Brussels 30 days Around
August 2011 ‘Taster Issue’ #1
18 and above only. Contains one VERY rude word
WHAT A GAS! CITY BARS ARE ‘FULL OF OLD F*RTS’ So near, So spa...
Martin Banks blags some time at a spa and wellness hotel in the Belgian Ardennes. It seems that Hotel des Bains also does a nice line in bistro food...and more. So join Banksy and the team for breaks that won’t bust the budget - starting on page 10.
Pole position If the city suddenly seems full of Polish folk partying wildly and drinking more vodka than usual, that’s because Warsaw took over the rotating Presidency of the EU at the start of July. It runs until 31 December, so we may even throw in a recipe for the country’s famous ‘Zebra cake’ a little nearer Christmas. Don’t say you haven’t been warned. To tie in, Bozar has a special expo going on, so ﬁnd out more on page 5. Meanwhile, good luck to Poland during its remaining ﬁve months at the helm of Europe’s very own Titanic.
BARGOERS in Brussels have been turning their noses up at nasty niﬀs since Belgium brought in the total smoking ban. Fetid farts and stale stinks have left regulars reeling since the ﬁrst of July. Now down-in-the-dumps drinkers are choosing to hit the terraces despite the near-constant drizzle. TOP TRUMPS And it seems that ‘better a parapluie than the smell of pooey’ will be the summer refrain in the rain. Full story on page 14
Brussels in 30 days - Page 2
BIG WHEEL KEEP ON TURNIN’
Around about the 50th birthday of the ‘modern-day’ Belgium, back in 1880, the great and the good who ran the cultural side of the country’s capital decided to merge three small Brussels fairs into one monster version. Such was the dynamic of those heady times. So, after ﬁve years of the inevitable wrangling between stallholders, businessmen and, presumably, Flemish- and Frenchspeakers, the Midi Fair became established back in 1885, on the site where it remains today. In those times of wrestling rings, fortune tellers and street organs, not
many would have dreamed of the big wheels, bumper cars, shooting galleries, rollercoasters and ghost trains that we’re so used to today. Not to mention the waltzers, torture tattoos and endless Dire Straits pop songs - but that’s progress for you. The huge annual fair, with all its bangs and whistles, spans the space between Porte de Halle and Port d’Anderlecht along the Boulevard du Midi and attracts visitors in their gazillions. Kids from 7 to 70 head to this free-to-enter fair, which stays open till 1am Monday-Thursday and till 2am Fridays and Saturdays. This year, your last chance to snaﬄe some candyﬂoss (and watch the neon
burning up above) comes on Sunday 21 August. As for the ‘roaring of the diesel’, well, things are not quite so smelly these days as even the illuminations hanging around the site this year are LED lights. These use less electricity and, while not actually good for the environment per se, are certainly less bad. But, in the end, it’s all about romance, isn’t it? The smells, the noise, the thrills, that lonely girl on the tunnel of love... So, before it all packs up and rolls away for another year, Bxlin30Days will be heading down to Midi to get the one-armed bandit fever - with an arrow through our heart and our soul. More info and discount news/coupons at www.fete-foraine.be, www.foiredumidi.be and www.zuidfoor.be
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Enjoy sounds of the city at Brussels Summer Festival By Tony Mallett Given the weather over the past few days, you could be excused for thinking it’s actually avoidlike-the-plague April rather than the supposed height of summer. But that won’t stop the 10th edition of the Brussels Summer Festival, which kicked oﬀ on Friday 12 August. The BSF has grown like topsy over the past decade – probably due to all that moisture – to the point where, this year, music fans will get a ten-day extravaganza that runs until the 21st. And, as a big Brussels bonus, a few of the capital’s main museums will be striking the right note with free access oﬀered courtesy of a festival pass. Music-wise, on the big stages, some of the highlights of the 2011 edition include foxy French popster Zaz, the trio of Long-Island fat lads that is De La Soul, French electro poppers Yelle and that now-stalwart Belgian band kickin’ K’s Choice. Rainy days or no-rainers these bands are no-brainers. But there are plenty more musicians to poke your parapluie at during a fest that takes in four main, central sites: Place des Palais; Magic Mirrors (in Parc de Bruxelles); the Place du Musée and Mont des Arts. All of which pretty much means that this particular parish is a no-go zone for nonpedestrians and po-faced party poopers. The major event is now bordering on being a minor miracle: French- and Flemishspeakers don’t agree on much in this
divided country but, since the festival began life in 2002 as Eurit’mix, the attention of the powersthat-be on both sides of the linguistic divide has been well-and-truly grabbed. These days the regional governments, major museums and tourist bureaus stand together as if they’ve always been best mates to make BSF a massive multicultural event. No, we didn’t believe it either...because Belgium still has no central government. Which, when you think about it, is as good a reason as any to get your boogie britches on. ‘Anarchy in the Palais’, anyone? But we digress. Just so you all know, it’s not just excellent music that’s up for grabs. BSF dishes up barbecues too (fancy a snack under your mac?), street theatre and outdoor aperos. And, aside from the bigger venues, there are around 70 live gigs indoors in bars across the city plus a smattering of classical concerts. So, without further ado, let’s hear a ‘Bravo’ for Brussels Summer Festival...and long may it rain. Er, ‘reign’. More info at www.bsf.be A version of this article ﬁrst appeared on the New Europe website. www.neurope.eu
Appearing at BSF (anti-clockwise from top left): K’s Choice; Yelle; De La Soul and Zaz
Brussels in 30 days - Page 4
What you want, when you want - it’s website heaven Those fairly new to Brussels (and even those who’ve been here for a while) will, at one point, want to expand their knowledge of what’s available in and around the city. With that in mind, over the next few issues, we’ll be bringing you what Bxlin30Days considers to be the Top 50 ‘local’ websites oﬀering goods, services, days and nights out or just a right riveting read. They may not be the best-designed (some are truly crap, frankly) but they will be useful. By all means get online and email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to suggest your favourite sites. You may even have your own business or leisure site that you think we should list. Alternatively, you could be searching for something in particular and need a suggestion. We promise to take a look
