My last review of my favourite restaurants in Brussels dates back from 2012. Time for an update. I promise to review this list on an annual basis from now on.
We love traveling, my husband and I. Good hotels and great food are part of the journey. In Brussels, where we have a home, no need to find lodging and plenty of time to explore (new) restaurants. What do we like? We love healthy food; it can be innovative but preferably not too sophisticated. The setting is important, as is staff. It’s great to have an informal exchange. And we try to build a relationship: have a chat with the chef, the sommelier, the owner. We appreciate it, if on a next visit , they know how we are and build on our preferences.
La Belle Maraichère
La Belle Maraichère is not new. It opened in 1973. The then founder, now in his eighties, is still on site on a daily basis, and he is in charge. That is proof of quality. Great staff. In the lovely downtown Dansaert neighbourhood this restaurant remains privately owned compared to many of the other that are part of a chain. Mainly fish on the menu, some meat. Try their croquettes de crevettes, sôle meunière or bouillabaisse. Watch the paintings, all depicting the neighbourhood, that has changed considerably over the years.
La Villa Lorraine, Lounge Bar
Yves Mattagne is one of the top names in Brussels. He had several restaurants and projects in town, the Sea Grill – now closed – being one of the top addresses at the time. Mattagne now took over La Villa Lorraine, which is another classic name in the Belgian capital. We haven’t been in the restaurant but visited the Lounge Bar, which has an amazing decor. It could be Shanghai! The waiters make you feel welcome in a very informal way. The menu is inspired by the many travels Mattagne did. Sharing food is the norm here.
Previously run by Sang Hoon Degeimbre from L’Air du Temps, San became Vertige, run by the young chef Kevin Perlot. He shouldn’t shy away from his master Degeimbre. This is one of the top addresses down town. The restaurant is in a small house, two floors, not more than 15 tables and some places at the bar, where Perlot cooks. Over the last few years Filip and I tried to explore restaurants placing vegetables at the heart of the menu. Here you can choose for a vegetable-only menu, or a discovery-one with a small piece of meat and fish. Perlot loves bio wines. When staff overhear you speaking in Flemish, they switch to my native language. That’s what I mean about being approached in a personal way.
Pascal De Valkeneer is the chef of the 2* Michelin Le Chalet de la Forêt. Have been there on a number of occasions. Great food, but too expensive and staff isn’t multi language. I don’t make this an issue but I always test if in Brussels staff can welcome me in Flemish. I just hate it when the entire table is speaking Flemish and the waiters just neglect it. Especially when you are in a +2* Michelin. But De Valkeneer has a side address Amen and often these secondary projects combine the best. This is a neighbourhood restaurant. Go for a walk before after lunch/diner and in summer book a table outside.
Finally an Italian – apologies Sicilian – restaurant couldn’t be off this Top 5. There are many Italian restaurants in Brussels, as everywhere globally. Fico is family of Senza Nome, not as a side project. The outspoken lady who started this osteria has family ties with Giovanni Bruno. This is a no nonsense place and we love it. Great wine list!