Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Brussels


Hooray. Despite the crashing pound, me and E are going on a day trip to Brussels in mid November, courtesy of the Sunday Times "Two for £90" offer. We get there at ten and leave at eight thirty in the evening, so it's a fair old day out. That's the beauty of having a London place, we can get these little pleasures more easily and in fact, we'll make a saving, more or less, or at least beak even on the deal, as we won't have to pay that grinning, bearded git Branson anything for Eileen's immensely expensive journey to Manchester and back.

It's a little while since I've been to Belgium and even longer since Brussels, so of course the question to ask, is what I shouldn't miss pub wise. I really want to visit Oud Moeder Lambic which I know is a tram journey away, but otherwise I'm open to suggestions, though they must be easily reachable from the centre on foot.

Ideas very welcome.

28 comments:

The Beer Nut said...

The Rue du Marché aux Herbes crawl is a good 'un: start with some Lambic Doux down at A La Bécasse, then work up through A L'Image de Notre Dame, Au Bon Viuex Temps and Toon. Delerium Café is an optional sidestep, if you feel up to somewhere a bit more (unpleasantly) lively.

The Beer Nut said...

"Viuex"? Back of the class, Nut.
"Vieux".

John Clarke said...

Hi Tanders old bean,

First a warning - I guess many replies to this post will point you in the direction of Delerium (4a Impass De La Fidelite) with its 2000 beers. Never appealed to me and there are plenty of better places to visit.

One essential in the Poechenellekelder (5 Rue du Chene - it's opposite the Mannekin Pis) has 120-ish beers includinf a small list of changing guests. Very well chosen list with few if any clunkers (good on lambics, too).

I am also a big fan of the Monk (42 Rue Ste Catherine) can be a but smoky but great inter-wars archtecture and small but good list (De Ranke and Senne feature). Doesn't open unti 4pm though, thogh neither dis Moeder Lambic according to the new GBG Belgium).

A short walk from Midi station is Cantillon (56 Rue Gheude) which is open every day and you can just walk round on a sleg guided tour. The orice includes a couple of samples and you can buy beer to take away.

A very attractive bar with an increasingly good list (draught Oud Beersel lambic) is the Fleur en Papier Dore (55 Rue des Alexiens), not from from the Poechenellekelder. Just up the road from the Fleur (at no. 67) is the Porte Noir but this doesn't open until 4pm, closed Sundays. 100-odd beers and a good list.

If you want a good lambic blast try the Brocante (170 Rue Blaes) - can be smoke this one but opens at 5am (but cloes 6pm weekends). On the way there you could drop in at Warm Water (25 Rue des Renards)- good for lunch and sells all the Girardin lambics including draught kriekenlambic.

Finally my favourite (but admittedly the shabbiest) of the "alleyway bars" - a l'Imaige Nostre-Dame. Small but well picked range of beers and a good locals atmosphere. It's on 3 Impasse des Cadeaux, jut off Rue Marche aux Herbes.

Oh, I suppose you also ought to visit Mort Subite (7 Rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potageres - walk through the Galeries Hubert and turn right at the end) - it's a Brussels institution and I usually drop in when I'm in Brussels, which is at least twice a year.

Hope all this helps. Let us know how you get on.

tania_nexust said...

I would also totally recommend Porte Noir - it's about a block down from Pochenellekelder, then up a hill - Google for directions. Great beer list, usually about 9 on draught (including La Chouffe usually), and good printed menu with fridges of bottles from both older and new micro-breweries. There's always been something different when I've been here.
It's in a medieval crypt (I believe a convent stood on the site) and is atmospheric, though unfortuantely like most Belgian bars can leave you very smoky.
Everything John Clarke said I'd like to second, they're all my usual stop-off points when in Brussels!

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

I concur with Poechenellekelder, loved it, still underwhelmed by Delerium, Cantillon is always a good first stop I would have thought just across the road and after the tour a good sharpener to get the juices going.

Tandleman said...

