Following our first tour around Brussels with designer Marina Bautier earlier this week, we’re on to part two of our neighbourhood watch series told by local residents. Former production manager Claire (33) recently did a 360 to follow her true passion: furniture restoration. Born in Charleroi, she now lives bang in the center of Brussels, near Place St. Catherine, where she’s just launched her own online vintage shop La Caravane.
I settled down in Brussels about four years ago, after I had finished my studies in Paris where I spent 10 years in total. But I got to the point where I wanted to leave because the city required too much of my energy. You have to really fight to be able to live a normal life. I knew I wanted to live in a capital that is cosmopolitan and has a good cultural offering. Brussels is definitely on a good path and getting a better image abroad. I like that it’s more human in a way and people are much friendlier. It has a good cultural dynamic but the problem is that many people don’t know about a lot of things that are going on. It really needs to be communicated better.
I live in the center of Brussels close to Yser and Place St. Catherine and I don’t think I could move anywhere else in the city. I love the noise of cars and people, the different communities and languages all blending together, the mixed cultures. Before I moved to Paris the center was still considered as a kind of banlieue: no one wanted to live there. Still today some people think it’s dangerous. You have regular workers there, artists, immigrants, and it’s basically the only part of Brussels where the French-speakers and Flemish-speakers really mix. Plus, all the bakers, butchers and fish shops give it this village feel.
At the weekend I like to go to Nordzee near Place St. Catherine where they have some amazing fish tapas. You can meet all kinds of different people there and some already have a glass of wine in their hand at 11 in the morning. I especially like the little pieces of fried fish with a nice mayo sauce, and the Croquettes Crevettes. Just a few steps further you’ll find Delicatessen, one of my favorite places for food. At lunchtime they have a simple but delicious salad bar. All ingredients are very fresh and bio. In the evening Delicatessen completely changes and turns into a proper restaurant with rather sophisticated dishes. They’re trying to get a Michelin star. They also have the very best cheesecake in all of Brussels, which is made after a family recipe of the place’s Belgian-American owner.
When it comes to interiors and design I really like Le Show Room run by Céline Blanc just around the corner from Wiels. She’s a gallerist and interior decorator specialized in vintage design. She makes you discover art in a different way and offers an alternative to the usual white cube galleries. It feels more like she welcomes you into her home which is actually partly true: she also lets you have a look at her private apartment.
One of my favorite places in Brussels is the Cinematek, which offers a huge and well-curated selection of movies. They often do themed movie cycles which let you discover the oeuvre of a certain director or actor over the course of a whole month. For me this is really a mythical place, we can count ourselves lucky that such a cinema still exists here today!
My favorite street in Brussels to do some shopping is Rue des Chartreux. It kind of assembles the essence of things I like. It hosts a lot of independent stores where the owners present their personal tastes and universes and it feels more unique and intimate than the big chains. Think of Isabelle Bajart, Brocéliande, Espace Bizarre or Blender.Marina Bautier marinabautier.com Noordze Rue Saint Catherine 45 vishandelnoordzee.be Delicatessen Mont des Arts 1 kwintbrussels.com Le show Room Vlaamsesteenweg 144, Rue de Flandre showroom144.be Cinematek 9 rue Baron Horta cinematek.be Isabelle Bajart 25 Rue des Chartreux
Kartuizersstraat 25 isabellebajart.be Blender kartuizerstraat 18 Rue des Chartreux blender01.com La Caravane la-caravane.be