October 28, 2016
Every few months we make a trip to Brussels. There is often an exhibition I do not want to miss, and in May I come for the Queen Elisabeth competition, the world famous classical music competition. We usually combine it with some shopping and a meal at a good restaurant. So after all these years we have tried out numerous eating spots in our capital.
We often end up in the centre, close the the central square, since most of the museums are all located in the same area between the Zavel, the Royal Palace, the Central train station and the central square. Sometimes I join up with my husband who often has to work or meet in Brussels. It is so easy to come by train and hop of at the Central station. My husband is sort of allergic to packed trains, so we usually drive back home in his car together.
This time we decided to visit the new exhibition “Full Abstraction” in the ING art center, that in celebration of its 30th anniversary hosts works from the Guggenheim foundation. The exhibition is made up of abstract works from the period 1940-1960, with works by Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamps, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Lucio Fontana, to name some. The works are presented on a decor of colourful fabrics, that gives the exhibition a static, old-fashioned feel and look, which I do not like very much. The works are grouped together by period and style, but it does not really make it more comprehensive to me. The whole time you think: I could make this also, even my child could make this, and maybe even better. I am not really touched by the works. I understand that at the time many of these works were avant-garde and revolutionary, but the exhibition hasn’t in any way used this in their presentation. They seem to think that it is enough to exhibit works from some great names like Rothko and Pollock to please the public. This exhibition could have been so much more. It should invite the viewer to look at these works in a different way and have them ask themselves what these works could mean (or not).
I was glad to see some works of Pollock, especially his black and white prints after his coloured action painting works, that have some figurative elements in them. I still do not understand Rothko and probably never will. A work by Lucio Fontana can be really interesting if you offer a good explanation of how these works where created. The cold, technical explanation given in the booklet that goes with the exhibition however does not do the job. Maybe I should have opted for the exhibition of sculptures by Picasso in Bozar that also runs until March 5th, 2017.
We walked in the direction of the “Grand Place”, when we passed a new place just around the corner from the MIM, the Musical instruments museum, and immediately got curious. The bar is housed on the ground floor of a beautiful building and is named “La Pharmacie Anglaise“. It is decorated in a style that holds the middle between an old pharmacy and a curiosity shop. It is therefore also called “cocktails and curiosity”. The cocktails are seasonal, so now the menu has fall cocktails, with ingredients like wild forest fruits. The menu is not very extensive, but the cocktails are, though a bit expensive, very well made and nicely presented. It was the perfect place for an aperitif before dinner.
We walked to the “Grand Place”, which is always a beautiful sight with the lights on at night. We continued and ended up at the “Beurs”. This is becoming an iconic place, since it was here that people gathered to mourn and remember the victims of the March 22 terror attack on Brussels. Now life has already long returned to normal, and in the evening the steps of the “Beurs” fill up with youngsters.
This time I wanted to try a new restaurant on the “Oude Graanmarkt”, a square just one block away from the Beursplein. To enter the restaurant “Les filles“, which translates as ‘the girls’, you have to ring the bell at the front door. You get buzzed in and climb the stairs to the the restaurant on the first floor. On the second floor groups can eat in a private room without disturbing the other guests. Les filles use the formula of the “communal table” (table d’hôtes in French), meaning you eat in an atmosphere like home. The place has two large rooms where guests join at long tables. There is one menu for all consisting of some appetizers with bread, an entrée and soup served at the table, and a main course, cheese and dessert you can take from a small buffet. All dishes are prepared with organic and locally sourced ingredients, the girls call it “slow food”. They have a choice of healthy drinks, wines and beer, coffee and tea. We arrive quite early but the place quickly fills up, and this on a Wednesday evening. Our menu: appetizers: olives, bruscetta with traditional ham, and aubergine puree on bread. Soup: carrot and pumpkin soup. Entrée: fresh goat cheese with pesto and cherry tomatoes. Main course: chicken stew with seasonal vegetables and lentils. Choice of cheese cuts. Dessert: walnut cake with caramel sauce. All super yummy and with high quality ingredients. The menu costs 18 euro for lunch and 27,5 euro for dinner. They serve brunch in the weekends. It was a great find and we will no doubt return. They also deliver at home, offer cooking classes and have a small shops selling local specialities.
Other really good restaurants in Brussels that we have tried on previous visits:
“Bar Bik“, in the area of the KVS (Brussels theatre), a good place to combine with attending a theatre performance. They serve trendy and original food based on seasonal products, with a lot of Mediterranean influences for reasonable prices. The decoration is lofty industrial, with wooden tables.
“Gazzetta” café & deli, great place to have a coffee or lunch. The food is Italian, the interior of the place is beautiful but does not invite for long dining, rather for quick lunches, or a good croissant with a coffee in the morning.
“Friture René” in Anderlecht. Great traditional nostalgic style place, where I ate the best fries in my whole life, served with homemade mayo, in real Belgian style. They serve very decent traditional dishes, and the place is popular with long time “brusseleirs”, people from Brussels.
“Skievelat“, they have several branches, but I only tried the Sablon branch. Decent brasserie, where you can have a good steak, close to the Sablon, and most of the museums.
“Restaurant of the MIM“. On top of the Musical instruments museum, lies a restaurant which is great in summer, when you can sit on the outside terrace, enjoying one of the best views of Brussels. The food is good but not extra-ordinary.