Thanks folks and keep them coming. ATJ. I agree. Just need to convince the lambic hating missus now!

Laurent Mousson said...

Indeed, Chez Moeder Lambic, rue de Savoie 68 in St Gilles, is a once-shabby legend that's now back in force thanks to the sterling job Nassim Decissy and Jean Hummler have done since they took over in 2006.
They trimmed the beer list from 400 back to 200, ousted all the industrial beers, all dubious poedigree, have wiggled free from their tie with Duvel Moortgat...

With 38 sq metres, they're the largest Cantillon account in Belgium apart from wholesalers. There usually is Cantillon lambic (on handpump) and faro on tap, plsu possibly a guest.

No pale lager anymore. The session beer is Taras Boulba from Br. de la Senne, and De Ranke Guldenberg is a permanent fixture. Out of the 8 taps, three are devoted to guest "Bières de la semaine", which are listed on their Facebook page : http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bruxelles-Belgium/Chez-Moeder-Lambic/94839237685

Nassim and Jean put in force opening up and closing down time procedures that are as stingent as I've ever seen them on the contingent (the beer lines are filled with water for the night, for example), and I haven't had a dodgy beer in three days rather intensive drinking last month.

Moreover, they do believe in training their staff and keeping experienced staff in the long run too.

Actually, the'yre opening a second Chez Moeder Lambic, Place Fontainas 8, just off the touristy bit around the Manneken Pis, on 29 October.
That one is going to have 40 taps (including 12 guests), 6 handpumps, and a decent bottle selection. The cooling cell in the cellar is huge and all lines and taps are cooled, the lines being maintained as short as possible.
The place itself is about three times larger than the St Gilles ones. (Yup, I've visited the building site)

The new staff have been given a solid two weeks training courses last month, along with the old hands, which IMHO is quite an impressive investment. Yours truly's been invited to brief the horde (a good 30 people) over two days on British and German beers and their whole background, why they are different from belgian beers and how to appreciate them in their own context (seems I'm one of the few competent french speakers available and for that kind of thing...)
I've frankly been very impressed by the interest shown in beer by all the staff, as well as the sincere work ethics of their bosses.
No wonder they get on well with Jean Van Roy...

So if you get to either, tell them their "prof de bières étrangères" recommended the place. ;o)

By the way, If you're out to St Gilles, Le Bistro de la Poste (http://bistrodelaposte.be/) comes strongly recommended. Excellent belgo-french cooking, moderate prices, hand-picked beer list (Senne, Cantillon, Dupont) and a wide selection of "vins nature" that is additive-free wines.

Joe Stange said...

Indeed the new Moeder Lambic should be open by then, and you won't want to miss it. I expect it to immediately be the best café in Belgium for discriminating beer drinkers.

John Clarke said...

It's certainly on my list of "must visits" when I'm next in Brussels (12-16 November, for Bruges Beer Festival).

Tandleman said...

Well that sounds brilliant guys. Thanks to Laurent for a very full reply and to everyone else.

Paul Bailey said...

Unfortunately I neglected to keep notes on my last visit to Brussels - a day trip back in 2005. It didn't help ending up in Delerium, but I do remember my friend having "strong words" with a couple of Americans who marched in and barked their order for "two bottles of Bud"!

In the vicinity of Delerium there was an excellent lambic cafe, and also a bar, down a side-alley, complete with stained-glass windows, that sold Corsendonk.

My friend works for Eurostar, and got us upgraded to first class on the journey back. That meant plenty of wine with our meal. Small wonder my recollections of that day are a bit hazy.

BTW don't go on 11th November, like wew did, if you want to visit Cantillon. It is closed on Armistice Day, which I believe is a national holiday in Belgium. Have a good trip.

Bailey said...

Do you mind if I chuck a few links your way?

These are places we liked:

Chez Moeder Lambic and A La Mort Subite

Cantillon (early morning tour -- the beer's a good substitute for a glass of grapefruit juice at breakfast...)

