If you want to eat well and avoid the tourist traps it takes some planning and plotting here in Belgium. I am talking about this as a person who has no knowledge or friends in Belgium to guide me.
We wanted to try authentic Belgian food but quickly discovered that it means lots of hearty meat dishes and messy salads on the same plate. Sharing the plate with big chunks of meat dripping blood does nothing for me. Sometimes chips are crammed on the same plate so it is all a bit disheartening at the beginning.
We took a risk with the restaurant pictured in Brussels and it paid off. I ordered the classic mussels and chips dish. The mussels arrived in a copper pot and a well used metal bowl arrived for the cast off shells. When asked what flavour I wanted I opted for the garlic but maybe got something else because it was as hot as horseradish.
John had a sausage and lentil dish which he deemed the better choice. Around the walls were small brass plaques of the famous who had dined there, I was back to back with Christian Lacroix and Gerard Depardieu whom we were told by the waiter has not only eaten there but goes into the kitchen and cooks his meal with the chef.
So the menus read like this: Chateaubriand, beef ribs, and other steak dishes. In an old-fashioned way you have a choice of mushroom sauce, Bernaise, or pepper sauce. Mussels as I have mentioned, a variety of fish and shellfish dishes. The mussels are delivered in special vans to the restaurants, I noted this because they have a big mussel sign on side- duhh..
I had oysters in cafe/restaurant de L’Ogenblik that were superb including drinking the sea salty liquor at the end, but did I pay a premium for seven oysters 22 €. Our Tasmanian local oysters are an absolute bargain.
We are totally out of sourdough baguette territory, most bread is finely sliced brown and served with butter. Many restaurants serve the salt directly in the container it is bought in, just to show you the origin I think.
The Belgian waffles are sold on the streets in fast food outlets along with chips which is the national junk food here. The waffles are smothered in cream and fruit so that can’t be all that bad.
There are modern restaurants that eschew the predictable Belgian diet above, but it takes some time to find them and many are proudly ‘international’ so that is not appealing for us this time. An amazing amount of donor kebab joints, then there are Italian and Greek restaurants, Mexican hovels, Indian and Chinese but not for us this time.
We went into a deli in Antwerp to buy a few things and got a surprise in the way to pay. You take your goods to the cashier, she tallys the bill, hands you a docket and then you feed it into a machine and feed in your euros etc. It spits out change. We suspect this is to avoid the staff handling money and oh yes they do not take worldly credit cards, just a Belgian card, so we won’t be back says John.
At De Florentijnen you will see we had a contemporary eating experience. Restaurants in Belgium always offer a red or white by the glass but nowhere near the extent of choice by the glass we offer in Australia.
We were tipped off about this restaurant De Florentijnen otherwise we may have thought it was an Italian restaurant. The building had been occupied by Florentine traders hence the name, and the drawings of Florentine personalities pinned to the top of the restaurant wall.