Published on April 24th, 2019 | by James Drew0
Far from the madding crowd – that’s this charming Brussels bistro
Fancy a spot of delicious dining in the “countryside” without having to venture barely out of Brussels, writes Martin Banks?
If so, a relatively new French bistro in Uccle could be just for you.
Charlu is located just off the pleasant main square at trendy Saint-Job but, such is the peace and quiet of the locale, you could very easily think you’re in the middle of nature.
Neatly tucked away from the busy streets nearby, this charming eatery is surrounded by woodland which further reinforces the sense of being in the Great Outdoors.
You have to pinch yourself, therefore, to realise that you are, in fact, very close to Brussels, with tram/train/bus connections within a very short distance (there’s also good parking facilities).
With the summer approaching, you should also try the delightful small terrace outside that gives you a chance to enjoy the calm surroundings.
As nice as the setting is it is the quality of the food,though, that has to be the number one reason for visiting Charlu.
And, if the location is great, the good news is that the food is even better!
It is masterminded,appropriately at a place serving French food, by Olivier Destribois, who was born in the Basque region.
Olivier is not only clearly very talented but has a particularly impressive track record, having trained under Michel Guerard, the renowned French chef.
He has a background in gastronomy and it clearly shows in the quality of the dishes he prepares here. But credit should also go to Charles Van Elewyck, a Belgian, who also helps out a few hours each week on prepping dishes and sauces.
Charles used to work with Antoine Salviat who, having run his own places in the past, is quite a well-known figure on the Brussels restaurant scene. Both are ably supported by Olivier’s sous chef, Nicolas Montes.
Antoine himself is French born, hailing from Perigord, but has been based in Belgium for over 20 years now.
He was taken on by Patrick Triest, the restaurant’s Belgian owner, to manage the place and Antoine brings his own unique touch to proceedings.
But, back to the food, and what a delight that is at Charlu.
There is a la carte which is tweaked every two months so as to reflect market availability and ensure that only the most seasonal products and ingredients are used in the cooking.
About 30 per cent of the card remains the same and, currently, this includes a nice blend of fish and meat dishes such as duck with parsnip, veal, a range of steaks and calamari.
One of the things that distinguish this place from others is the emphasis on French regional cuisine so expect to also find Andouillette, a kind of French sausage from south west France.
There’s also a nice choice of starters, including croquette de jambon blanc Ibaiama and a very tasty parmentier de pommes fruits et boudin.
Diners also have the opportunity to share starters and, here, you have a choice of items such as Serrano ham,carpaccio de boeuf, foie gras or a plate of chartecuties.
You also have a suggestions list – changed weekly – to choose from and this might, typically, include cassoulet, poultry and a mouth-watering sweetbread.
The portions are quite generous and if you still have room the list of deserts is equally tempting, with items like rice pudding – recommended – café glace and traditional tarte tartin.
Additionally, an excellent wine card has some great offerings at under €30.
The owners are especially keen to ensure that as much as possible the food – and wines – are sourced from small-scale producers in France, the idea being partly to showcase fine French cuisine.
All this is done in what are truly lovely surroundings, with the eatery having benefited from a small refurbishment lasting one year before it opened last November.
This included the introduction of an impressive bar counter made from zinc which, in its own way, reinforces the traditional French bistro décor here which oozes warmth and authenticity.
Worth noting too that from Wednesday to Friday there is a very affordable lunch offering at just €18 or dish of the day at €13.50. There’s also a 3 course menu, priced €35 and a 5 course option at €52.
Patrick, whose reputation was made at another nearby restaurant (Guignol) that he also owns, fell immediately in love with Charluwhen it became available.
His eye of an opportunity is good news for anyone who appreciates very good food – away from the madding crowd!
676 chaussee de Saint-Job, Uccle 1180
Tel. (0)2 374 2610