, where a young lady was attacking her lobster with an axe.  




I chose a bottle of Alsace white to accompany our food.  I have quite a fondness for Alsatian wines.  Dry, crisp, and served chilled they are the perfect accompaniment for meat, fish or seafood.  Go for the Gewurztraminer if your budget will stretch to it, unfortunately mine didn't so we had a bottle of Pinot Blanc which was perfect.




Kitty ordered the pain de viande, or meatloaf.  This might seem a humble choice given the wide range of the menu, but her few remaining teeth were giving her gyp.  In any case, it looked home-made and quite delicious, served with a rich gravy and a creamy potato mash.





I was nearly lost for choice, with a vast range of my favourite dishes on offer, and dithered between the kidneys in port and the magret of duck, but eventually plumped for the jarret d'agneau, or lamb shank.  This was slow-cooked to perfection and glazed with a sumptuous gravy, served with a delicious gratin dauphinois and crisp green beans.  Perfection in simplicity.   The lamb fell off the bone, it was so perfect. 



Woodbine Kitty is an interesting character, and it was clear she has lived an interesting life, if her tattoos are anything to go by.   We were nattering nineteen to the dozen, it was a miracle I managed to make some mental notes on the food and remembered to take photos.  Anyway, she has a healthy appetite which did not seem diminished by frequent intercourse smoking breaks.

A couple of extra glasses of wine were required before we arrived at the dessert course.   All your Franco-Belgian favourites  -  Dame Blanche, Tarte Tatin, and Moelleux au chocolat.  In the end I couldn't resist the all-you-can-eat chocolate mousse.  It arrived in a soup bowl, and I had to push myself like Chris Froome in the mountain stages of the Tour de France to finish it.   But I ended up with the polka dot jersey, allbeit rather tight around the midships by that stage.   Kitty had the millefeuille au caramel salé, made with perfect crunchy pastry.  I had such an excellent meal that I quite forgot myself and had a double expresso to finish, and a dreadfully sleepless night.





Brasseries Georges is a delightful restaurant, quite huge with several interior spaces, and a vast terrace protected from the traffic by hedges, giving an impression of a French country brasserie.  It's upmarket, but the prices are reasonable for the high quality of food and service.  I have paid as much for far lesser dining experiences.  The downstairs lavatories all in marble are a credit to the establishment.   The clientele is a mix of well-heeled Uccle ladies in Chanel suits and young trustafarians with limited shellfish dissection skills.    This is the sort of place I imagine myself frequenting on a regular basis in retirement, maybe for a monthly Sunday lunch, dressed in my little Chanel suit and pearls,  where I will have my regular table and my regular waiter, hopefully young and muscular to help me down the steps, where I will tuck a 10-euro note in his breast pocket with a lascivious wink.   

 With its impressive wine list, its skilled chefs and especially its team of super professional waiting staff, I finally feel I have found a restaurant worthy of my highest accolade.  Brasseries Georges is now officially Daphne Wayne-Bough Five Stars approved.  

Brasseries Georges
Avenue Winston Churchill 259
1180 Uccle 
Tel:  02 347 2100

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

CARNAGE



Carnival has been and gone for another year, and the time for abstaining from meat is behind us.   Vegetarians scroll on, nothing to see here.  Meat is indeed the new black. When it's very well done.  Otherwise it's red. Or pink.   Vegetarians and (shudder) vegans are slinking back into the shadows, and carnivores are daring to bare their teeth again.

Brussels is not vegetarian-friendly.  They like their meat here.  They like it raw, stewed, braised, grilled, skewered, bleeding or barbecued (as you will know if you live within sniffing distance of a garden at this time of year).  Steak frites.  Hachis américain (steak tartare to you, Jean-Jacques).  Carbonnades à la flamande.  They can't get enough of it. Hence any new take on carnivorous catering is welcome in Brussels. 

Sad however to report the departure from Brussels of Irish butcher Jack O'Shea, who due to a series of unfortunate events has neither his butchery shops nor his steak house.  UPDATE 2018:   BUT a new French temple of the flesh has opened on rue Jean Stas just off Avenue Louise, called Colonel.  It's not cheap, I grant you, but you'll find Black Angus prime rib (70 euros for two), venison fillet and even marrowbone on the menu.  






Pampas, a Brazilian rodizio with two restaurants in place Sainte Catherine and Place Jourdan, and others in Antwerp and Gent, offers an all-you-can-eat 30 euro menu of Brazilian-style barbecued meat and fish, or a fish-only or veggie menu for 18 euros.  Good choice for an office night out. 








