Le Fin de Siècle – Brussels

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Le Fin de Siecle was rated as one of the top Belgian restaurants for locals, so C and I decided to go here for our last dinner. It’s tucked away in the streets and the restaurant’s name is barely noticeable in the dark. It took us a while to find it and we even walked by it a few times before we saw the small font at the bottom of the window. The inside was quite packed, but it was still early and we were able to find a seat. It’s a very chill restaurant, almost like a pub. Wooden furniture and very cozy. Their menu is written on the chalkboard everyday, and it was all in French. Yea, my high school level French clearly did not help, and we had to ask one of the workers, who seemed like the owner to help us out. He was very busy, but still came back a few minutes later and went down the whole list to explain to us. Very friendly!

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Complimentary Bread

I wasn’t expecting complimentary bread here since it looked more like a pub, but they still offered it. However, the bread wasn’t that good. It wasn’t warmed up and not fluffy.

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Grilled Steak

I chose the Grilled Steak, since the other options didn’t seem to appealing to me at the time. I hadn’t had steak in a long time, and this was a good meaty meal. The steak was cooked to medium rare with the inside still pink. Perfect! Topped with a slice of butter and some light seasoning, it was juicy and tender. It came with a side of salad and the leaves were all fresh and crisp. It also came with a baked potato, but I wished it was seasoned a little more. Some good comfort food though!

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Beef Carbonade with Mashed Potatoes

C chose the Beef Carbonade with Mashed Potatoes, which is also a favourite at Le Find de Siecle. A carbonade is a typical Belgian dish, which is essentially a beef stew made with beer. I believe they said these were beef cheeks. The meat was so soft and tender! And the sauce was delicious! Very hearty and was perfect to mix with the mashed potatoes. It also came with an artichoke and some broccoli.

Overall, I can see why this restaurant is so popular. It had a large variety of Belgian comfort foods, which I believe they change up daily. Most people dining there were locals. Prices were a little more expensive for students on a budget, but quite reasonable for the amount of food you get. What’s interesting about this restaurant is that you have a chance of sharing a table with other diners too since they do have communal seating arrangements if you are dining with a small group. A very casual environment with good food.

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Pierre Marcolini – Brussels

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I love to eat chocolate, but to say that I’m anything close to understanding chocolate is definitely an overstatement. So while we were in Brussels, chocolate was literally everywhere! Belgian chocolate is so well known, but honestly, I can’t say I could tell the different brands apart. They all tasted pretty good! Like for instance, Godiva was everywhere, and very accessible in Canada, and personally, I think Godiva is pretty good chocolate. And when I compare it to some other Belgian brands like Leonidas, I honestly can’t say that one is way better than the other. Since these two Belgian brands are easily accessible in Canada, C and I were looking for chocolate brands that we weren’t able to find back at home. Pierre Marcolini was one of them. Pierre Marcolini opened his first store in 1995, and since then it has stores in major cities like Paris, New York, London, and Tokyo. We had walked by this store the previous day, but we forgot where it was. We were desperate to get some hot chocolate here, and ended up walking in the rain for probably 30 minutes, but it was well worth it!

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Each hot chocolate comes with a speculoo. We found that speculoos are very popular in Belgium. They are a shortcrust biscuit that is spiced, usually with pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and nutmeg. We found that it was very similar to a gingerbread. I believe they were offering this because it’s a tradition to eat these biscuits before St. Nicholas’ feast. Their Santa is called St. Nicholas, and he looks a bit different!

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And this was the hot chocolate. Unlike the hot chocolate in Barcelona where it’s basically melted chocolate, this was something I was much more used to. The chocolate was very rich and strong though. I think it was also lightly seasoned with nutmeg. Very smooth as well.

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After, C bought a cake to try. Their cakes are beautiful but definitely quite pricey! This one had a hazelnut filling with layers of crispy wafers inside. The filling was smooth and rich in flavour. A good splurge if you want some visually beautiful and tasty cake! I probably should’ve have spoiled myself on a piece of their chocolates since I hear they are one of the best in the city!

