I was unsure what header photo to use on this post. Have settled on my mug, complete with mouth full of pastry. I think it's a strong look, for sure.
So you've got 2 nights in Brussels, a limited budget and a hankering to sample the local cuisine. What on earth are you going to eat? Where are you going to go? Why, for the love of God WHY is Google so uninformed on good, authentic eateries in Brussels? Well I feel your pain, friend, and happily I have got your back. When J and I zipped off to Brussels for my birthday (read more about it here in my Culture Bug's guide) I was super excited to try Belgian food. I knew I had to tick off beer, chocolate, waffles and chips but beyond that I had no idea what to eat... I did as much research as I possibly could and then ended up eating at only one of the places Google had managed to give me. In this post I've summarised my favourite eats in Brussels and I hope if you're planning a trip then this is of some help to you.
When I only have two days in a city, I don't want to sit down until 10.30 or 11 eating breakfast. Because of this I haven't got any reviews of any lazy breakfast spots, but I can confirm that Belgian pastries are beautiful pastries. Panos is a particularly convenient place to pick up some breakfast and coffee. Located just off the Grand Place, a pastry each plus tea and coffee made for a very affordable way to start the morning. You can also munch your breakfast whilst strolling through St. Hubert's gallery, which is just over the way from Panos.
We picked up pastries and coffee for breakfast each morning but Panos was by far the cheapest (and still quality) option.
Can I eat pastries for breakfast everyday, please?
Enjoying this one a little too much...
I didn't know before we went, but Belgium is responsible for inventing French fries. They are also a little resentful that they are called french fries... but that's another story told best by PJ of Sandemans tours. Anyway, I'd read that Maison Antoine was one of the best places to get chips.
We arrived fairly late in the day, around 2.30, but queues were still winding around the little vendor. A good sign.
The smell wafting from the windows was intoxicating. As this was our first day in Brussels and we'd been travelling since 5am, we were pretty ravenous! It was hard not to steal these peoples chips. A very close call.
Eventually we got to the front and ordered (in our best French) 2 large cones of chips (€2.70 each, plus €0.60 for sauce), one with ketchup, one with Andalouse sauce. J was feeling adventurous, whilst I'm a firm ketchup and chips fan. It's worth noting that you should eat your chips with mayonnaise whilst in Brussels but I'm not mayos biggest fan.
But who cares about anything I'm saying when you look at this picture? French fries angels are singing. These chips are double cooked in beef fat and I have to tell you, I've found myself thinking about them quite a lot since my return from Brussels. They've had a serious impact on my life.
With a couple of generous shakes of salt, these were the BEST CHIPS I'VE EVER HAD. If you go to Brussels, go to Maison Antoine.
Very happy boy. We just managed to force ourselves to walk two minutes to Parc Leopold to eat our cones of joy. It was the longest walk ever.
If you don't fancy chips every day for lunch you could try The Deli. In a great location near the Grand Place it offers a more substantial lunch if you're feeling particularly peckish after a morning of sightseeing.
Recommended to us by a local, this was maybe the smallest restaurant I've ever eaten in (I'm right at the back of the restaurant in the picture below).
The atmosphere was friendly and cool if not a little cramped. If you want to eat lunch here I'd try going early or late. The seating is limited - but they do offer takeaways.
Beer was the same price as a soft drink, so when in Belgium...
I went for the cheese burger whilst J opted for the Roquefort blue cheese burger. Both were huge!
Cooked wonderfully and served with delicious, tangy caramelized onions these burgers were great value. The chips were nothing on Maison Antoine but the cool atmosphere and gargantuan burgers made up for it.
If you're looking for a lunch spot after a hungry morning of sightseeing and you're in the area, then I can definitely recommend The Deli to you.
The locals and Google will tell you that when in Brussles you've got to try the Mussels. With this in mind, I tried to find the best mussels restaurants in town. Unfortunately, lots of the suggestions I found were on the outskirts of the city and as a newcomer, I'm not comfortable to go that far out for the possibility of good mussels. Luckily, nearly every Belgian cuisine restaurant will serve mussels. On the advice of the receptionist of our hotel (The Stanhope by the way - and a lovely stay we had there too) we headed to L'es Entree Des Artistes on the Place du Grand Sablon. This is one of my favourite areas in the city and a lovely place to explore at night as all is well lit and populated.
J went for the mussles at L'es Entree Des Artistes and we both loved them. They are such a fun, get stuck in, kind of dish. Cooked in chicory and beer, they were delightful.