at each and every email. Meantime, here’s the ﬁrst of the ﬁfty, in no particular order: Sterling Books A great lttle shop close to the Monnaie Theatre in the heart of the city. At Sterling, a comprehensive range of English-language books are presided over by cheerful, enthusiastic young staﬀ. There are regular deals on oﬀer and you can join a mailing list to keep up to date. www.sterlingbooks.be Picturenose These guys have ‘a nose for a good picture’ and regularly post reviews on both new and classic movies. The key writers are both Brussels based and absolutely know their stuﬀ. It’s also a very easy site to use and you
can post your own comments about the content and opinions. www.picturenose.com Fatboys Sports Bar The owners of this site run one of the busiest sports bars in the city - considered by many to be the best. While this website will not win any design prizes, it’s a great tool for sports fans to check out what events are happening during the week - from soccer and American football to golf, cricket, ice hockey, basketball, boxing and more. Once you’ve seen the schedule, it may be that your favourite bar nearer to home will show the game - but we do recommend Fatboys, anyway, especially if you like your burgers big and your testosterone in high doses. www.fatboys-be.com The English Shop One of several online expat food specialists in-and-around Brussels. This outﬁt is run by a husband-and-wife team who have worked hard over the past couple of years to broaden their range. There’s everything from Marmite and Bran Flakes to Chocolate Oranges and Maldon Salt. And it’s delivered to your door - free, if it’s a big enough order. www.englishshop.be Expatica A comprehensive site, especially if you’re a news freak and want it in English. While not particularly sexy, the site is an excellent one-stop shop to help you integrate into Belgian life. All the basic info is there, from school searches and house-hunting to forums pointing you in the direction of an English-speaking dentist. www.expatica.be I Love Cake An American-Belgian bakes cupcakes for every occasion, as well as sponge cakes, pies, cookies and more. There’s a minimum order but there’s free delivery within the city centre. We’ve tried some of these cupcakes - and they’re absolutely fantastic. www.ilovecake.be Finally, if you’re not on the net at home yet and are hunting down the best package, it’s worth taking a look at www.belgacom.be. Belgium’s national supplier oﬀers bundled packages of TV, internet, phone and even mobile and, by signing up online, you’ll save money. Installation takes 7-10 days and, despite all the gags about the company, the technical support is excellent. Don’t forget to email us website ideas - no matter how daft! email@example.com
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Oﬀ the Wall:
Jeﬀ’s photocall has Brussels bouncing
Can 18,000-plus people all be wrong? It’s pretty unlikely. And that’s how many visitors have passed through the doors of Bozar since late May to see contemporary photographer Jeﬀ Wall’s show: The Crooked Path. The celebrated snapper is showing an exhibition of monographic works alongside other pieces by various multi-genre artists who have inﬂuenced this gifted Canadian. So, all-in-all, the show covers a range of art forms from cinema and literature to conceptual art and historical photography. And if you’re not one of the thousands to have seen this show, don’t worry - it runs until 11 September. Meanwhile, from a slightly more ‘local’ lens perspective, the same venue hosts Beyond the Document – featuring 14 Belgian photographers who examine the similarities and often-subtle diﬀerences between
documentary and ﬁne-art photos. The blurb promises a ‘unique snapshot’, which combines ‘objectivity and subjectivity, ﬁction and reality, report and concept, document and work of art’. It sounds a bit up its own arse, to be honest, but we’re sure it’s very worthy. Judge for yourself until 25 September. As mentioned on our front page, Poland is currently at the helm of the European Union - by virtue of its position as President of the EU until the end of the year. The Power of Fantasy: Imagination at Work showcases modern and contemporary art from the former Eastern-bloc state until 18 September. Warsaw and its surroundings usually conjur up visions of gloomy skies, impenetrable snow drifts, unhealthy, unappetising food and terminally depressed alkies
stoned out of their brains on distilled potato juice. But there’s another side to Poland, (it says here) made up of artists who love colour, fantasy and have a taste for the absurd. An example can be seen in the photo below - Olaf Brzeski‘s Dream - Spontaneous Combustion. It’s as neat as the bottle of vodka he may have exploded to get the eﬀect. For more info on all three shows, go to www.bozar.be
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Bizon bashes just keep on keepin’ on... Monday nights. The weekend is over, you’re back at work, there’s ﬁve whole days until the next party, party, party. So Monday nights suck, right? Wrong. Because if you’re into live music, good people, cool surroundings and a pint or two, Monday nights don’t suck - they absolutely rock at the Bizon. This legendary bar, just oﬀ Place St Géry, has been holding its jam nights on and oﬀ for a few years - and it just gets better and better. There’s even an album of live recordings available which, while it’s not brand new and certainly not up there with top-ten-CDsyou-must-have, is deﬁnitely worth a listen (but more of that a little later). Wednesday night gigs are also about to start at the end of this month (31 August), so there’s no excuse for not dropping by. By the way, during the writing of this piece, the editor was stupid enough to mention that, about ten years ago, his ﬁrst visit to the venue was in order to meet a girl on a blind date. All we can say is: ‘blind’ is exactly what she should have been. It was not a success... Anyway, we digress - back to the album: The Live Sessions CD is a tribute to the unique sound and fascinating artistic scene that has developed from the Monday night blues jam sessions. The CD’s producers, Arne Labeeuw and our good pal Roman Madrolle, organised and recorded a four-hour musical marathon featuring ten jam hosts and more than 20 musicians. That’s a lot of beer. The producers say that the resulting compilation album accurately showcases the true, magical Bizon-style.
