When asked to give the name of a good restaurant, I usually respond with a string of questions of my own: What kind of food? For what purpose? In which price range? In which area? On top of that I have my limits: I can only advise one of the 250 restaurants I have visited in Brussels. Therefore naming the five best restaurants in a city like Brussels is a very tricky, highly subjective task.
Nevertheless, I’ve given it a go. Here are my five favourites, the best of the best in five different categories: starred, French, typically Brussels, healthy and natural, and bistro. They all have in common an unbeatable quality of ingredients, a fantastic creativity, and the great talent of the chef clearly reflected in the cuisine and its generosity. This is cooking to make customers genuinely
happy and beautiful.
A Top Chef: Sea Grill
Start saving €20 a month right now and after a year you’ll be able to treat yourself at Yves Mattagne’s flagship restaurant at the city centre’s Radisson SAS. One of the top chefs of the country will create for you a fabulous journey into the world of taste.
Everything is perfect, from the finely retrofitted decor to the service and presentation. No bluff, no fuss, nothing is superfluous here: each dish is designed to bring maximum pleasure to all the senses.
At the same time, the cuisine is human and accessible, not excessively sophisticated as in many top restaurants. A bonus: a rare 25kg all-silver lobster press is used right in front of you to extract its juices and make a béarnaise sauce accompanying lobster tail and sweetbread. The wine list has 600
references but you can trust the sommelier, Fabrice d’Hulster, to make discoveries. This is classy, luxurious dining: spoil yourself for €200-250 per head, including wines.
Rue Fossé-aux-Loups, 47
T. 32 (0)2 212 08 00
The Best From France: L’Idiot Du Village
After more than 15 years, this restaurant is still alive and well in the heart of the Marolles quarter. The atmosphere is so cosy, so warm that you feel almost at home.
Despite its trendy name, like lots of restaurants in Brussels, L’Idiot has never lent an ear to the sirens of fashion. A good cuisine du terroir from the humble but talented French chef Alain Gascoin, whom you may sometimes see making his own black pudding. Lots of nice little attentions to detail from the other co-owner Olivier le Bret help to create a great time there, ideally for a romantic dinner or a high-class business lunch. It has a small but great French wine list. Count on €60-70 per head.
Closed at the weekends.
L’Idiot du Village
Rue Notre-Seigneur, 9
T. +32 (0)2 502 55 82
Zen And Healthy: Tan
You don’t come here just to eat but to eat differently. The menu is twofold: with meat (“radjastic”) or vegetarian (“sattvic”), according to ayurveda guidelines. But the food is not Indian here. The recipes have all been conceived by Pol Grégoire, the pope of living food in Belgium, and his business partner Jo Vanderstichelen. Pol has since pursued his career elsewhere but Jo remains to brilliantly supervise Pol’s culinary heritage.
You go from surprise to surprise in this beautiful, zen restaurant: yes, vegetables do have taste, thanks to great spices and condiment pairings. As a bonus you get a lesson on better eating, where you learn that the rawer the better, amongst other things.
And all of that for €50-60 per head.
Rue de l’aqueduc, 95
T. +32 (0)2 537 87 87
Brussels At Its Best: Le Zinneke
Small and beautiful, this is simply the best traditional restaurant in Brussels. You could come here just to taste its 69 ways of preparing mussels for less than €20, the cheapest in Brussels. But this slow food restaurant has much more to offer. The chef Michel Immerzeel perfectly masters the local cuisine and prepares tasty specialities, from carbonade (beef stew) to home-made shrimp croquettes. The menu is written in Bruxellois, the local patois, with full indications on the origins of products, many of which are organic. As a bonus, you can eat in the garden during the rare days of beautiful weather in this country. Get a genuine taste of Brussels for 40-50€ per head.
Place de la Patrie, 26
T. +32 (0)2 245 03 22
Bistro For Wine Lovers: A Bout De Soufre
There are many wine bars in Brussels. But this one is very particular. First of all, you come here to drink or buy natural wines, i.e. wines without additives.
Their taste is different from what you are used to drinking, but so interesting that you may trust wine expert Jérôme Bellin to take you by the hand to explore this new world of aromas and fragrances. And we also have here a true and great restaurant: one of the rare places in Brussels where you can taste bistro cuisine.
Chef Arnold Dossou-Yovo is gifted, and yet so humble. All fresh, it has its price: €50-70 per head.
A Bout De Soufre
Rue Tasson Snel, 11
1060 St Gilles
T. +32 (0)2 537 27 00
For good gastronomic tips in Brussels and elsewhere @hughesbelin