Top Five of some of the oldest – and newest restaurants - in Brussels

Thursday, 16 February 2017 13:25
Restaurants in Brussels took a real hit after the terrorist attacks last March.
With the first anniversary of the atrocity fast approaching, the new goods is that the city’s horeca sector is bouncing back. Here, in no particular order, is a Top Five of some of the oldest – and newest - in Brussels.


Le Relais St-Job

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If you appreciate excellent cuisine in a wonderful atmosphere then look no further than this “Brussels institution.”

There really is something to satisfy all tastes here. For the traditionalists, there’s mouth-watering old favourites like rognon de veau (a house speciality), solettes, jambonneau braise and ris de veau grille. Look out also for the shrimp croquettes, known as the best in Brussels (if not the country!)

But the terrific a la carte is also packed with lots of other equally fine offerings including seafood products such as oysters and lobster, all plucked from the tank in the centre of the restaurant.

A great choice of starters include St Jacques (shelled on site to ensure freshness), tartine de thon and poached egg with smoked salmon.

Some of these, and other items such as pate and soups are also available from the well-stocked traiteur (takeaway) service (open 10am-9pm and open from last September) which adjoins the restaurant and also sells a fine range of wines.

You can avail of this very fine food (with friendly service to match) just about any time of the year because the restaurant is open non-stop from noon to midnight, 7/7.There’s also a suggestions card (lunchtime) plus a good value, 2-course €15.90 lunch menu.

Ideally located on a popular, and attractive, main square, Le Relais attracts customers from all over Brussels who keep returning for the consistently excellent value-for-money dishes, many which draw on the best of Belgian cuisine.

There’s a heated terrace (open from March) and this old Brussels bistro, situated in an atmospheric 19th century character-full building, also has a pleasant function room seating up to 60. Special menus, priced from €27, are available in here.

Thierry Groeteclaes and Yves Boucquillon, its long-time owners since 2003, pride themselves on trying to uphold Brussels’ great reputation for first class cuisine. The good news is that they succeed brilliantly.

1 place Saint-Job, Brussels
02 375 5724
www.relaisstjob.be


Costa d’Amalfi

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Brussels’ European Quarter is so packed with Italian restaurants it’s known as the city’s unofficial “Little Italy”.

Most, though, serve only relatively basic Italian food. Happily, a newcomer to the local scene promises to change all that.

This lovely 60-seater Italian, which opened a few months ago, is already fast gaining a reputation for offering delicious – and authentic – quality dishes.

It’s owned and run by a hard working team of six associates headed by the welcoming Alessandro Cuigi who, like most of his colleagues hails from Amalfi, a wonderful part of Italy.

His aim is to transfer the delicious food his home region is known for to this new venture. The a la carte features a lovely range of typical Amalfi dishes, with plenty of the ingredients used in their creation imported directly from the Italian coast.

A nice selection of starters includes grilled octopus with chick peas while the signature dish is probably a very agreeable pasta dish which is soaked in anchovy juice and tuna tartare.  

There’s also a good choice of fish and meat, with one to mention being the filet of Podolica beef, a rare Italian breed, smoked with herbs.

With head chef Giacinto Magliano overseeing things, this is fine Italian dining the like of which is not easy to find in a city packed with pizzerias. If you’re looking for a relatively quick lunch this is also the place to be with an affordable €16.50 option comprising starter, main and coffee.

Brussels lacks Amalfi’s sun and sea but this place offers a taste of its great cuisine.

192 rue Stevin, Brussels
02 330 7099
www.costadamalfi.be


Ciccio Bello

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Dining at this delightful Italian restaurant really does transport you to Campania in south west Italy.

Campania is a region best known for its ancient ruins and dramatic coastline.

It’s also home to wonderful winery run by Milena Pepe who supplies some of the terrific wines served here.

They include five red, five white, two rose and a prosecco (also available in some retail outlets in Belgium) plus a good quality olive oil used in the kitchen by its Italian-born chef to produce some terrific dishes.

They include a fantastic range of pizzas which are cooked the “old fashioned” way in a wood-fired oven.