And that’s a fair-enough summing up. Because of this authenticity, the album is a neat way to take a little piece of the now-cult venue home. It’s available at the bar and for €15 via Paypal online. The album’s running order is as follows: * Alex Lebluy Whiskey Town Sums up the Bizon venue - which inspired the song * Andrew Mavin Subway Sophie Typical Mavin: deceptively casual and wistful. How can anyone get smutty about a sandwich maker? * Bob Christopher - The Poontang Song Funny as fuck. ‘Nuﬀ said * Daniel Ostrowski - Break It On Down Classic guitar and piano-driven blues * Darius Clynes - Because of Ideals Sexy sax, cool vocals. Smooth as you like * Eric Moens - I Got the Blues Yep, he’s got the blues alright. Love it * Grievous Angels - Good Question Ever-so Lou Reed during the verses. A bit of a grower, this one... * Roman - Rider The ﬁrst single from his debut studio album Any Place But Home. Rockin’ Ro on good form for this track * Geezer Young -Your Closest Friend So laid-back it’s a wonder he doesn’t fall over * Made J - Memphis Train A high octane, guitar-rush ﬁnish to the album. Buy it - and get along to a Bizon gig. Café Bizon Rue Pont de la Carpe 1000 Brussels Tel: 02 502 46 99 www.cafebizon.com
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It’s mildly tragic to know already that the highlight of your summer will be bitching about ‘Hollywood’ screwing up the ﬁnal Harry Potter movie. It opens in Brussels on the 15th, so swallow that lucky potion... August
Pick of the Gigs
Fri 19 Bob Christopher - Churchill’s Mon 22 Claus - Live Music Café Fri 26 Nigel Bray - Churchill’s Mon 29 Pedro Moura Live Music Café September Fri 2 Steve Jones - Celtica Fri 2 Dirk de Vriendt - Churchill’s Sat 3 Akim - Churchill’s Fri 9 Nigel Bray - Churchill’s Thurs 15 Peter O’Malley - Celtica Fri 16 Andrew Mavin - Churchill’s Sat 17 War on Drugs - Ancienne Belgique (AB) Thurs 22 Brian Wilson (below) - AB Thurs 29 Noel Shannon - Celtica
Book now: Fri 7 October Christy Moore - AB Mon 10 October - Steve Earle and the Dukes - AB Mon 24 October - Imelda May - AB Latest: Tickets for The Specials and Alice Cooper at the AB are sold out
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Monkeying around with movie apes Summer time at the cinema: the annual mixed bag of the stunning and the shite. And this year is no diﬀerent, to the point where it’s easy to think you’ve seen it all before. And, guess what? With the Planet of the Apes and Conan releases, plus yet another comic hero being brought to life, you probably have. First things ﬁrst: Andy Serkis (aka Gollum) plays the genetically modiﬁed super-smart monkey Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Set in present-day San Francisco, the ﬁlm tells a sorry tale of man’s experiments leading to an inter-species war for supremacy. The rehashed Chimps v Chumps fest is in theatres already. Another ‘ape’, this time a non-CGI-generated former Baywatch star, Jason Mamoa, meanwhile grunts his way through Conan the Barbarian while wielding a huge phallic symbol and wearing nothing but a necklace and furry pants. It’s in cinemas here from 17 August and our breaths are well-and-truly bated. Not. Latest from the Marvel Comics stable is Captain America: The First Avenger - somewhat dubiously timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US. This story of a slightly built wannabe soldier who turns into a superhero will appeal to die-hard patriots only. No one else has heard of him. There’s an unwelcome ‘Duh’-type irony to the timing, but let’s just say that perhaps the whole civilised world needs a bit of quiet reﬂection and humility as it heads towards this huge anniversary. It certainly doesn’t need a pumpedup superhero to go dig further holes in the sand. On a lighter note - that’s more irony, folks - Lars von Trier’s Melancholia looks like the best of the bunch. Fresh from being chucked out of the Cannes festival for (sort of) sympathising with Hitler (well, a bit), von Trier tries to cheer us all up with a jolly tale of wedding-day depression slash pre-apocalypse panic. It’s out now. Enjoy.
Brussels in 30 days - Page 8
Taking the Pis...
Welcome to our soon-to-be regular view of what the Manneken’s been wearing lately. At the high-point of recent weeks, he was to be found celebrating French Independence Day on 14 July. It was all ‘liberty’, ‘fraternity’ and the other one as citizens cried ‘Vive la France’ while pigging out on stinky Brie. Our boy got a berét. Nice. Meanwhile, two lesser-known examples of the Belgian obsession with having a wizz are on show here too - the Jeanneke Pis, pictured right, a vulgar statue inaugurated in the mid-80s as the little boy’s ‘sister’, and the Zinneke Pis which, thank the Lord, is cocking a leg instead of doing what dogs are normally allowed to do on the streets of Brussels. Meantime, there are plenty of other daft statues in this fair city (as illustrated by the granny below and the rather striking, er, cat - we think) and we’ll be featuring these from time to time. So look out for next issue’s ‘Taking the Pis’ and by all means send your own photos of any of these (or a completely diﬀerent Brussels statue) to BxlIn30Days@gmail.com.
The Granneken Pis?
WTF?!! If anybody can explain to us what this downtown ﬁgurine of a Pussy on a Pushbike is all about, we’d be very grateful. OK, so she’s pretty in pink (and
at least she’s not peeing) but the reasons for this statue being situated close to the renowned Morte Subite bar - or, indeed, anywhere - are unclear. Help!
