Birthday celebrations began at 5 a.m. last Saturday, when we had to wake up for our train from Paris to Brussels. Nothing wakes you up quite like a mini bottle of bubbly. We popped our individual sized bottles and orange juice for morning mimosas as we ventured to Gare du Nord.
At 10 euros a pop (no pun intended) they may seem pricey, but I just couldn’t resist these cute bottles…
We pulled into Bruxelles Midi station right as the sun was coming up. After settling in at the Be Manos hotel, we headed toward city center to eat.
Note to self: nobody is awake in Brussels at 9 a.m.
We wandered aimlessly around Le Grand Place looking for Belgian waffles for breakfast before finally settling at a place on the square. When the city is awake, you can find them for 1 euro on the street. Instead we invested 4-5 euro to sit down with our fluffy waffles, each choosing a variation of fresh strawberries and bananas, chocolate and whipped cream as toppings.
You can’t go to Brussels without having some mussels! In a bit of a time crunch to find a good restaurant before lunch hour was “over”, we stumbled upon Hotel Orts. The 22 euro price tag seemed a bit outrageous for lunch but mussels are a staple in Belgian cuisine that I wasn’t going to pass up. The steaming pot of garlic joules with herbs and celery before me could have fed our entire table it was so huge but I had no problem gobbling down most of them.
Research for fine dining in Brussels became a bit of a struggle in terms of what I could afford. I was willing to splurge un peu for the sake of a good meal and celebrating my birthday.
Mark my words: I had the best dinner of my life in Brussels at Kwint.
Good thing we dressed up for the occasion because when we walked into the place, we immediately felt that we didn’t belong. Fancy shmancy and beautifully decorated, Kwint is definitely for the sophisticated crowd. The rolls and breadsticks on the table were complemented by a bottle of truffle oil. While nibbling on truffle oil-soaked bread, we toasted to my birthday with flutes of Prosecco. Oh we fancy, huh?
If you’re unfamiliar with the luxury of truffles, this bottle cost 22 euro…
Continuing along with the truffle theme, I ordered the black truffle risotto. The mound of risotto on my plate was topped with delicately sliced black truffles and contained an explosion of heavenly flavor with each bite. I was so in awe by its deliciousness that I ate it very slow in order to savor every last bite. Everyone else ordered a variation of risotto and linguine – all of which were given two thumbs up.
The next afternoon we were craving comfort food and recalled seeing a bagel place nearby called Rachel. This small, local spot features a mouth-watering menu of bagel, bagel sandwiches and burgers – some even featuring guacamole! I ordered a bagel with cream cheese, capers and smoked salmon. I could’ve eaten two more – it was that good.
We spent our second full day in town wandering the streets of Brussels, popping into chocolate shops and toasting Belgian beers. While strolling along Les Galeries Royales, we came across a beautiful, ornate chocolate shop called Mary. I’m pretty sure this is the Ladurée of Belgian chocolates. What first caught our eye was the hot chocolate machine in the window. We couldn’t resist and stopped by for a creamy hot chocolate to-go. If I hadn’t already bought my chocolate gifts, I would’ve gone on a spending rampage here.
Last but not least, we allotted a few hours before our train back to Paris to enjoy some of Belgium’s finest beer. We were told we had to go to Delirium Café, where you can taste 2,000 different beers from around the world. We sampled a variety of craft beers from cherry flavored to traditional white. I ordered a Pink Killer, while is flavored with grapefruit and orange peel to give it a pink lemonade taste.
Brussels can easily be done in 36 hours. Of all the cool sights to see and things to do, my favorite part was trying some of the country’s finest specialities – chocolate, waffles and beer. Be sure to do the same.