Under EU regulations many of these types of ovens have, sadly, started to vanish but that is a great shame because they (as opposed to gas or electric ovens) are probably the best way to produce the tastiest pizzas.

So, if you appreciate the best cooked pizzas this is the place for you.

There are, of course, lots of other very good options on the menu, including specialities from Naples such as pasta with tomato and aubergine.

This atmospheric, relaxing eatery seats up to 120 and also boasts a banqueting room.

Milena’s father Angela owns Ciccio Bello and several other Brussels’ top quality restaurants. The fourth to open, this has now been a mainstay of the Brussels restaurant scene for some 18 years and is still going strong.

Evidence of that is a typically bustling Sunday evening, normally a quieter time for many restaurants but not here when it can be as packed as any other night.

The secret of its success? Well, Francesco Cipriano, one of several welcoming staff members, reckons it’s simple: a mixture of quality and good prices.

It’s on a direct tram line from central Brussels so if you want to sample some fantastic Italian cuisine head for this place – you’ll not be disappointed.

Place Leopold Wiener 4, Watermael-Boitsfort, Brussels
02 672 3230
www.cicciobello.be


Restaurant Francois

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If one sign of a first class business is the length of service of its staff then this fabulous fish restaurant must be right there at the top of the tree.

Its head waiter started as a 15-year-old in 1977, his female colleague has run its adjacent traiteur service for 38 years and the head chef started in 1993!

Each put down their longevity to having a “good boss” and job satisfaction.

It’s not just the staff who are loyal – so too are its army of dedicated customers who have been feasting on the wonderful cuisine here for nearly 100 years.

It’s no wonder they keep coming back – while Brussels is a long way from the sea, the food (almost exclusively fish) is equal to the very best that could be found at the coast.

Choose from a “Discovery Menu” that changes monthly, the fixed “Francois Menu”, a daily suggestions board or the a la carte option, which oozes quite fantastic fish dishes.

Everything is carefully selected so it’s seasonal and fresh, ranging from mouth-watering scallops cooked in butter to asparagus or oysters and mussels.

Much of the fish is locally sourced, such as North Sea cod and the shrimps and eel, both Belgian traditions. If you really want to “push the boat out” try the Siberian caviar or seafood platter.

This beautifully decorated and atmospheric restaurant, which dates to 1922, is situated on a prominent position on the site of Brussels’ traditional fish market.

The owners pay close attention to customer satisfaction, one reason which helps keep this Brussels “institution” at the top.

2 Quai aux Briques, Brussels
02 511 6089
www.restaurantfrancois.be


't Misverstand

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The name of this delightful restaurant translates as “misunderstand” but, be sure, there’s no mistaking the quality of cuisine (and service) on offer here.

From the outside, you could actually be forgiven for thinking you’re in the middle of rolling countryside.

The lovely, rustic façade belies the fact that ‘t Misverstand is at the heart of a particularly bustling area with trams rumbling by.

Once inside, that is completely forgotten as you are overwhelmed by the delicious food lovingly created by the long-serving head chef Robert Dejean.

There’s a terrific choice, ranging from traditional dishes such as meat loaf, sweetbread and Flemish stew, to what could be described as more “contemporary” creations.

Whatever your choice, the emphasis is on great seasonal products and home-cooking (even the shrimps are hand peeled on the premises).

This is one of the restaurant’s biggest assets but not the only one.

Another is the delightful décor (look out for the well-stocked wine cellar, visible via a glass floor) and a marvellous garden, plus the very friendly ambience, partly generated by staff some of whom have worked here for 20 years (an eternity in the horeca trade).

Its Brussels-born owner, Jean-Marc Schellens, has been in the restaurant business for 32 years, the last 17 here, and insists on the highest standards.

The very affordable prices (mains start from just €12 and there's a good value lunch option) are one reason for its perennial appeal, together with the availability of a car valet service, particularly useful in this area.

The latest “fashionable” restaurants come and go but it’s good to know there is an “old reliable” you can rely on for top-class food (and service) and  ‘t Misverstand is one such place. 

916 Chaussee d’Alsemberg, Uccle
02 376 2398
www.misverstand.be 

By Martin Banks

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