Brussels foodie guide: where locals eat and drink
Brisket platters with smoked-butter potatoes, smashable chocolate desserts and cocktails made with mandarin soda are on the menu in the Belgian capital
Looking for restaurants in Brussels? Want to know where to eat in Belgium's capital? Local food writer Emma Beddington shares her insider tips for the best restaurants in Brussels, along with where to find the best traditional Belgian food, cheese and frites.
olive's must-visits for foodies in Brussels
La Fruitière – for cheese
At lunchtime, the tasting room at new cheese shop La Fruitière offers mixed platters, fondues and inspired sandwiches (think warm smoked ham and raw milk tomme du jura or fresh Belgian goat’s cheese on sourdough baguettes) with well-priced wines by the glass. facebook.com/lafruitierebrussels
Chouconut – for afternoon tea
Peaceful Chouconut serves rare leaf teas and jewel-bright miniature choux buns. Try delicate lemon and yuzu, pear and blackcurrant, or go all out with the indulgent chocolate, caramel and peanut Snickers version. Its chocolate and Guérande salt shortbread or mango and passion fruit caramels make perfect gifts. chouconut.com
Humphrey – for sharing plates
Noma alumnus Yannick Van Aeken dishes up exciting sharing plates at Humphrey, his cool canteen in indie record label PIAS’s headquarters. Choose from revved-up comfort food (wings with blue cheese) or Scandi (seaweed asparagus salad), and save space for the chocolate dome you smash to reveal homemade truffles. humphreyrestaurant.com
Cipiace – for cocktails
Rickety, joyful trattoria Cipiace is an unexpected place to find some of the best and most surprising cocktails in the city: try a few with its excellent artisanal charcuterie and cheese antipasto platter. The Preferito, with grappa, chestnut honey, bitters and homemade mandarin soda, is highly recommended. cipiace.be
The Cantillon Brewery – for beer and brewery tours
The Cantillon Brewery hasn’t changed its method for making its seductively sour, naturally fermented gueule beers since it opened in 1900: take a tour around the atmospheric copper vats and ancient wooden barrels, then taste the wares: the cherry kriek is deliciously fruity. cantillon.be
Holy Smoke – for smoked meats
The giant smoker imported from Dallas in the entrance sets the scene: Holy Smoke is all about meat, smoked slow and low. Don’t miss the meltingly tender brisket platter, served with smoked-butter potatoes and some imaginative salads. The bourbon bar and cocktails are worth a trip in their own right. facebook.com/HolysmokeBrussels
Crab Club – hidden gem
Deliberately under the radar, with no phone or website, sparse but stylish Crab Club is well worth searching out. The menu changes daily according to Thai-French chef Yoth Ondara’s mood, but expect the likes of beautiful garlicky razor clams, delicate sesame-crusted scallops and roast whole wild fish. 7 Chaussée de Waterloo, 00 32 472 55 46 95
Where to stay in Brussels
Double rooms at Jam Hotel, a converted former art school, cost from €89.
Chyl is a sustainable shop and veggie café that also has guest rooms. Doubles cost from £65, room only (chyl.be).
More great places to eat and drink in Brussels
Vegan fine dining in Brussels: Humus & Hortense
Brussels’s cool cocktail speakeasy, Hortense (see below), hooked up with chef Nicolas Decloedt to open Humus & Hortense. This grand-café-style space serves a plant-based twist on traditional Belgian fine dining. Its six-course tasting menu might include cucumber and elderflower escabeche, aubergine with fermented cream, smoky roast radicchio and shiitake, and butternut panna cotta. The signature crackers, made from ancient varieties of wheat, and served with pumpkin hummus and purple salsify, are worth the trip alone.
Brunch in Brussels: Pistolet Original
Crusty pistolet rolls are Belgium’s answer to Proust’s madeleine, and Pistolet Original gives them the gourmet treatment, with rolls by celebrity baker Yves Guns filled with top-notch local produce. Order the unmisssable Américain steak tartare with cress.
Buffet dining in Brussels: Les Filles
In a sunny flower-filled room, Line Couvreur’s fantastic home cooking at Les Filles is a hug in culinary form. A selection of starters is delivered to the long refectory tables, then you help yourself to the generous, simple mains such as beef tagliata with a slow-baked comté gratin, and indulgent puddings.
Great value set menu in Brussels: Pei & Mei
Book ahead at diminutive Sablon newcomer Pei & Mei for chef Gautier de Baere’s generous, accomplished riffs on Franco-Belgian classics. The excellent-value set menu features ethereally light tempura shrimp and market fish with silky, buttery mash.
Food market in Brussels: Place Flagey
The picturesque weekend market at Place Flagey is a must-visit, with new trucks and stalls appearing each week. Try a plump, ‘kouign’ pancake from Breton crêpe specialist Ty Penty served with its own salted caramel sauce and sparkling dry cider. (Place Flagey, 00 32 2 478 872 963)
Wine bar in Brussels: Comptoir des Galeries
The stylish, welcoming new bar from Michelin starred Julien Burlat, Comptoir des Galeries specialises in artisanal charcuterie, natural wines and indulgent bar snacks, from luxe lobster croquettes to homemade black pudding. Perch on a stool and order a handmade brioche bun stuffed with soy-glazed pork belly for a quick, delicious lunch.
Cocktail bar in Brussels: Hortense
In the vaulted brick cellar of what was formerly the Vatican embassy, Matthieu Chaumont has created Hortense, a cool, speakeasy-style cocktail bar, showcasing his passion for rare spirits. The other woman – sweet vermouth, Peychaud bitters and champagne – is the perfect winter treat.
Chocolate shop in Brussels: Frédéric Blondeel
Brussels without chocolate is unthinkable, but bypass the big names and drop into the bustling workshop and tasting room of artisan chocolatier Frédéric Blondeel for a box of his subtly flavoured ganaches. The aromatic lemongrass and chili criollo hot chocolateis the ideal winter warmer, too.
Bistro in Brussels: La Buvette
Working out of a beautiful tiled Art Deco former butcher’s shop, La Buvette showcases Nicolas Scheidt’s considerable talent in transforming often-neglected, inexpensive ingredients into something sublime and surprising. Expect a succession of small, beautiful dishes, such as perch with creamed potato and morel sauce, Japanese-influenced slow cooked pork broth, or crab, kohlrabi and shellfish sauce.
Words by Emma Beddington
Photographs by Getty, Juan Wyns, Heikki Verdurme, Ian Dagnall/Alamy, Yoann Stoeckel