L'Ultime Atome

Poechenellekelder is our favourite -- handy and cosy

And one we didn't:

Restobieres

Tandleman said...

More good stuff Bailey, though might just give the last one a miss!

dgs said...

If you go a weekday, Tuesday through Friday, lunch at Bier Circus is also an option, but dinner only on Saturdays, shut Sundays and Mondays.

All the recommendations you've seen so far are good. You might as well pick up a copy of the latest GBG Belgium, as it's still fairly new and up-to-date.

Personally, I've tired a bit of the big cities (not completely, but a bit), and am more likely to pick up a hire car at the airport and head into the Payottenland for some of the best food and beer to be found anywhere. But that's just me, longing for yet another session at Café De Cam and De Groene Poort in Gooik, De Koekoek in the southern reaches of Asse, Herberg Moriau in Sint-Pieters-Leeuw, De Rare Vos in Schepdaal, or Drie Fonteinen in Beersel.

The Beer Nut said...

'kin' 'ell, I got to get me one of them Belgian chauffeurs 'n' all.

Seriously, dgs: how does that work?

dgs said...

Wot can I say? I loves me those Payottenland lambics and cafes. Trade off driving duties with the missus, carefully moderate the drinking for enjoyment, linger for a while over something good to eat and a glass ... it can be done. A glass of jonge lambiek at De Koekoek is pure bliss in a little museum piece of a cafe, one I don't expect to be around much longer; the proprietress is in her 90s, and her two sons, in their 60s, run the place for the time being.

And I didn't even mention a mid-day session at De Heeren van Liedekerke, now, did I?

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John Clarke said...

Tanders baby,

I have to my (two) experiences of Restobieres have been quite the opposite of Bailey's. I have only been in the evening but on both occasions have thoroughly enjoyed it (although the owner was missing the second time and pissed as a fart the first). Food and beer excellent, though. However if you want a decent lunch go to Warm Water opposite - I have already suggested that one, I think.

Tandleman said...

John - I'm only there for the day, so I think I have enough to go at without taking my chances at Restobieres, anyway I dislike being "given" beers of someone else's choice.

DGS. See above. Car hire is out of the question. I want to relax, not explore Payottenland in a day! And anyway, unlike your good lady, I doubt if Eileen would drive me.

Jeffrey said...

Are you entirely motivated by saving a few pennies??

Tandleman said...

Feeling a bit liverish Jeffrey, or just forgotten the smiley?

That'd have made it amusing.

dgs said...

No worries, Tandlemeister. I was just ruminating and got a bit carried away, and ... well, that's more than a day's time in the Payottenland, yes. There's already more than enough to keep you occupied in central Brussels for the day.

I agree with others that Café Delérium can drive you up a wall at times, but there are plenty of things on the menu worth tasting too. I was pretty happy to find the last of a stock of Wets Kriek there, and they seem to stock the Brasserie de la Senne range somewhat reliably.

Do have a splendid day out, please. Cheers!

Jeff Frane said...

I'm still stuck on "a day trip to Brussels". I can't imagine living where that's an option. Needless to say, I'm envious. I have to settle for crappy old Portland beer.

Well, not entirely crappy.

Tandleman said...

It still makes me blink when you can get a train from London to Brussels that takes less than 2 hours.

John Clarke said...

Hey, it's even do-able from Manchester. Early morning flight will get you there about 10-ish (it's only one hour or so) and the last flight back is 9-ish in the evening.

A couple of days is better - 2-ish houres Manchesterv- Euston, amble down to St Pancras. Easy lunch and beers in John Betjeman and then 2 hours to Midi. Late aftrnoon train back the next day (or the one after that). Back in the grim north mid-evening.

Tandleman said...

True - I've done it. Tyson and I were on one of the very last Sabena flights out of Brussels before they went tits up.

Jeffrey said...

My liver's fine, thanks a lot! I give it a break in between drinking sessions, unlike some! ;-)

Tandleman said...

Very wise. So do I. My last drink was on Sunday, but I intend to have a few later.