Sadly I was disappointed with my food, I went for the rabbit. It was overcooked and a bit of a let down. It is such a shame that the rabbit wasn't up to scratch as we only had a limited time to eat in great places. The mussels were great, but I can't rave to you about L'es Entree Des Artistes.
However, never fear, on our last night we found a wonderful local and authentic restaurant. Say hello to Volle Gas. Located just off Rue Saint Boniface (where there is a collection of popular restaurants) it was packed with a warm and buzzing atmosphere.
We were excited to have found a local gem. So excited J started pouting...
J went for Steak tartare, which he'd been wanted to try for ages and is a big favourite out in Brussels. I was skeptical, but it actually tasted incredible. Smooth and almost creamy in texture it went down very well. Also - as you might be able to tell the Belgians like to serve chips with everything.
I went for the Carbonnade de Boeuf a la flamande (beef cooked in beer to you and me), which PJ aptly described as "looks disgusting but tastes delicious". Apparently this is the dish to try when in Belgium as it is one of their most loved dishes. I have to say, despite appearances, it tastes really, really good. So comforting, tasty and the beef was just falling apart in my mouth. I really want to try recreating this at home.
We'd hopefully looked at the dessert menu when we came in but there was absolutely no way we could fit anymore food in perhaps ever again. The portions are generous and at about €14 each, great value.
If you want to try traditional Belgian food then you should definitely check out Volle Gas when in Brussels. I think a good sign is when all the voices around you are speaking the local language (in this case, French) as the local people usually know where the best spots are.
Waffles are everywhere in Brussels (I think mostly for the sake of the tourists). There are actually little vans, like ice cream vans, that drive around selling them out of the window. Our walking tour guide gave us a few tips on where to pick up a waffle and said that you should never pay more than €4 for a waffle, never buy a waffle that isn't freshly made and try to avoid the 'tourist waffle' that tends to be served with cream, ice cream, fruit, sprinkles, chocolate and all sorts of other toppings. Keep it simple with powdered sugar or chocolate sauce to get the best out of a Belgian waffle.
There are a few little €1 waffle shops dotted around Brussels - one just off the Grand Place, which is where we found ours.
Yup, that's a whole shop dedicated to waffles.
Fresh waffle batter going in. It smelled delicious!
J's choice. Simple and wonderful. Warm, sugary waffley goodness with chocolate sauce.
He couldn't wait to sit down before tucking in.
I went for chocolate sauce and strawberries (because they're a match made in heaven, even if that does make me a tourist waffle fan) and ate it, sitting down on the edge of the Grand Place. I looked like such a tourist, but this is a must when in Brussels.
There are so many options for chocolate shopping in Brussels. There are a few big stores including Godiva and Neuhaus where you can buy some chocolate, but we wanted to find a smaller, traditional shop to take our business.
We went for La Belgique Gourmande. A lovely, bustling little shop that allows you to sample before you buy. My kinda place.
We had fun choosing all sorts of different chocolates to take home. There was a lot of choice. J got a bit giddy and tried to convince me we needed several kilos of chocolate.
It was hard to believe we didn't, but you can't go too mad in these Belgian chocolate shops. Even if you shop around, they are pricey!
We managed to restrain ourselves and bought ourselves and my sister (a fellow fan of Belgian chocolate) a box home each. Whilst this seems incredibly touristy to bring home chocolate, I'm so glad we did as you can really tell that these are crafted with experience and technique. Also sometimes it's nice to be a tourist.
My final recommendation in Brussels, drink some (read: a lot of) beer. Well you don't have to drink a lot, but definitely sample some. I was skeptical when I ordered my first glass - which is by the way like a fish bowl, but I really, really enjoyed it.
Leffe proved to be incredibly drinkable and on our first night with little sleep and a little too much Leffe, things got a bit silly.
You can order Leffe from pretty much any bar and restaurant in Brussels. It's ever so popular. And you can buy it in Tescos in the UK too! When I try to recreate Carbonnade de Boeuf I know I'll be doing it with Leffe.
We also found that we loved Hoegaarden too and enjoyed a couple before we went out one night back at our hotel. Hoegaarden, like Leffe, is a blonde beer and tastes very light. It isn't at all like British larger (which I worried it might've been) but almost tastes kind of banana-ish. I'm not sure if I'm selling it, but I definitely recommend you try it.
And there we go, I hope this post was helpful! That's all I managed to eat! I know, I know - it was a lot, but I had to do the research for your guys. That's what I'm telling my arse, anyway...