You could be forgiven for wanting to visit Brussels for the eating choices alone. The city centre has a sprawling medley of restaurants serving up fine cuisines and ales and no trip to Brussels is complete without visiting a speciality Belgian Chocolate Shoppe and stocking up on sweet treats for the journey home. Food & Restaurants In Brussels From the traditional Belgian & French fare in and around Grand Place to the more exotic ethnic options such as the enjoyable Italian fare offered by the string of restaurants in “Little Italy” (along rue Franklin), Brussels is choc-a-bloc with engaging dining opportunities. Of course, we all know that Belgium is associated with Moules (mussels) et Frites (Chips) but it’s also regarded for a number of additional dishes that have been shaped by a variety of influences including the French, Spanish and Dutch who all ruled over the land at some point in History. In fact Belgians culinary history can be traced back to the middle ages. You can enjoy starters such as Croquettes aux Crevettes Grises (shrimp) and Fondues au Fromage (a type of cheesy croquette). A speciality Belgian bread that is sweet is Choesels and Ardennes pate is a pate comprised largely of pork and garlic. Then there are main dishes such as Filet American (served minced and raw mixed with onions and several spices). The Belgians do enjoy their red meat and it can form the basis of many a meal. Ragout d’agneau is a braised lamb dish that’s marinated with herbs. Pheasant and rabbit are also used in some speciality dishes like Faisan a la Brabanconne and Lapin dishes. Anguilles au vert is an eel based soup and Andouillette a type of sausage. You may expect to see Brussels Sprouts somewhere – and you would be right (Choux de Bruxelles). Chicory is one of the most used vegetables in Belgian cuisine, featuring in foods such as Witloof where it’s wrapped in cheese and ham. You can round things up with Damme Blanche – vanilla ice cream served with a thick chocolate sauce. Or opt for other sweet delights like Profiteroles or Tarte tartin (apple pie served with cream). There’s no shortage of quality restaurants in Brussels – you can feast on fresh fish in the Lower Town, enjoy dinner at any one of the high-class offerings along rue Antoine Dansaert – in fact you can venture to practically any part of the city and be within five minutes of a good place to eat. For Tradional Belgian Food… For pleasant food at reasonable prices, Chez Leon in Grand Place delivers – As you may expect it offers the Moules et Frites type menu and children under the age of 12 eat free. Similarly, Chez Patric (Rue des Chapeliers) is popular with the tourists who want to sample traditional Belgian fare as is Brasserie de la Roue d’Or which is on the same street. La Rose Blanche (Grand Place) is known for its stews or you can opt for La Brouette for grander Belgian fare. Italian Noted for its warm atmosphere and exquisite food, A’mbriana (Rue Edith Cavell) serves up quality Italian fare are reasonable prices. Nearer to Grand Place is Rugantino and Senso (rue Franklin) offers well presented food but is somewhat on the pricey side. Also along Franklin are Pappa e Citti and Napoli. Asian While Brussels has a fairly high number of Chinese & Vietnamese restaurants, Indian fare is not as widely available and one of the best options is La Porte des Indes Avenue Louise). La Cantonnaise (rue Tenbosch) and Hong Hoa (rue du Pont la Carpe) are among the favoured Chinese options while La Citronnelle is an interesting Vietnamese restaurant along Chaussee de Wavre. Spanish Tapas Locas (Grand Place) draws in a younger crowd and tends to be pretty good, cheap fare and Casa Manuel (also in Grand Place) is also a nice place which serves Portugese fare as well as Spanish. Other International Restaurants Le Forcado (Chaussee de Charleroi) is one of the few pure Portugese restaurants in Brussels. Along Rue des Grands-Carmes is Canita Cubana, which as you might suspect offers a wide range of Cuban cuisine. In the mood for African? Try Gri Gri located on Rue Basse. Beers In Belgium Belgium is the beer producing capital of the world, and offers a variety of hundreds of different beers. In fact, bars in Belgium often have a separate menu just for their beers. Depending on who you talk to, Belgium produces anywhere between 400 to 750 different varieties of beer. Brussels also hosts the “Beer Weekend” which is on for three days every