Travel writer and photographer, Alison Cornford-Matheson, tells us about 5 unique and unusual ways to enjoy great food in Brussels.
Belgians are passionate about food. With more Michelin-starred restaurants per capita than France, it’s easy to eat well in this diverse country. However, when travelers talk of dining in Brussels, it’s all about dark cafés and bustling brasseries, with plenty of chips and Belgian beer. While we’re in favour of these sorts of local experiences, there’s so much more to the food scene in Belgium. If you want to break free of the Belgian stereotypes, here are 5 unique dining experiences available in Brussels.
Eat With Locals
There’s no better way to get insight in to the Brussels food scene than by dining with local foodies. Brussels-based start-up Bookalokal offers the opportunity to do just that. Belgians and expats open their homes to share meals with guests for a fee, much less than you would pay at a restaurant. Offerings range from local Belgian favourites to flavours from around the world. If you’re adventurous, you can go beyond having a simple meal to taking part in a cooking class, a beer pairing evening, even a murder mystery night in full costume! In addition to enjoying a great food experience, you’ll meet fun people and leave with loads of tips on what to do, see and eat in Brussels during your stay.
Eat With a Chef
The popular Brussels catering company, La Britannique, opened a new international themed café, Britxos, to rave reviews last spring. This summer, while they are undergoing renovations, you have special opportunity to dine chez the head chef, Alex, at a series of pop-up restaurants called The Secret Garden. Like Bookalokal, you’ll have the opportunity to dine with other passionate foodies, both local and from abroad, during these exclusive dinners. You can learn tips and tricks from Chef Alex, as he prepares the meals in front of you, and gain insider foodie knowledge from your fellow diners. The meals are relaxed, convivial and you definitely won’t leave hungry!
Eat in a Prison
Dining in a former prison arsenal may not seem like an elegant experience, but meals at Le Mess are far from a punishment. The menu is seasonal and features traditional Belgian favourites. Local and organic produce is used whenever possible and the dishes are flavourful and sophisticated. The elegant dining room has Philippe Stark designed furniture and a refined yet comfortable atmosphere. However, the tables in the greenhouse are the showstoppers. You can dine amidst the grapevines, whatever the weather.
Eat in a Bank
Like Le Mess, Belgian institution, Belga Queen, repurposes a Brussels 18th century landmark as a hip and elegant restaurant. This time, the building in question is the former Crédit du Nord bank. Belga Queen fuses contemporary design with traditional building elements, like the dramatic stained glass windows on the ceiling and a plush cigar bar inside the former bank vault. The food is just as luxurious and authentically Belgian. Many menu items even feature Belgian beer on the ingredients list. Seafood lovers can enjoy the oyster bar and a variety of other treats from the sea, while carnivores can feast on Belgian beef and poultry. Vegetarians aren’t an afterthought at Belga Queen, with a variety of five delicious main courses featuring local, seasonal produce.
Eat on a Tram
Imagine the surprised looks of pedestrians while you pass by, on a luxuriously refitted tram, sipping champagne. By far, the most unique way to enjoy a meal in Brussels in on the Tram Experience. Eight times a week, 34 lucky diners enjoy a three-course meal, complete with wine pairings, while riding around Brussels on a converted tram. This is no ordinary meal either. Belgium’s top Michelin-starred chefs have created the menus, featuring innovative and stylish dishes. The tram itself is specially designed for a smooth ride and has coloured mood lighting to set the atmosphere. Don’t forget to save room for dessert by Belgium’s favourite chocolatier, Pierre Marcolini!
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu, a resource for expats, locals and travellers in Belgium. She landed in Belgium in 2005 and is passionate about this quirky little country. She loves to discover Belgium’s hidden gems – be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. Her passion is travelling the world with her husband, Andrew. She is an AFAR Ambassador and founding member of the PTBA. When not on the road, she loves to spend quiet nights reading travel books and trashy mysteries with her cats and a glass of red wine. You can follow her on Google+, on Twitter as @Acornn, on Pintrest or check out her Facebook Page.