Eating out in Brussels on Sundays is a deeply established tradition of the Belgian capital and with the rich and varied gastronomy on offer don’t be surprised to find family groups of three generations at table for a meal which can often last three hours or more. There is so much choice at your fingertips that it can be difficult to decide where to go, so be sure to book to ensure a place at the best restaurants for Sunday lunch and dinner.
In the very heart of the city close to the lovely covered 19th century glass Galeries Royales Saint Hubert and a stone’s throw from the Grand Place, Restaurant Vincent (8-10 Rue des Dominicains, Tel : +32 (0) 2 511 26 07 firstname.lastname@example.org, www.restaurantvincent.com) is a popular eatery with a varied menu of Belgian and French specialities. Brothers Jacques and Michel Venencie are the third generation of their family to run and own the restaurant, and the lengthy menu which includes Anguilles au vert (eels in a sorrel sauce), steamed mussels in white wine, and pheasant in a champagne sauce reflects their long experience of understanding and providing what their customers want, with suitably generous portions to match. The service is prompt and friendly, and the décor of bright tiled frescoes depicting river and sea scenes from the 1920s add to the warm ambiance. The restaurant is open both for lunch and supper on Sundays, but is always busy so making a reservation could be a good idea.
Lola, ( Place du Grand-Sablon, 33 - 1000 Bruxelles - Tel : +32 (0)2 514 24 60, email@example.com, www.restolola.be ), situated on the Grand Sablon, where the square on Sundays is lined with top quality antique stalls, is one of the smartest brasserie restaurants of this super elegant quarter. The discrete and modern décor ties in nicely with the menu of well presented dishes ranging from an entrée of fresh crab in puff pastry topped with salmon caviar and celeriac wasabi mayonnaise, to a succulent steak tartare made to a secret recipe unique to Lola’s chef and part owner Larbi Ouriagli. His partners Caroline Mijnssen and Henri Baeyens look after the tables and keep a benign presence at the long counter where many regular customers meet friends for an aperitif before Sunday lunch or supper. Its friendly ambiance, fine food and location on one of Brussels’ most beautiful squares make Lola a popular destination for the most discerning gourmets of the capital.
As its name suggests, Le Relais St-Job (1 Place de Saint-job, Tel: +32 (0)2 375 57 24, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.relaisstjob.be ) was in the 19th century a staging point for post coaches. Today though, the stables have transformed into a smart brasserie, with a raised dormer terrace and deck garden for the hot summer days, and a warm light interior for the grey months of winter. The Relais now is an popular institution of St Job, a well-to-do leafy residential quarter known as the Montmartre of Brussels which is well connected by tram and bus to the centre. The owners Thierry Groeteclaes and Yves Boucquillon are determined that their menus should be as seasonal as possible to ensure optimum freshness and they source produce at the numerous food markets of the Belgian capital. Ranging from fresh asparagus to oysters and lobster, or delicious tiny North Sea shrimps served with rich mayonnaise, to entrecote served with the creamy sauce béarnaise, dishes are presented with an attention to detail to be expected of a first class restaurant. The wine list too is an adventurous surprise with relatively little known top Spanish wines topping the bill amongst the more traditional Bordeaux and Côtes du Rhône.
In the sought after residential suburb on the southern outskirts of the city, yet easily accessed by tram the Bois Savanes (208 Chaussée de Waterloo, - Rhode Saint Genèse, Tel : +32 (0)2 358 37 78, email@example.com, www. boissavanes.be) has just been refurbished, its new elegant décor recreating as much as possible the warm tropical ambiance of Thailand and south east Asia which is the inspiration for its cuisine. High bamboo screens and a well lit airy interior provide intimate dining spaces, with a garden and outside heated deck for the warmer evenings of spring and summer. Madame Nong the chef, is from Thailand, and the menu, though absolutely faithful to the land of 1001 savours does have a couple of exuberant dishes which betray a certain European input. Seafood with rice and asparagus, caramelised spare ribs, sautéed seasonal vegetables or duck with Thai basil are amongst the recommended dishes, with delicate sorbets of the house as dessert. The owners Marie and Jérôme Back are Belgian, and say that one of their prime aims is to bring together the flavours of the East with some of the best wines that Europe and the new World can provide.