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In love with two-faced Belgium By Michael Moscrop It would be fair to say that, after living in Belgium for the better part of a decade, I’m justly qualiﬁed to duly praise and rip the country apart. Almost anyone can fall in love with Belgium in a weekend, for there’s much about this tiny country that can appeal to the coldest heart. It’s hard to ﬁnd its faults, however, without being here long enough to experience Belgium at its worst. Bon, allez. To your average tourist, Belgium is a land ﬁlled with chocolates, diamonds, laces, statues like those in this mag, grandiose cherub-adorned buildings and gorgeous cobblestoned squares. But delve a little deeper than your tour guide ever will and you’ll see there’s much more to Her than that. I personally ﬁnd Belgium’s illustrious past particularly pleasurable to ponder - from the Belgae tribe of the Gauls, right up until the formation of an independent monarchy in the 19th century. The subsequent valiant defences during the invasions by Germany, plus the housing of N.A.T.O., the European Parliament and EU HQ are worthy of note too. And there’s many a museum in Belgium oﬀering much more cultural knowledge than you’ll witness by visiting the Manneken Pis. One can only admire and praise the Belgians for the way they (generally) build around the greenery that ﬁlls up their land. Boulevards and avenues are lined with trees, and this gives Belgium a beautifully modern and green landscape. In Brussels, you’re never very far away from a park, or gardens. The food is top-notch too: delicate salami folds, frites and cheese plates may seem simple but oﬀer a savoury elegance to accompany any pint, enjoyed on any one of thousands of terraced beer gardens. However, Belgium comes complete with several irritation factors. For a start, at any given time, a vast portion of any city will become a construction site, within the blink of eye. Entire streets and roads are frequently
dug up and replaced by an almost identical road, with no signiﬁcant improvements. Strikes and protests are also one of Belgium’s bad qualities. With roadblocks enforced by ‘rozzers’ with water cannons, and presidential entourages ﬂooding Brussels’ European Quarter, this can become a real pain in the arse. Bus routes are moved without notice and trains cancelled ‘just because’. ‘Because’ of a protest, usually. Belgium also suﬀers from rough zones - patches in
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desperate need of repair. Many old industrial centres, such as Charleroi, have been in a shambles since the closure of the old trades down south. And although some eﬀort has been made to beautify these areas, it’s being done at a typically slow Belgian pace. As a result, many of these unsavoury areas are virtual no-go spots. Overall, though, the plusses outweigh the minusses by a considerable margin, making Belgium a pretty cool place to live in. And, as a visitor, if you
The author getting delusions of grandeur
really want to see this great little country in all its glory, you should just wing it and explore the treasure trove unguided.
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Brussels in 30 days - Page 10
For relaxing times close to home, Hulpe is at hand... By Martin Banks Imagine staying in a delightful hideaway hidden deep in a beautiful forest. It may seem the stuﬀ of dreams but this scenario is actually no more than 20 minutes away from Brussels city centre. A short stay at the Dolce La Hulpe hotel transports you far from the hustle and bustle of city life to something far more tranquil and serene. Owned by a US-based hotel chain, the four-star hotel is set in the wonderful Soignes Forest and is just 15km from Brussels. It has 264 guest rooms and suites, a conference centre plus excellent dining and, from the moment you enter, you cannot fail to be impressed with the sprawling, modern-furnished lobb, which is an instant hit with most visitors. But, apart from the terriﬁc setting, perhaps the one thing that sets it apart from a lot of other hotels is its pristine spa facilities. The exclusive Cinq Mondes Spa is a big pull for guests, who come from outside Belgium just to avail themselves of its relaxing charms. One of the most popular features is the selection of treatments and massages on oﬀer. This, combined with the array of other revitalizing leisure activities (including tennis courts, mountain bike trails, indoor pool, sauna and ﬁtness room), makes for a particularly soothing stay. After working up an appetite, guests can enjoy one of the two restaurants at the hotel, the Argan and the Tree O. The ﬁrst oﬀers more informal dining, including a regular buﬀet, while the latter boasts gastronomic cooking at its best. The hotel also oﬀers something quite diﬀerent when it comes to a dining experience, namely its “dinner in the sky” concept. Ideally suited for groups, this particularly novel idea involves dinner guests being hoisted up to 20 metres above the ground while around their dinner table. Strapped to their seats, they are served a fourcourse meal and regally entertained by a pianist. Best to be done in the absence of high wind! The hotel is situated in the former IBM training centre, which took three years to refurbish before the hotel opened in 2007. It of course has free car parking but it’s worth pointing out that it is also on a main bus route for those without their own transport. There’s a good range of rooms, including 137 superior
spaces equipped with all the conveniences of home, 44 airy deluxe rooms and 70 executive suites, which boast a large bay window, work desk, ﬂat-screen TV and a bathroom infused with natural light. For those with a bit of time on their hands, there’s no shortage of things to do, be it a visit to the nearby Folon Foundation at La Hulpe or the battle ground at Waterloo. But Hadi Hotteite, a Lebanese-born manager at the four-star hotel, says that many of the guests just like to avail themselves of the spa facilities and the impressive tranquil setting. He told us: “This place is perfect for those who just want to wind down for a few days.” They say good news travels fast and that may explain why many of the guests come from as far away as Germany, France and Luxembourg, often just for a weekend break. They clearly know a good thing when they see one. Dolce Hotel La Hulpe Brussels Tel: 02 290 9800 www.dolce-la-hulpe-brussels-hotel.com
