While the vibrant area of Place Ste. Catherine may have the current monopoly on faddish places to dine in Brussels, the up-and-coming district of Forest (bordering Saint-Gilles) is aiming to give the downtown hipsters a run for their money. On Chaussée d’Alsemberg two slow-food restaurants have already made their mark, and though they have similar concepts, styles and share a head chef (French-born Nicolas Scheidt, trained by Jamie Oliver at Fifteen in London), their menus are markedly different and wildly good.
So good that clientele flock in droves from around the city.
Luckily, I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Café des Spores several times already thanks to the fungus loving people I seem to attract in my life. With a menu where every single dish (yes, every single one) has mushrooms, Café des Spores is a wonderful adventure into the culinary world of food that is made with an assortment of forest fungus.
Across the street from CdS however, is a place I’ve been keen on trying for a long time. Thanks to some Paris-based friends who visited the heart of Europe over Easter, I finally got my chance.
Amen to that.
Housed in a former butcher’s shop, La Buvette is more gritty-chic than its sister Café des Spores. With a concept that involves an ever-changing eight course menu, La Buvette focuses on experimental cuisine that is comprised of simple, local and affordable ingredients.
On the particular night I was there the menu included: jerusalem artichokes with bergamote orange, a fresh water pollock on a sea of foamy bisque, steak tartare accompanied by boules de celeri, caramelised pork cheek with a side of rutabaga, a cheese platter for the dairy lovers and…wait for it…three different desserts including chocolate, sorbet and other chocolaty endings.
I have to admit, I didn’t think the food would be as good as it ended up being. This was mainly because I didn’t expect the kitchen to put as much effort into my intolerant-friendly adaptations as those of my counterparts.
Well, shame on me. How wrong I was.
Everything, for one, was beautifully presented. Each course was a piece of art you were hesitant to stick your fork into, but that you eventually massacred because it would have been a crying shame to let food that good go to waste.
I’m a fan of Belgian tartare and the one La Buvette served did not disappoint. My modified pollock was melt-in-your-mouth good and I almost lost my mind over the pork cheek. It was so tender and flavourful I paused several times mid-bite completely lost in the texture and taste of the meat.
The desserts were the pièce de résistance of the evening (in my opinion) given that everyone at my table shut-up for a good half minute as they delicately spooned their lemon sorbet, tarte au chocolat noir and faisselle with vanilla ice cream and subtly oohhhed and ahhhedd their whole way through the last three courses. While I had the chance to also indulge in the sorbet, my two sweet variations included apples with cane sugar and cinnamon and warm granola sprinkled with chestnuts and drizzled caramel and dark chocolate.
Food aside, the nice part of the evening was the jovial attitude of both the kitchen and wait staff. Another bonus was how knowledgeable the servers are of their wines and how adept they are at providing recommendations based on your preference.
The price-quality is fantastic as for 45 EUR you get eight courses that are so generous you won’t leave the restaurant hungry, but they’re not overly plentiful that you’re stuffed by the end of the meal. Naturally, wine and spirits will increase the cost of your bill.
The beautiful thing about an evening at La Buvette is that clients with food allergies are still welcome. Patrons are encouraged to call a day ahead to remind the kitchen of any intolerances so they can prepare a meal so wildly good, you won’t spend a second casting looks of envy and longing around the restaurant.
Because you’ll be far too busy going mental over every morsel on your plate.
108 Chausse D’Alsemberg
1060 Saint Gilles, Brussels, Belgium
Open for lunch: Wednesday – Friday
Open for dinner: Tuesday – Saturday