The courageously named Balls and Glory has two restaurants in Brusssels, in the rue de Laeken and at the Bourse, as well as a few others dotted across Flanders, and serves one dish: meatballs.  No Ikea kottballen these, however,  They are handmade giant meatballs coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried, with pork, chicken or veggie fillings, more like Scotch eggs without the eggs, if you follow.  Served with good old Belgian stoemp, and sauce or salad for 12.50.  Beer, wine and homemade lemonade is on the drinks menu and no sodas.  











For the third time in nine years, I recently revisited Meet Meat, an upmarket Argentinian steakhouse in the Schuman area, and was delighted to find the steaks still of a very high standard, both in terms of meat quality and cooking.  The Argentinian vibe has gone since the first time I reviewed it nine years ago. The music is no longer Piazzolla but generic jazz fusion. The only improvement I would suggest to Meet Meat is (a) bring back the mural of Carlos Gardel, and (b) change your name to something like Tango! or Pampa! or maybe The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe.It's a simple menu, steaks and chips or baked potato with salads on the side.  But I have not enjoyed a meal as much in ages.  Aunty Em and I both had the ribeye steak, medium, with chips and churrascara hot sauce (her) and baked jacket potato with beurre maitre-d'hotel (me).  The service is efficient and the waiting staff are young and friendly.   I am no longer the young hothead who sang God Save The Queen in an Argentinian churrasqueria in Paris during the Falklands War.   I can appreciate that Argentina is a highly civilized and cultured country with a fine culinary tradition.  




250g Ribeye steak cooked medium, with baked potato and sour cream, beurre maitre d'hotel and salad garnish.  Simple but perfect.


Dessert:  Copa Argentina - a dollop of dulce de leche ice cream in a bed of dulce de leche, with a shot of Diplomatico rum on the side.  I moaned, audibly.  It was almost a When Harry Met Sally moment.










I have posted twice in the past couple of years about the gourmet burger invasion of Belgium (which hit other major European cities ten years ago).   Only last week when one of my colleagues suggested going to a burger restaurant for someone's birthday did I realize the extent of the takeover.  There is almost nothing else to write about in a Brussels food blog.  

Ellis Gourmet Burger are now an established chain, with three restaurants in Brussels, seven more in other Belgian cities, not to mention three in Paris and four in the Netherlands .  In one way I'm happy to see the end of the tired old 1960s style Belgian cafés with their formica tables and weak apology for coffee.  It's time this town kicked it up a notch, and I'm gradually noticing a modernisation of the food scene here, although it's a bit like one of those builders who comes and paints one wall, then goes away for a couple of months, then comes back and sands a floor down, then goes away again for six months .... welcome to Belgium, quoi.  The renewed spirit of eating out even seems to have spawned a new generation of serving staff with the superpower of being able to see customers and get their food to them while it's still hot.  If I stick around long enough, this town might end up challenging Paris or London as a cool place to go out to eat, although by that time I'll have no teeth to chew with.


Green Mango in trendy Ixelles is burger-fusion with Thai soups and a vast selection of burgers.  


Berlin Fabrik at place de la Chapelle 17 down in the Marolles has taken over the corner site which used to be Resto Sol, and offers a selection of burgers on German themes, such as a Kraftwerk burger, Checkpoint Charlie, Berlin Wall and, er, Uber Alles.  Still in the Marolles, Chaff on place du Jeu de Balle 21 offers a Burger Rossini as well as an inventive veggie platter for your sad friend.

Brewdog Brussels is a relative newcomer on the scene, the website shows a fair selection of quality burgers, although no prices.  Still, it's the beer you go for, right?  Nice big terrace in summer. 

Scott's Bar  is an old favourite at no.2 Rue Montagne aux Herbes Potagers, or the much more concise in Dutch Warmoesberg, a couple of minutes' walk from Place de Brouckère. Its website says it is 'recently opened' although it seems to have been here at least as long as me.  It has a selection of enticing burgers including one with the house Jack Daniels sauce. 





De Belmonte at Place St Gery 29 is in the swinging trendy hipster heart of Brussels.  They offer a range of burgers and calorie-laden desserts.

L'Affranchi, in the wannabe up and coming area around the Gare du Nord, has quite a glossy website which makes a rather outrageous claim to do with the year 1921, which, if you read the blurb explaining the history of the hamburger (fairly accurate), refers to the date of establishment of the first hamburger restaurant chain, White Castle, in the US.   Tenuous, but then for less than 10 euros a burger, and in this part of town, don't expect miracles. As yet sight unseen but to be tried soon. 