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Join the cast of OstEnders By Tony Mallett I can’t remember the last time I was in Ostend. Oh, alright - it was earlier this so-called summer and I can probably just about recall most of it. Hang on... Ah! It rained. Then we went into a bar or ﬁve and had lots of beer. And then it rained again. Marvin Gaye apparently greatly enjoyed his few months’ stay at this charming old seaport (and found it inspiring enough to pen Sexual Healing while there). The singer really should have stayed longer, though: he went back to the States and was promptly shot dead by his old man. Which just goes to show you should always send a postcard... Coinciding with the visit from the BxlIn30Days crew was the Paulus Kleintje which, as the name suggests, is a smaller version of the annual Paulusfeesten held every August. (You’ve just missed this one but next year is the 40th anniversary.) This unoﬃcial mini-fest (consisting of music, poetry, general drunkness, speed dating, ‘Pimpt me Karre’ - no, really - and the more-than-occasional spliﬀ ) was held in a square about the size of your average netball pitch. This boasted a couple of quirky bars with daft names, a leaky tent, tons of friendly locals and an outdoor kitchen. We stumbled upon it having just stuﬀed our fat faces with ﬁsh at a rather splendid restaurant, Entre Terre et Mer, situated on the seafront all of one minute away. (One of our party had been about to order steak. In a posh seafood restaurant. In a famous ﬁshing port. I kid you not. Talk about embarrassing. I nearly had the man keelhauled.) Generally speaking, one of the best things about Ostend is that it’s not at all expensive (swanky restos notwithstanding Steak Boy paid the bill, ha ha). Other ‘best things’ include it being easy to get to and hard to get lost in. (At least 50% of that last statement is true.) Just get a train from Brussels’ Gare du Whichever via Ghent and Bruges and, after a few choruses of Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside you’ll ﬁnd yourself in the land of sou’westers, ‘I Heart Ostend’ t-shirts and quayside ciggie shops. The latter are pretty much everywhere and invariably ﬁlled with day-trippers from the UK. These be-shorted Blighty folk ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ over the low cost of cigs while spending their funny money as if they’ve just bagged top prize in Euromillions...and plan to blow the lot trying to develop cancer. Brits aside, though, Ostend is not short on sophistication. Well, it’s got a big casino and some parks, if that counts. And just so you know, the mighty Level 42 are playing at the Casino/Kursaal in Autumn. There, I told you it’s sophisticated. More info at www.toerisme-oostende.be
Brussels in 30 days - Page 12
The Getaway: 2
Hotel pools its resources to aid Ardennes escapes By Martin Banks In the mood for a short break, away from it all, without having to dip too deep into the pockets and jump on a plane to Greece or Spain? If so, a beautifully restored hotel at the gateway to Belgium’s Ardennes could be just the ticket. Overlooking Robertville Lake on one of the country’s best beauty spots, is the four-star Hotel des Bains, Lac de Robertville - a spa and wellness hotel. This family-run haven of peace and tranquility has 13 rooms, a swimming pool and Jacuzzi-stle bath, all overlooking the well-tended gardens. The compex is situated on the edge of the Haute Fagnes natural park, and each of the rooms have been tastefully restored in an individual style by owners Elisabeth and Jean-Pierre Robert-Rey. The couple, who live on the premises, bought the hotel ﬁve years ago and spent several months restoring it, adding the spa and wellness centre. Jean-Pierre, who once worked in some of the best restaurants in Brussels, oversees the cooking in the restaurant. This is split in two with one part oﬀering ﬂavoursome brasserie-type food and the other serving up a more top-end, eclectic gastro menu for diners. Breakfasts at the hotel are delicious too. Aside from its own attractions, The Robertville acts as a convenient base for visits to local attractions, such as the Spa-Francorchamps F1 race track,
which is just 20 minutes away. Well worth a visit too is the Reinhardstein Castle, built in 1354, which is open for visits at weekends and during school holidays. Forestia animal park at nearby La Reid is another place the kids will love. More than 40 hectares of plains and woods accommodate 300 animals of 30 diﬀerent species living as freely as is feasible. For this reason, children must be aged 4 or above. Vistors will never be short of things to do in this area but you don’t actually have to go anywhere. Perhaps the best thing to do is simply relax and unwind at the Hotel des Bains while enjoying its facilities and great location. The hotel’s setting is superb at any time of year, but certainly not least in the summer when guests can loll about in the gardens or on the terrace. And the price is right too - when we visited, the hotel was oﬀering a Friday evening Resto and Spa package: get access to the wellness centre from 17 euro, followed by a two-course dinner for 39 euro per person. Hotel des Bains www.hoteldesbains.be Tel: 080 679 571 Forestia Animal Park www.forestia.eu Tel: 087 541 075
THIS ISSUE: Get away to Spa; XXX at the Ancienne Belqique; Ten Top Websites; Underwear Museum, Tippler’s Pick of the Bars; Daphne’s Dinners; ‘This Is Belgium’ expo and more...
Page 13 - Brussels in 30 days
‘It’s the foodie bit, dahling...’
