This is a city that has hundreds of beers and takes its food seriously. Mussels are a must – the season runs from around September to April. Also, try the snails, frites and waffles from the many street stalls. The multicultural population means there’s a great range of international cuisines to try, too.
Budget: The best value lunch or dinner in central Brussels is to be had at Tunisian
owned Arcadi. Though the café’s tiny interior means it can be a squash, the
pasta dishes and quiches, from €7.50, make it worth it. Try to leave room for
pudding – the lemon meringue is a favourite, €4.50. (00 322 511 33 43)
Located alongside the opera house, Intermezzo specialises in
pasta and bruschetta served by friendly Italians. Choose an individual table or
the large communal table in the centre of the room and order the pasta
dragoncello (tomato and tarragon), €10. (00 322 218 0311)
Blowout: Chez Vincent, in the medieval
centre, is an old-style Belgian restaurant. In the ornate tiled dining room,
order excellent moules marinière, €22.50, or steaks that are flambéed in front
of you, from €23.
Budget: Comocomo serves Basque tapas pinxtos,
such as Argentine beef brochette or sesame-encrusted frogs legs, from €9.50 for
three pinxtos. On the first Tuesday of every month, holds a Spanish wine
tasting evening with seven wines and tapas for €35.
Mushroom fans will love Café des Spores where the chef takes
mushrooms to places you’d never imagined, such as coddled egg with truffle or a
crème brûlée of foie gras and ceps, €12. It is very small, so booking is
advised. It also does cookery courses.
Blowout: If you’re after a memorable dinner, head straight to La Manufacture. The food is Belgian
fusion with dishes such as tempura of Belgian cheeses, and pork with Belgian
cherry beer and Szechuan pepper, €21.50.
Budget: Hidden down an alley is A la Bécasse, where
you can enjoy a traditional Brussels night out, with jugs of local beer, known
as lambic doux, brought to you by waiters in white aprons, €4.50 per person.
Careful though – it’s powerful stuff. There are snacks, from cheese with celery
salt to open sandwiches.
The St Gery area is the place for a drink, with a selection
of bars serving beers and cocktails, some with DJs. Go to the back of the
square to find Gecko, which is
slightly quieter than some, and enjoy a beer or a Margarita.
Blowout: For a decadent night out, it has to be Belga
Queen. Start with pre-dinner drinks in the ground floor champagne bar, from
€9 a glass, or finish the night with a brandy, from €6, in the cigar bar. Look
out for the mural of famous Belgians.
Budget: The good value Hotel Ibis
Sainte Catherine is perfectly placed for Sainte Catherine’s markets and
many fish restaurants. Doubles from €69.
Bloom is on the edge of the Schaerbeek district, full of Turkish and
Moroccan supermarkets. Visit the bazaar-like rue de Brabant – just the place to
pick up a couscousière (a large covered pot). The area is also home to one of
Brussels’ most popular Christmas markets. Doubles from €129.
Blowout: Classic Hotel Manos Stephanie
serves a great breakfast and is in the stylish Ixelles area with many good
restaurants right on the doorstep. Also minutes from Bois de la Cambre park.
Doubles from €150.
Budget: The Marché du Midi is held every Sunday around Midi station – find
fruit, plants, cheeses, olives, delicatessens and more. The highlight is a
Moroccan breakfast pancake with honey and a glass of mint tea, for less than
€5, from the stall by the railway bridge.
The best frites come from Maison Antoine, a kiosk on the
Place Jourdan. Eat them in one of the local bars while trying a few of the
hundreds of Belgian beers. Each beer has its own glass – Kwak comes in a
round-bottomed glass with a stand, purportedly as it was drunk by coachmen who
attached it to the side of their coaches.
Blowout: Your family and friends will expect you to return with chocolates. Forget the
shops in the centre of town and head to Pierre
Marcolini in the Sablon for the chocolate equivalent of the finest claret,
boxes from €40.
The article 'Budget and blowout guide to Brussels' was published in partnership with BBC Olive magazine.