September. With reasonable beer prices and free entry, this is a must for beer lovers everywhere. Some of the different types of beers include: Blanche Beers – The most prolific blanche is Hoegaarden, which aside from being light in colour have a distinct citrus flavour and have a low alcohol content. Trappist Beers – such as Chimay go back to the Middle Ages and are strong, yeasty beers with up to 11% alcohol. Lambic Beers – are the most common in Brussels. Non-malted wheat beers, Lambics have around 5% alcohol strength. A derivative of Lambics are Gueuze beers which are a blend of Lambic beers. You’ll also come over Kriek beers which are Lambics that have a fruity flavour (very popular in summer). If you’re really into your beer then consider a visit to Musee Bruxellois De La Gueuze – one of the best breweries in Belgium. Here you can take a tour of the beer production process (and taste a pint or two on the way). It’s not just the staggering variety and flavours of beers that’s interesting in Brussels – equally, the ambience where you can enjoy your liquid nectar can and should be part of the whole Brussels experience. Having your pint in an old brown café or within one of the many historic Art Nouveau buildings is simply a joy to experience.
Food and drink have become a major part of most people’s lives, in particular their social lives. In fact the phrase ‘food and drink’ produces over 89 million hits on the Google website. Excessiveness in either is of course unhealthy, but perhaps this is one of the reasons why people see good food or good wine as something special, something to treat themselves with. Guides to good food, wine and restaurants have become big business. Egon Ronay’s ‘Guide to the Best Restaurants and Gastropubs in the UK’ which provides detailed reviews of over 500 restaurants and gastropubs has sold over 2 million copies. Its simple to compare style of awarding up to three stars to each restaurant is clearly a hit with readers. ‘The Good Food Guide’ edited by Elizabeth Carter sells itself as Britain’s leading restaurant guide and is currently in it 56th edition, detailing over 1,500 eateries from gastropubs to high end dining. Fine wine guides are also a big seller, with books such as Clarke’s ‘Fine Wine Guide: A Connoisseur’s Bible’ and Johnson-Bell’s ‘Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match’ both readily available on the internet it is clear that there is a high demand for such guides. This is not surprising as the United Kingdom is the second largest importer of wine in the world. Wine sales in the UK increased 25% between 2001 and 2005. In 2004 the estimated wine consumption was 1.2 billion litres. In particular there has been an increase in the consumption of so-called New World wines, for example those from Australia or the USA instead of traditional producers such as France. California now produces 2 billion litres of wine every year, making it the fourth biggest producer behind Italy, France and Spain. In 2004, New World wines accounted for over 55% of total consumption in the UK. Exports of Australian wines have more than quadrupled in the last decade to reach nearly 800 million litres in 2006, 22% of which went onto the UK market, approximately 176 million litres. Exports of New Zealand wines to the UK alone have increased from 8.1 million litres in 1997 to 21.9 million litres in 2006. One factor in the explanation of this is an increase in the availability of fine wine in many supermarkets. Some figures place two-thirds of UK wines sales in supermarkets. Increased demand and competition between large chain supermarkets have increased the variety of wines and producers and made them more accessible to the general public. A recent report by Vinexpo has predicted that the UK will become Europe’s biggest market for wine by 2010. The report which examined the worlds wine producers and consumers also predicted that by 2010 the UK wine sales would be worth £5.5 billion, despite the fact that the UK paid the highest average price per bottle (£3.11), which is equivalent to 28.5 litres per capita compared to an average of 27 litres between 2001 and 2005. The report also showed that between 2001 and 2005 Australia had overtaken France as the UK’s biggest supplier with imports rising 51%. Imports from countries such as the USA and South Africa have also risen during this period which highlights the trend toward New World wines.