At the heart of the cosmopolitan working quarter of Anderlecht there is a major Belgian attraction which appeals to all regardless of race or creed. Friture René (Place de la Résistance, 14, Tel: +32 (0)2 523 28 76) with a high central bar, immaculate white tiled interior and oilcloth table cloths, has been serving typical Belgian cuisine to an admiring clientele for three generations. Steamed mussels, succulent carbonnade – that rich beef stew cooked in beer with onions - and of course perfectly cooked golden crisp frites are on the menu in large portions. The prices are very reasonable and owner and chef Dirk Piolon is determined to ensure these classics of traditional Belgian gastronomy cooked by his grandparents who opened Friture René in 1932 survive for many generations to come.
For one of the most original interiors of the Belgian capital La Quincaillerie (45 Rue du page, Tel: +32 (0)2 533 98 33, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.quincaillerie.be) in the lovely tree lined quarter of Châtelain is set in a perfectly restored ironmongers shop of the turn of the last century designed by a disciple of the master of art nouveau, Victor Horta. Elegant wrought iron stairs lead to a gallery where tables in small intimate niches stand where once brown coated workers stacked goods for customers below. Today the Quincaillerie is popular with the young professionals of this trendy quarter, and is open for lunch and supper on weekdays and on Sunday evenings. There is an oyster bar, and all the sea food comes direct from the main market in Brussels, with an absolute assurance that no threatened species of fish will ever appear on the menu. With an emphasis on game and excellent quality beef and pork, the meat dishes are abundant, and are sourced from the restaurant's own farm just outside Brussels. The organic vegetables too are grown here, so expect a degree of seasonal availability! There is an extensive wine list with fine French vintages on the list selected by the Quincaillerie’s director Madeleine Deryhon, an oenologist of repute.
Facing the imposing arch of the Cinquentaire Park, not far from the European Quarter the newly opened Park Side Brasserie (24 Avenue de la Joyeuse Entrée, Tel: +32 (0)2 238 08 08, email@example.com, www. restoparkside.be) has top class cuisine served in an ultra modern décor. Popular with Eurocrats but also the residents of this prosperous suburb close to the centre, the Brasserie in a few months has established a large number of regular clients. Expect to find here sophisticated Belgian and French dishes prepared and served with an elegant simplicity matching the urban chic décor. Starters include a toasted brioche with fresh duck foie gras and chutney of onions and the Park Side Burger a main dish of beef, pancetta, cheddar, and fried onions has an ardent following. Each course has a suggested wine from the richly stocked cellar of top vintages standing in glass fronted units along the walls. True to its name there is a long bar for that pre-lunch and supper aperitif, and despite being able to seat more than 100 the tables are arranged in small niches and rooms to give an intimate and cosy atmosphere.
Katia Nguyen and her team have for twenty years been ambassadors for the very best Asian cuisine to be found in the Belgian capital at the L'Orchidée Blanche (Tel: +32 (0) 2 647 56 21). In the heart of the university quarter of Ixelles, the restaurant with an authentic interior of imported teak and dark slate has become well known in the area for the exotic excellence of its dishes served by waitresses wearing the traditional black Ao-dai tunics of their native Vietnam. A popular speciality of the house is an Imperial Vietnamese Fondue, in a citronelle and soya bouillon, with calamari, scallops and chicken amongst its many ingredients. The diners at the l'Orchidée Blanche come from a background as diverse as the menu, ranging from local residents and students to members of the Asian community of the Belgian capital. They are though united by one strong link – their loyalty and affection for the wonderful food this outpost of Asia has brought to the heart of Europe.