Chez Leon – Brussels

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After a disastrous night at Le Saint-Laurent, we were determined to have some real good Belgian mussels. C did some searching and we settled for Chez Leon. She’s been here when she was in Paris before and said it was really good. Although the mussels are a little pricier, they are definitely worth it, and I would suggest everyone visiting Brussels, to check this place out! Don’t cheap out like we did, and have a terrible meal. I believe this is their first restaurant in Brussels, and now they have expanded to Paris and also the UK soon. The funny thing is that Chez Leon is also on Rue des Bouchers, which I call the tourist trap. I guess they are the only exception, although you find a bunch of tourists here too. But a good sign is seeing plenty of locals as well!

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You can tell that the restaurant has years of history. The restaurant is actually huge with two levels, but everything still looks very traditional. Almost diner like. Wooden furniture and neon signs and all.

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We went for the Mussels Set, which included a portion of Special Mussels, French Fries, and a Maes Beer. This whole meal cost 14, 60 euros. A little more expensive, but worth it! First, we got some complimentary bread. Very soft and fresh! And it was great for dipping in the soup.

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Maes Beer

The set menu came with a Maes Beer, which is a Belgian pilsner brewed by Alken-Maes. I liked this as it was rather light. It’s supposed to be quite a popular pilsner in Belgium.

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Moules et Frites

And here were the Mussels and Fries! I absolutely loved this! We didn’t get to choose the sauce since it was part of the set menu, so it came with a basic celery broth, like most Belgian moules et frites. I would’ve preferred a white win sauce since I don’t really like celery, but I found this pretty good. The mussels were medium size and plump. Extremely fresh! The fries were also great as they weren’t too oily. They didn’t seem like frozen store bought fries.

If you want a variety of different flavours for the moules et frites, you won’t be disappointed at Chez Leon since they have a huge menu. They also have a bunch of other seafood and non-seafood dishes, so there’s something for everyone! Prices are average, and I would say they are quite reasonable for the quality of food you get. The restaurant was quite busy, so it was a bit difficult to get the attention of our server, but it still wasn’t a major problem. Satisfied!

Le Saint-Laurent Restaurant – Brussels

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Before I start going into details, I’d just like to warn everyone to stay away from Le Saint-Laurent Restaurant in Brussels because it’s absolutely the worst restaurant I’ve ever been to. If you read my posts, you see that I don’t normally criticize restaurants to the point where I think the food is nasty, but the food here was just that. Anyways, C and I were wandering the streets of Brussels and went into this street filled with restaurants. It was only around 5:30pm, so most of them were empty. I believe this street is called Rue de Bouchers, and I would advise anyone looking for food to avoid this street. It’s a tourist trap and we fell right in! Basically while we were walking down the street, these guys would stand by the door trying to sell you their menu. Almost every restaurant had something called a tourist menu for around 12 euros. In Barcelona, this is very common and the food is actually good too, so we didn’t think much about it. It was very early for dinner, so we said we would come back and the guy would give us a business card. By the time we finished the street, C had a pile of business cards in her hand..Like seriously, is that how they advertise now? Anyways, at around 6:30, we went back to the street since we thought they had the most choices of food. True, but also the worst. We ended up going to Le Saint-Laurent because the guy had seemed to be quite friendly… That’s what we thought. Anyways, he lured us again and said we would get a complimentary drink on him as well. We entered, and found maybe two other tables with diners, that clearly looked like tourists. The interior is really fancy looking and has a fireplace and all. It’s got the looks for sure. Our server wasn’t extremely friendly and when we told him we would just have two of the set menus, with nothing else, he seemed pissed off. For our complimentary drink, we got a Rose-like bubbly. Not sure exactly what it was, but it was decent. Maybe the best part of our meal…

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Then, we got some bread. At least this was complimentary for us… I read online afterwards that many diners had terrible experiences with their bill becoming a ridiculous amount with hidden fees. The bread was of course not fresh, but whatever, it was bread. At least it tasted better than the rest.

