Discover Benelux, Issue 39, March 2017

Page 14

Discover Benelux  |  Brussels City  |  The capital of Europe


Since its first restaurant opened in 1985, the Michiels’ family business Restauration Nouvelle has changed the way Brussels eats out. In the mid-1980s, Albert and Marianne Michiels were looking for a nice relaxed place to eat in Belgium’s capital. They wanted somewhere comfortable and welcoming, with reliably classic brasserie food at prices the young couple could afford. When they could not find such a spot, they did not complain – they sensed a wonderful business opportunity. “My husband was running some clothes shops, so we had commercial expertise, but neither of us knew anything about the restaurant business,” says Marianne. “So I quickly arranged to spend a few weeks working at a restaurant owned by a friend, 14  |  Issue 39  |  March 2017

and straight away found that I loved it. We were young and energetic and took it from there.” Today the couple have 15 brasseries in and around the Belgian capital, with another about to open in Genappe. Not to mention a handful of chateaux and country properties that host events like weddings and conferences. If you are in Brussels, you will rarely be more than a few minutes away from one of their inviting establishments.

Classic dishes So what is the secret of their success? “There is no secret to it,” says Marianne. “We just worked extremely hard, and we still do! But also, we have done well right since the very start because we offered something that was missing at the time -

there just weren’t brasserie-style restaurants around at that period in Brussels. We were really the first to launch brasserie dining here, with dishes like escargots de Bourgogne, steak tartare, sole meunière, classics that are great to eat and that everybody loves, but these are dishes that to be right have to be cooked expertly – and be at affordable prices.” For the experience to remain authentic and to function like that first venture into the world of the restaurateur, they have created what might be called an antichain: “The decor has to have individual character with little touches like the right fresh flowers, and each restaurant must have a cosy atmosphere or it will feel wrong,” says Marianne. “We don’t bring food in from outside or impose a menu on our chefs, each of whom is free to