The ladies love ‘Coq’ By Daphne Wayne-Bough I may not have saved enough Green Shield stamps for a stairway to Heaven, but there are certain restaurants that make you want to stay on earth. Brussels’ Le Coq en Pate is one of them. Tucked away in a quiet road behind a park in Woluwé-St Lambert, this restaurant has been awarded one “couvert” (knife and fork - honourable mention) in the Benelux Michelin Guide, and doesn’t take walk-ins (I’ve tried). As Scouse Doris and I had birthdays fairly close together, it seemed like the ideal opportunity for a leisurely Sunday outing for Ladies Who Lunch. The restaurant, which is discreet enough that you may have passed it several times without even noticing, is fairly small and decorated in a clean 1980s style with leather banquettes and Venetian blinds. There were two tables against the wall occupied by single ladies of a certain age having lunch in solitary splendour. Most of the diners were even older than myself, which I take to be a sign of a good restaurant. We sat by the window and perused the menu. There’s an à la carte, and two tasting menus, one at €30 and one at €45. We went for the latter and ordered two glasses of chilled prosecco with peach liqueur - a kir royale with a diﬀerence - to kick start our gastronomic adventure. The mise en bouche arrived almost immediately, a large square slate on which sat ﬁve items: not on the menu, we sampled a cappuccino de mortadelle, a gazpacho and a pea soup, all served in glasses, two of them topped with whipped sour cream. All three were tiny, beautiful and packed with ﬂavour. I believe this sort of presentation is known as a “ﬂight” of dishes. A tiny cheese scone and a tiny piece of cornbread completed the composition. The taste of garden peas just exploded in my mouth. The mortadelle cappuccino was pure froth of ham. Doris was enamoured of the gazpacho, which looked like a tiny
serving of strawberries and cream but the ﬂavours of tomato and cucumber were intense. It was all a bit Heston Blumenthal, our eyes seeing one thing and our taste buds experiencing another, but a great introduction to what was to follow. First starter: three asparagus sticks in a egg pesto dressing, served with scallops (St Jacques) and salami chips, a spinach sauce and a test-tube of Vichysoisse. Second starter: half a pacchero (pasta tube, a bit like cannelloni) with a mortadelle and salami stuﬃng, with a tiny egg of buﬀalo mozzarella and a sliver of Spanish cured ham, served on a hubcap. Main course: one tiny, perfectly slowcooked spare rib of pork in a honey-spicy glaze, served with a glazed lettuce leaf and ...damned if I know, I was oﬀ with the fairies by this time. Each of the three savoury courses came with a glass of suitably matched wine - two whites and a red. The dessert(s): the pièce de résistance. A ﬂight of ﬁve mini-desserts on a slate: melon sorbet; skewer of fresh pineapple chunks with cinnamon; lemon meringue; strawberries with cream; fresh sweet orange and pineapple juice with pulp. All totally delicious. To ﬁnish: coﬀee, served with mini Madeleines and a box of the lightest, whitest, crispest meringues you have ever tasted. I ate about half the box, and normally I wouldn’t touch a meringue. We drifted out on a cloud of what I can only compare to post-coital afterglow. Doris said it was a shame those two ladies never spoke to each other throughout their meal. But I understood why they didn’t. You don’t want to talk to the neighbours while you’re having sex, do you? Le Coq en Pate Tomberg, 279 1200 Woluwé St Lambert Tel: 02 762 1971 More at http://daphnesdinners.blogspot.com
A singular style Cooking for one, with Ed Introﬀ OK, let’s make no bones about it: this section is aimed at the currently single with still too much pride, self belief and bloody mindedness to spend evenings scoﬃng dirt-cheap, microwaveable burgers from Lidl. Well, at least not every evening. Being solitary, solo, singular and free has its lazy privileges, but even the culinary comfort-blanket of a kebab loses its appeal when several bite-sized bits of tightly wrapped tin foil cry from the fridge: ‘I am your left-over durums. Eat me, muthafucka.’ But do not despair, I‘m here to help. Yes, I`ve read Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food and adored it so much I could‘ve shagged it. Alas, right now, it’s not for me – and it should not be for you either. Why not? Because, although brilliant, Nigel’s meisterwerk is aimed at cooking for two. Yes, two! May God forgive the self-satisﬁed cunt. No, it‘s clearly down to me to explain how to rustle up cheap, tasty meals-for-one, so you can spend more cash on booze and ‘those‘ DvDs. The Sainted Slater has a list of basic larder ingredients that should always be to hand.This includes three cooking oils, parmesan cheese, Maldon salt, chick peas, sardines, loads of sauces (creamed artichoke, black and green olive pastes, harissa for cous cous, dark and light soy) plus - no shit - caster sugar for your brulées. Brulées? Fuck oﬀ, Nige. Here’s my shorter list: cream (slim or fat bastard), mushrooms (fresh or tinned), an onion, garlic, butter (salted or not), olive oil, ground black pepper...and beer. That’s it. If you do the following, you can add virtually anything to this sauce: • Get your biggest pan and heat the oil before chucking in the peeled/chopped onion and garlic. Fry gently for about 10 minutes. Or till the onions are nearly soft. Or whatever • Around about whatever, hoy in the sliced mushrooms – with a splat of butter on top. Toss them so they‘re covered in butter and oil goo • Open a tin of cold beer to check it’s ok • Once the mushrooms are nearly done, splosh in some beer* • Blast with loads of black pepper while stirring • When the mushrooms get a bit squishy, turn the heat down and lob in a fair bit of cream. Stir away while sipping on your beer. (Try not to let the cream boil but, if it does, just turn it down some more) • Finish the beer as you casually root around for something to go with the delicious sauce you‘ve just magicked into existence. Great job! You now have a fantastic, creamy, chunky sauce that‘s fab with, say, lemon juice-covered roasted chicken and/or grilled bacon. Or thrown over any type of pasta. Or poured on roast/mashed spuds... Take your time to decide what else to have and reheat the sauce when good and ready. Whatever you add, it will taste great - especially accompanied by a buttered (or garlic**) baguette, or crisp salad leaves...and deﬁnitely another tin of beer. Bon appetit! * OK, the beer is not absolutely necessary for the cooking. But open some anyway. ** Go nuts with the garlic. You’re single, for fuck’s sake. It’s not like you have a date.