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Grilled Prawns

For our appetizer, we both chose the Grilled Prawns. I forgot what the other choices were, but this sounded the most appealing. Ya, these were kind of gross…? We had imagined prawns without their shells and curled up after grilling in a nice garlic sauce. I believe it said it would be in a garlic butter sauce. Definitely not a garlic butter sauce because it was just butter and olive oil. Like LOTS of oil. Around 5 prawns still in their shells drenched in olive oil. The oil wasn’t even seasoned…Okay, fine, we can excuse the “dressing”, but then came the actual prawns. They were mushy and had no bouncy texture like normal prawns. I mean, it was worse than eating frozen prawns. I can’t think of the antonym for “fresh”, but this was definitely NOT fresh. Rotten? I don’t know, but you get my point. In Canada, I would’ve sent this straight back to the kitchen, but in Europe, I was afraid since I had no idea what my dish would have gone through after…

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Mussels in Celery Soup

Okay, so in Brussels, Moules et Frites, or Mussels and Fries, are a very common dish because it’s pretty much the national dish of Belgium. They get most of their mussels from the North Sea, so mussels are always plentiful and attract tourists. So of course, for our entree, we went for the Moules et Frites. When we saw it, it looked pretty good and we were praying that this would be better. WRONG. I’ve seriously never had such bad mussels in my life… Normally in Vancouver, the mussels my mom buys are frozen from Australia, since we don’t have access to as many fresh mussels, but I’ve never had such terrible mussels. I don’t even know what to say. Were the mussels dead and rotten or something? They were mushy… I’ve had mussels that melt in my mouth, which are amazing, but not like this. They were clearly old and dead mussels. I couldn’t stop complaining during the whole dinner. I almost felt sorry for myself, having to eat this and rather have gone to grab fast food. If you gave me this for free, I still probably wouldn’t have ate it. Perhaps the only better thing was the broth, which was a vegetable stock with a bit of celery and onions. It was really just water and celery and onions though I think. But at least, I was okay dipping my bread in this.

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Fries

And then there was the side of Fries. At least these were crispy. This was what I completely finished. But honestly, how hard is it to make edible fries? They were probably store bought anyways…

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Ice Cream

Then came dessert. When the guy had lured us in, we had told him we didn’t like the desserts that were on their set menu. He was so sly and said Oh, then what do you want? Anything you want, we can give you. Yea right. Why did we even believe him. Anyways, I think we said we wanted Belgian waffles since many other restaurants on the street offered that on their set menu. He said yea, we can get you that, and that basically made us settle for the restaurant. However, when we asked our server, he just said No. He said they didn’t have any and was like no you just need to choose from the menu. Like WHAT? Such lies. We looked pissed off and later he came back and he said, “Okay, how about ice cream?” Since the other items were unappealing, we went for it. Wow this ice cream was pretty gross. It was like chocolate mousse getting sprayed out of a can or something? Then with two more sprays of whipped cream on the side. Kind of gross, but whatever, we weren’t even hungry after such a gross meal.

So to conclude, all I can say is STAY AWAY from Le Saint-Laurent. Basically this whole street actually. We found that barely anyone was eating in these restaurants other than tourists who were desperately looking for food. But seriously, this meal disappointed us so much. I think I can say it’s the worst meal I’ve ever had in my life out at a restaurant. Luckily, C and I had another night in Brussels, and we would finally have some good mussels! Stay tuned!

Aksum Coffee House – Brussels

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C and I had done some sightseeing and since it was a rainy day, we wanted to take a rest and looked for a coffee shop. Aksum Coffee House was rated as the top coffee house in Brussels on Tripadvisor, so off we went. It’s a little hidden since their company name isn’t in vivid colours. A tiny mint green shop owned by an Ethiopian man.

