Peering from my window over the chimney-cladded rooftops of Ixelles — a well-to-do neighbourhood close to the Palais De Justice, overlooking the central district of Bruxelles, I was slightly disappointed to see that the sunshine of yesterday is replaced with a persistent thin fog-like drizzle. My first thought: Poor Elizabeth II, I hope things look better in London for her 60th Jubilee celebrations… She is after all, cruising down the Thames in a £4 million barge.
Today, however, I’ll leave the British to enjoy their fanfare, come rain or shine. I’d much rather focus on the reasons for my short visit to Bruxelles: Food and scavenging antique stores and art galleries for a special treasure to take home with me.
Belgium, is revered for Moulles et Frites (Mussels and very thin fries) in a watery tomato broth, beer, waffles and chocolate. However, one of the benefits of being a repeat visitor to any city or country, is that one gets to rediscover the ‘forgotten’ culinary jewels many first-time visitors don’t get to see.
I start my morning with a strong cup of creamy Jacqmotte Moka Absolu — which may sound a bit pretentious, but actually it’s the most basic household filter coffee you can find at Delhaize, accompanied with a fresh butter croissant. Let’s not forget, aside from making a delicious hot chocolate, the Flemish also prepare a brilliant cup of coffee.
As I meander through the muddy pond of the tourist area, I take a long left and a short right, away from the Grand Place and Menneken Pis and towards the Oude Graanmarkt (Old Grain Market) where I know I will find everything I’m looking for: Fresh creamy Gouda cheese, Framboise (raspberry) yoghurt, piquant raspberry juice from a little independent organic shop, Belgium cheese cake and quirky coffee shops… Bliss! In fact, if you want the best Belgium Zondag Omelette with bacon, cheese and tomato or the perfect Goats Cheese salad, I strongly recommend you visit Cafe de Markten.
After satisfying my taste buds and wanting to get out of the drenching drizzle, I head back up the hill where, to my delight, I discover the most wonderful little art gallery, Galerie Taptoe, on Place de la Vieille Halle aux Bles. Here I buy a ceramic sculpture of a rather fat and bubbly swimming lady, made by artist Catherine Hunter. Catherine named the obese bather, Bea. I love it!
Mission accomplished… or… wait… something is missing in my brown paper bags. Ah, of course! Chocolate! Leonidas, a chocolatier since 1913 is the ideal last stop before I’ll cuddle up indoors to watch the death breath of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in London, where I will nibble on my assortment of handpicked, handmade bricks of cocoa heaven.
My day has been perfect.
Image: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes
Text: FR Lubbe, Little Red Shoes