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Birthday (I am sworn to secrecy on numbers, but suffice it to say her membership to 18-40 night at the bingo club has been revoked for quite a while now).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.
Avenue Winston Churchill 259
Tel: 02 347 2100