In a candid interview, Rudi Vervoort (1958), the Evere-based Minister President of the Region of Brussels opens up about his favourite Greek and Italian restaurants, record shops, concert venues and public parks.
I live in Evere, one of the nineteen municipalities of Brussels. Up until the Second World War, Evere was an agricultural community. Now it’s a municipality with a kind of village spirit to it. That’s why I like it. But I do go out to different places in Brussels, depending on the purpose. I live in a very quiet area, very different from the center of Brussels. So if entertainment is what you’re looking for, you’d have to go to the center of town, perhaps around Les Halles Saint-Géry, or around Place Sainte-Cathérine. There are many restaurants in the center of Brussels where you can find all kinds of cuisine from all over the world. Brussels is a very open, cosmopolitan city, with different cultures, so you really can find everything; and Brusselers are open- minded. I also like the fact that you hear so many different languages when you walk around town. In one of many squares I like, Place Saint-Josse, there is a very good Italian restaurant nearby I like to go to. It’s called La Mama. If I am having dinner with family and friends, I like going to Strofilia, a Greek restaurant near Sainte-Cathérine. It has traditional Greek food, and it’s not a touristic place, so you don’t have the picture of what you’re going to eat. They also have very good Greek wines, very fine wines, not the classic Retsina. I also like the interior: it’s a nice blend of modern design and old elements that remind me of a 17th century warehouse. As I am a fan of Italian food, particularly small Italian restaurants, I like Pizzeria Mirante, a little place next to Grand Place. I have been going there for fifteen years, so the owner knows me. For French food, I like the Orphyse Chaussette. They have wines from Languedoc, Roussillon, Provence – all are excellent. I also like Le Pain Quotidien, and go to the one closer to me on Rue de Tongres in Etterbeek. But the one on Rue Antoine Dansaert was the first one, and it’s still there. If you like wine, for me the best wine bar in Brussels is Etiquette which has an extraordinary selection of wines. If I have friends visiting, I’ll take them for Belgian food, to places like Viva M’Boma on Rue de Flandre, which is the best for typical cuisine. If you want to shop for more than just typical food, or for a special occasion, Rob is a good place to go to. There’s also the Foodmet (“met” is Brussels dialect for “market”) located in the old slaughterhouses of Anderlecht, it’s very much like a souq. For books I go to Tropismes. And, as I am a rock fan, I read Rock and Folk magazine, a kind of rockers’ bible. If I want to buy music, I go to the center of Brussels, near la Bourse, to a place called Caroline Music. I go there mostly for rock music. If you don’t know Caroline you don’t like rock music. It’s the best in Brussels, and their passionate team will gladly help you find what you are looking for. For music venues, I like the Ancienne Belgique, or the Cirque Royal. I went to a Queens of the Stone Age concert at Cirque Royal about a year ago. It was marvelous, one of the best ones. If I’m planning a day out with the kids, depending on the weather, we usually go either to a museum when it’s raining or to the park if the weather is good. With kids you really have to go to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. Otherwise, for art there is The Magritte Museum, The Musical Instrument Museum, the Brussels City Museum (where there’s a nice scaled model of 13th century Brussels), and many others. When it’s sunny, we’ll go to parks like Bois de la Cambre, Foret de Soignes or Parc de Woluwe. But in Brussels the weather is always changing, so you never know what it will be like tomorrow or the day after, you have to choose in function of the possibilities. A nice day trip would be going downtown and checking out the old flea market at Marolles. Afterwards, I’d go for a beer at café Chaff, or to eat at the local brasserie, Clef d’Or. On the other hand, if I want to have a quiet time after work I like going to the park, such as the natural reserve, le Moeraske in Evere. Moeraske means little swamp in Dutch, so it’s obviously a swampy area. It’s a unique place in Brussels where you forget for a moment that you’re in the city. Or Josaphat in Schaerbeek; this park was designed by the architect Edmond Galoppin, and it’s very beautiful.
Rudi Vervoort, 58, is the Minister president of the Region of Brussels. He was born in Berchem-Sainte-Agathe.Caroline Music 101 Boulevard Anspach (1000) carolinemusic-bxl.be Strofilia 11-13 Rue du Marché aux Porcs (1000) strofilia.be La Mama 9 Place Saint-Josse (1210) mamma-resto.be Mirante 13 Plattesteen (1000) Etiquette 19 Emile De Motlaan (1000) etiquette-wines.com Orphyse Chaussette 5 Charles Hanssensstraat (1000) Le Pain Quotidien 71 Tongerenstraat (1040) lepainquotidien.be Rob 28 Boulevard de la Woluwe (1150) rob-brussels.be Abattoir 24 Ropsy Chaudronstraat (1070) abattoir.be Viva M’Boma 17 Rue des Flandres (1000) Tropismes 11 Galerie des Princes (1000) tropismes.com Ancienne Belgique 110 Anspachlaan (1000) abconcerts.be Cirque Royal 81 Rue de l’Enseignement (1000) cirque-royal.org Foret de Soignes (1000) foret-de-soignes.be Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences 29 Rue Vautier (1000) naturalsciences.be Magritte Museum (1000) 3 Rue de la Régence musee-magritte-museum.be Musical Instrument Museum 2 Rue Montagne de la Cour (1000) mim.be/en Le Chaff 21-22 Place du Jeu de Balle (1000) La Clef d’Or 1 Vossenplein (1000)