A Bruxellois at heart, Flagey’s Gilles Ledure voices here the particular allure to the freedom and hiddenness making up this endearingly jumbled city. Spanning from his home on Altitude 100, he lines up addresses for exquisite eats and fancy drinks, from the classiest butcher to the old pigeon fancier’s club turned eatery.
First of all, I am an absolute Brussels lover. It’s a fantastic city. Everybody knows and doesn’t know Brussels. It’s an easygoing city. People are open and at the same time they are not very inclusive; you can be part of it, or you can’t, you can choose, and people let you be free. It’s also quite safe. My wife and I bought a typical Brussels house with a garden and it was by accident that we came to live in Altitude 100 in Forest. It’s quite fashionable now, but twenty years ago nobody went there. It’s this mélange of stylish and old-fashioned, a really relaxed, no-stress living, with nice avenues, and Duden Park and Park de Forest. They’re huge, but still nobody seems to know about these parks.
La Monnaie is a place where my family has been going for generations. When I was fifteen my mother bought me my first subscription, and it was nothing. I mean, it was not an upper class thing at all. A mseum where I love to go in Brussels is the Museum Vanbuuren; it’s this small modernist museum built by a banker and his wife, the Van Buurens in Uccle. There is also the Musée d’Ixelles. I love to go to there, and the general manager is fantastic.
I love food and drink. I love to cook and I am definitely hooked on meat. Which is totally politically incorrect, my footprint must be unreasonably big. But I just love meat, and Jack O’Shea is the best butcher in town. It’s really expensive, so I don’t go there every week. For wine, I have this great small wine shop in Chaussée de Waterloo called Vins & Compagnie. They have great wines and not always expensive. For bread and desserts: Saint Aulaye in the Rue Vanderkindere in Uccle. For me, it’s the best bread in town.
Restaurants are another weak spot. In Leuven I love restaurant Trente, in the Muntstraat. They are the most imaginative cooks I’ve met in the last years. My absolute favorite is Le Pigeon Noir in Uccle. It’s an old club house for colombophilies, the people who play with doves, a typical sport of here in the North. It’s always full, so make a resevation on time! Another fantastic restaurant is Senza Nome, an Italian restaurant in Schaerbeek. I think it’s one of the most refined and exquisite cuisines I’ve ever tasted. They started 25 years ago as a simple trattoria and now they became a two star restaurant. My favorite restaurant in the neighborhood is Aglio e Olio, the Italian restaurant in Chaussée de Vleurgat. They have fantastic, exquisite day-to-day cuisine. Another restaurant I love to go to is Orphyse Chausette near the Sablon. They serve Basque cuisine, and I ate the best pork meet there. I also just go to the local butcher, Jan and Krista, on Rue Malibran. They bring meat in straight from the farm and make their own filet americain. And they make really tasty sandwiches.
There is this really good cigar shop (Boire et Fumer) on the Avenue de la Universite. Even though I’m not a cigar smoker, I love to go to these shops. They have fantastic cognac and calvados. And for flowers, the best are on Place Brugmann at (Cattleya). That’s the best flower shop in town for me.
For bars, I love to go around the Saint Gilles town hall. It’s great fun to be there. Up to the Place Albert, with le Bar de Matin. There’s a great wine bar there, Rubie, it’s really comfortable.
With somebody who has never seen Brussels, I’d go to see the Grand Place, the Atomium. Clichés but you need to see them. I would also take them to the Sablon, to have a pistolet of course. We’d have a bite at La Paix in Anderlecht, one star by the way, at the Abattoir de Anderlecht. The slaughtherhouse is one of the most fantastic markets in town, you can buy everything there, for one third of the price. But, La Paix was where cattle merchants would come at two o’clock in the morning and settle everything and would eat big steaks at six in the morning. There is also Friture René in Anderlecht. It’s kind of a friture, but an elaborate one, where you eat fries and carbonnade, like at your grandparents’ house.
If we some more time left, I would take them to The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, followed by some shopping at Rue Antoine Dansaert, to see the Belgian style icons or for some traditional shopping to all the nice shops around Place Brugmann. My favorite clothes shop at the moment is on the Franz Merjay called Uniform. There is also a nice bar there too, called Chez Franz, it’s really fantastic.
For media, I have two radio shows I like to follow: Pompidou at Klara, every day at five o’clock with Chantal Pattyn. Every Saturday morning I listen to Le grand charivari on Musiq3.
As for bookshops, I really want to invite you to go to Ptyx on Rue Lesbroussart. It has the most wonderful collection of books. Passa Porta on Rue Antoine Dansaert is also great. It’s probably the only good Dutch language bookstore in town, which is a bit sad. In French, there is always Tropismes in the Galleries, which is a fantastic book shop too. But maybe I like Peinture Fraiche at Chatelain even more. They have the most fantastic books about art. They are horribly expensive so I go there only to look or just read the books and put them back in the shelves.