Brussels in 30 days - Page 14
Tippler’s ‘Notes on the Back of a Beermat’
Bar-related musings from our man in the corner The bars haven’t changed much in the 11 years your correspondent has been in Brussels - apart from the smoking lark (see story below). What has certainly changed, though, is Denzil. He was a chipper 34-year-old when an already raddled Tippler ﬁrst got here but, somewhere down the line, Denzil morphed into a curmudgeonly old git who gets up early and grumpily from his bed each and every day - presumably because he’s shat in it. This has resulted in eye-bags the size of Lara Croft’s knockers and a face that looks not so much lived-in as ransacked by squatters. Curmudgeonly he may be, but depressive he is not. For example, certain folk will try to convince you that too much beer leads to black thoughts, but Denzil is not one of these people. His view is that a lack of beer leads to such musings. Tell these tree-hugging nobheads to sod oﬀ, he says. Better yet, cry all over their Blackberries. This sort of ‘beer is best’ attitude leads to Denzil being regularly wankered by 7pm, to the point where this writer now does his bar reviews alone. It’s bad enough wearing a stupid hat without your mate chucking barmats at the landlord’s blind cat. And then
expecting it to chase them. Anyway, as it happened, your writer was in his local Oirish bar the other day and said to the barman: “Shameless. Where’s Denzil?” (His name’s actually ‘Séamus’, but ‘Shameless’ suits him on account of his exaggerations.) “On me sainted fadda’s memory, the fat wee fecker got mugged,” came the reply. ‘Shameless’ may well have exaggerated the recent canonization of his dearly departed dad, but he was telling the truth about Denzil, as we discovered three days later. Our Hero had been tottering past the Bourse late one night when he was set upon by four blokes of the variety that reads from right-to-left, doesn’t drink alcohol and robs drunks instead for a good night out. Unhurt, but minus both dignity and wallet, Denzil had been resigned to staying in till payday listening to Classic 21. Until... “A song came on last night,” he said, “with the line: ‘What ya gonna do when the money’s all gone?’ I thought, OK smart arse singer-man, the obvious answer is ‘sit here with three cans of crap, supermarket lager listening to your shite record when I should be drinking decent beer down the pub.’ “So this morning I sold the sodding stereo...”
BRUSSELS BARS ARE ‘FULL OF OLD FARTS’ I t certainly Smells Like Mean Spirit in Brussels after the full smoking ban ﬁnally entered into force last month. Below are just some of the reactions we came across - and it seems that the phrase most-heard in the capital’s bars on Saturday, 2 July was: “Bugger me sideways, this place totally reeks of puke!” One could argue that the latter is normal for a Saturday – with sinks and toilets in many bars still overﬂowing with assorted former foodstuﬀs from the night before, but it was the addition of the hithertounnoticed noxious farts that really hit the nasal cavities. The weather’s still crap, yet the antis have themselves moved outside to join smokers in sucking up the car-fumed air that curiously goes unregulated. But here’s a whiﬀ of the real winter lying in wait for the ‘fresh-air’ brigade:
Non-smoker Brad, 31, from Waterloo, told us: “Despite spending a mint on easily dispensed chemical aromas, my local smells like a linebacker’s jockstrap after 15 Buds and a particularly vicious chimichanga. And with summer here, we have to put up with the smoke outside too. There’s no place to hide.” Even British expat and staunch-smoker Shellie, 31, from Maelbeek, moaned: “The pong in bars these days is worse than my dear, departed grandad’s trumps after those hearty Christmas dinners in the 80s. You know, back when Liverpool used to win the league.” Indeed. But we’ll give the last word to anti-smoking campaigner Caro, 49, from Uccle, who said: “I’ve hated the smell of cigs all my life. But if I have to stand next to just one more person whose arse stinks like a ten-day-old kebab, I swear I’ll glass the fucker.”
What a load of pants!
One of the coolest bars in town is The Dolle Mol, just oﬀ ‘Pitta Street’ heading up out of the centre. It’s small, frugally furnished bur comfy and, at the very least, slightly anarchic - an atmosphere helped by the fact that it currently plays host to barmy Belgian artist Jan Bucquoy’s Slip Museum. The slips in question are sets of undies (donated in the main by some of the country’s politicians and artists) and these are put to excellent satirical use in collages ribbing the great and not-so-good. The whole idea is admittedly pretty seedy but also totally fun - which sums up the bar itself, to be honest. Don’t expect any real level of sophistication here, just a laid-back place to enjoy a drink, listen to excellent music or just talk bollocks. Apparently, Bucquoy went for a beer at the bar - which translates as ‘The Angry Mole’ - in 1970 and pretty much never left a place where many of that decade’s intelligentsia, artists and free thinkers holed up. It’s worth some of your time. Tippler The Dolle Mol Rue des Eperonniers, 52 1000 Brussels www.dollemol.be
Page 15 - Brussels in 30 days
Silence is golden: so shut up! Now, then. Tippler’s on the horn of a dilemma here - the type of horn that will rise up more often than a Catholic cleric’s cock in a church full of choirboys. The bar you’re about to read about is something of a well-kept secret - most expats certainly don’t know of it - but it’s the job of these pages to give you a bit of insider gen. Which makes it a secret that won’t be well-kept anymore. Frankly, there’s only one word for this sort of situation. And the word is ‘bugger’. Heigh-ho. Given that the editor has oﬀered considerable recompense for writing about the great watering holes of this fair city, it seems there’s nothing to be done. After all, a ﬁve-ride STIB ticket and a jar of Marmite are not to be guﬀed at in these austere times. So, lest digression become the better part of valour, let us press on... The bar that is Het Goudeblommeke in Papier or La Fleur en Papier Doré sounds as though it houses the local origami troupe. It’s also on a really ugly street, just yards from the much better-known La Porte Noire bar and diagonally across from the monstrosity that is the Crosly Bowling building, plonked like a brickshaped turd at the arse-end of the Sablon. That, and the fact that it’s in no-man’s land, may explain why few Eurobrats go there. Phew. But you may be unlucky enough to meet a coach-load of disconcertingly enthused Germans or, less often, a gaggle of increasingly rude on-tour Orientals getting in the way with their latest 3G