If you're in that area (Gare du Nord/Rogier) and fancy a burger, I would suggest you rather visit Brussels Grill which has a 70's vibe about it, but the steaks, burgers and salads are more than acceptable.  They've opened a couple of spinoff restaurants called the Boston Steak House which are apparently overpriced and overhyped, of which there is one next to the entrance of the former Sheraton on place Rogier, now an empty shell due to chronic mismanagement. Regeneration is a nice concept in Dr Who, but some parts of town are more difficult than others.

The Old Wild West Steak House is, as can be imagined, a themed restaurant on place Henri Maus, by the side of the Bourse, serving their idea of American and Tex Mex dishes (if you accept that a ladle full of chilli sauce on a plate of tacos is Tex Mex).  To be avoided, in my humble opinion.  The website alone is less than appetizing.  Better to go next door to Manhattn's Burgers  which consistently features in every list of the 10 best burgers in Brussels. 


Le Corbeau on Rue St Michel, just off place de Brouckère, is one of my favourite Brussels bars.  It does the ultimate hangover cure, a stoemp with sausage, bacon and egg, but also will do you a 250g BBB (Bleu-Blanc-Belge) steak and a mind-boggling choice of beers to go with it.   If the stories about dancing on the tables are anything to go by, it's worth staying late on a Friday or Saturday night. 

Enough burgers, enough steaks.  The cow is getting all the attention here, at the expense of the humble pig.  Amadeo on rue Sainte Catherine has been there for ever, and is famous for its all-you-can-eat pork spare ribs.   Despite the Italian name, it is resolutely Flemish, and the Brussels restaurant is the only one in the chain of 10 not in Flanders. Skip dessert and have their legendary Irish coffee while you peruse a volume from the book-lined walls. 


Black listed

Meet Me, boulevard Adolphe Max 96, Brussels - no relation to Meet Meat, and nowhere near the same level of food or service.  Restaurant of the Marivaux Hotel.  While we're on terrible puns on the word meat, Meat'ing Room at rue d'Arenberg 46 near Gare Centrale is mostly an Italian restaurant, but made it into The Fork's 10 best burgers in Brussels list.





I reprise below my list of steakhouses and burger joints for those of a carniverous disposition.

Steak
Meet Meat

Brussels Grill
Boston Steak House
Meet Me, boulevard Adolphe Max 96, Brussels - no relation to Meet Meat, and not the same level of food or service.  Restaurant of the Marivaux Hotel. 

Pork ribs: 
Amadeo

Burgers: 
B34 Steak and Burger House, Rue St Boniface 34, Ixelles
Burger Republic, Chaussée de Vleurgat 7  (off Flagey)
Chez Rachel rue du Marché au Charbon 100
Chicago (owned by Houtsiplou), rue de Flandre 45
Cool Bun Place Stephanie and Schuman
Cowfish Burgers, rue de Pépin 48 (Porte de Namur)
Delecta   2 rue Lannoy, 1050 Ixelles (off Flagey)  
Green Mango, Chaussée de Vleurgat 142, Ixelles
Hard Rock Cafe, Grand'Place
Ellis Gourmet Burger  Place Sainte Catherine, Place Jourdan and Place Flagey
Houtsiplou Place Rouppe  
King Kong, chaussée de Charleroi 227, St Gilles
L'Affranchi, 9A Chaussée d'Anvers (near Yser/Rogier)
L'Amour Fou chaussee de Wavre (opposite Ixelles town hall)
Be Burger, place Dumon 4, Woluwe St.Pierre (Stockel), Hector Henneaulaan 164, Zaventem
L'Harmony, rue de l'Eglise 86, WSP (Stockel) 
Lou Boire et Manger rue du Page 7-9, Ixelles (Chatelain)
Manhattn's Burgers   Rue Henri Maus 39 (next to the Bourse) and avenue Louise 164
Marcel Burger Bar at Rue Américaine 87
Schievelavabo, chaussée de Wavre 344, Etterbeek (Place Jourdan) and now also at 111 rue Jacques Bassem in Audergem (ex La Caudalie)
Scott's Bar 2 Rue Montagne aux Herbes Potagers
The Black Sheep Chaussée de Boondael 8 (off Flagey) 
Tram de Boitsfort  Place Payfa, Watermael-Boitsfort