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The inside is filled with vintage coffee machines and African artwork on the walls. There’s only a few seats but when we were there on a weekday, there weren’t that many people. Their menu is also very limited, with some cakes from a local bakery as well.

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For myself, I got the Hot Chocolate, since I’m not a big fan of coffee. When it arrived, I was surprised by the way it looked. It was very frothy at the top, and you could see glimpse of chocolate at the bottom. I mixed it up, and it became a light brown colour. Taking a sip from it, it didn’t really taste like typical hot chocolates. It was frothy, and the chocolate taste wasn’t too strong. There was a nutmeg flavour to it as well. The drink was a bit pricey, but apparently they use high quality ingredients.

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C got a coffee drink. I don’t remember what it’s called, but it had a special name and the owner recommended it. However, he warned her that it might be a little bitter. There was a shot of espresso in it, which made it strong. She didn’t really like it because it was so bitter, but I believe true espresso lovers will enjoy this drink.

All in all, I wasn’t too impressed with their drinks. It might just be me, since I’m not a coffee expert, and don’t know much about coffee. Still, I find the drinks to be quite pricey.

Noordzee Mer du Nord – Brussels

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Following a week of school, which was also my last week of school, the weekend came and off I was to another country again! C, a foodie from Hong Kong and I had planned this trip around a month ago. We found flights for 30 euros round trip from Barcelona to Brussels and we couldn’t say no! Belgian waffles, chocolate, fries, beer, mussels… yup no foodie would say no to such a cheap flight! Obviously, it wasn’t a fancy flight with Ryanair, but we’re pretty much used to those early morning, pass out on the plane flights. When we arrived at the airport, which I believe isn’t their international one, we had to take a bus to the city center. Then once there, we took a metro and arrived at our guesthouse which I’ll talk about more in later posts. We dropped off our backpacks and off we went to explore the city. It was a shame that it was raining in Brussels most of the time we were there, but at least it wasn’t pouring rain. We walked by Noordzee Mer du Nord and C pointed out that she had read it was a must visit! With crowds eating there even in the rain, we knew it must’ve been good! The place has no seats, but only a long bar table along the kitchen, or some stand up tables pitched with tents to cover you from rain. No seats though.

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Their kitchen is open, so you can watch them prepare the food.

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Fish Soup

The famous item that we saw everyone getting was the Fish Soup. This was absolutely delicious since it was a chilly, rainy day and something hot was perfect! However, we did find that the soup was more like a vegetable minestrone soup. There were fish pieces inside, but the vegetable soup was so strong that it covered any fish flavour. The best part was the side of bread that had some sort of mayo and cheese on top. We asked the man how to eat this, and he said do whatever you want! He said he usually threw the whole piece in, so we did too! That was awesome because the cheese would melt right away in the soup, and the mayo gave the soup some creaminess. So good! Another two slices of just plain bread was also complimentary for each soup. A must try!

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Grilled Scallops

We also decided to get another dish and chose the Grilled Scallops. Mer du Nord’s menu is basically all seafood since they are known for their fresh fish and seafood. We decided to go for the Grilled Scallops, which are by piece and quite pricey. Sadly, we were a bit disappointed in them. Not that they weren’t fresh or grilled perfectly, but that the flavour of the sauce wasn’t too appealing for us. It was more of a onion based sauce, and we had imagine something like a white wine or garlic sauce. Something was a little odd about the sauce, or we just weren’t too accustomed to this type of flavour. Nevertheless, the scallops were extremely fresh and cooked well.

Overall, Mer du Nord is definitely worth checking out when in Brussels. It’s sort of like a quick place to grab a bite without having to sit down. The food is fresh and of good quality, although I find that the prices are a little pricey. However, other than tourists, you find many locals here. They come here for a glass of wine with their fish soup and select a variety of other seafood dishes. Everything looked delicious!