specially adapted, slanty-eye-lens digicamcorderwankmachines. Cough. The cool thing about this bar is that it was once the meeting place of the ﬁgureheads of Brussels surrealism. René Magritte, Marcel Marien, Louis Scutenaire and, later, writers Hugo Claus, Pierre Alechinsky (plus others you’ve never heard of ) would meet there to talk, argue, sup too much and fall oﬀ their seats. The really cool thing about it is that the founder, an art dealer, poet and presumably serious drinker - Geert van Bruaene - built an interior covered in bric-a-brac, kitsch and some valuable items that qualify as both. The bar is also warm, friendly and quietly bonkers, with a big back room, a hidden rear terrace and mildly sarcastic barstaﬀ. The beer is broadly based and certainly well kept, the cheese plates are splendid and the atmosphere is one of chatter, chatter, chatter. (OK, I lied, some locals do get in there...and they never shut up.) There’s something about the place that makes you feel as though you’re in a timewarp - going back 60 years or so and makes you wish you’d met Mr van Bruaene. His bar will give you a naughty skive-like experience - which is no surprise, as he once wrote: ‘Every man has the right to 24 hours of liberty every day.’ Especially on the sly. So avoid this bar. Please. Thanking you... Rue des Alexiens, 55 1000 Brussels www.laﬂeurenpapierdore.be
Brussels in 30 days - Page 16
Letters to the editor Editor’s note: The eyebrow-raising, smarty-pants types among you may well be wondering how it is that we already have a readers’ letters page when it’s our very ﬁrst issue. The more cynical may even be tempted to think we’ve made them up. OK, it’s time for the bald, naked and full-Brazilian truth – last week, we solved the mystery of time travel. Hopefully, that clears things up. Right then, off we go: Reader’s Digress
that particular phrase came with a question-mark at the end, followed by a pause and long stare. Once all six-feet-seven of him had got off his bike, I confess I turned into a gibbering wreck.(I’ve not been a well man since I took the shelfstacking job.) In the end, he was reasonable-ish about things and promised to drop by soon with a view to sacriﬁcing only one of my kids. I wonder if any other readers have had similar experiences with these Samaritans of the Road? Trevor Wibbly Rue du Midi Arsene Around
It is only ﬁtting and proper that your ﬁrst correspondent should write to you about that old chestnut, dog poo.(Well, the stuff I trod in last night looked as though the godforsaken mutt had eaten a chestnut, but I digress.)
Why, oh why, oh why, do those old bats who spend all day tottering up swanky Avenue Louise let their small, yappy-type crapping machines proot all over the street? And why doesn’t the stuff turn white like it did in the olden days? Sorry, I digress again. It’s an absolute disgrace, or is that just me? In my not-very-humble opinion these rancid, ﬂea-bitten specimens should be summarily despatched to the nearest knacker’s yard. And so should their dogs. They’re almost as bad as those women who never look where they’re going and nearly take your eye out with the spikes on their ‘parapluies’ whenever it rains. Which is a lot. Yet again, I digress... (Etc)
Cher Monsieur In your première édition you claimed to have mastered l’Art du Time Travel. Or was it in your next edition? Je m’en fous because this is clearly a pile of merde I invented a time machine ﬁrst and will actually do so sometime next season. Or will I? Or is it ‘did I’? Whatever, this explains why my players are getting younger every year. Anyway, stop being a silly con with this temporal nonsense or I’ll sell Nasri and avoid getting a decent goalie. Or did I do that already? PS Can we please have Fabregas back before we actually sell him, in order to re-win the trophy we last won yesterday? Merci in arrears et ‘bisous’ - Arsene. Le Professeur Emirates Stadium Londres
What a Triumph
I went out into the street and told him the above in no uncertain terms, adding that he‘d awoken both my young children and clearly had shit for brains. He replied: “I’m sorry.” Unfortunately,
Whatever rattles your cage
This column exists to allow readers a bitch and a moan about anything that gets their dander up, so please do email us. For example, we hate the shelfstacking policy in supermarkets. Well, the Delhaize on Boulevard Anspach, to be precise. What is it about the place that makes it obligatory for staﬀ to disappear at quiet times, presumably for smokes around the back and/or knee-tremblers from the equally absent cashiers, yet miraculously reappear with trolleys full of stock as soon as the place gets busy? Surprise, surprise, this results in even more log-jams in the already packed aisles. It’s bad enough trying to squeeze past some old biddy’s fat arse without having to deal with numb-nuts stackers who steer their trolleys with the presence of mind of those mums who shove pushchairs out in front of fast-approaching cars at crossings. Dodgy driving aside, can’t they just restack after the lunchtime rush so all is shipshape for the 5pm onslaught? Worse, when they do restock, they never top up the stuﬀ that’s actually gone. These idiots will roll out trolley after trolley of Maes beer when the shelves are already rammed with the crap, yet fail to replace stuﬀ that has completely disappeared and that, ergo, people clearly want to buy. This even includes their own-brand goods. Assuming you’re mad or skint enough to want some, you’ll struggle to get any after 11am on an average day. Come the revolution, these numpties (and their bosses) will be ﬁrst against the fucking wall. Neatly stacked.
DISCLAIMER: The views in this e-zine are quite clearly ours and ours alone, or we wouldn’t have bothered expressing them. Having said that, we’ve heard that the King might agree with the letter about dogshit. And possibly the one about the biker. Whatever, we digress... The point is, if you or anyone sitting next to you has a complaint about any of the contents herein, please address them to:
Mr E Quivocal Rue de Remarques St Gilles
Last evening, a motorcyclist on a classic bike with no exhaust silencer stopped at a red light near our downtown apartment. He then revved his engine in what I can only describe as a ‘tosserwith-a-very-small-willy’ manner.
‘Le Prof’ signs a shirt for the editor...sometime in 2013 Please mark your emails ‘Letters’ in the subject line and send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
The Department of Complaints Department (Closed Until Further Notice Section) Tour d’Ivoire Rue des Gullibles 1000 Brussels ...and prepare for a long wait. Alternatively, give the editor a call on 0472 280 878 and let him try and sell you a sense of humour. If he picks up.