Published on November 25th, 2019 | by James Drew0
Flying the flag for great cuisine in historic Brussels district
The former working-class neighbourhood of Les Marolles is one of the best known in Brussels, in part due to its famous flea market, writes Martin Banks.
This atmospheric neighbourhood, where real Brusseleer (a Brussels dialect) is still spoken by some, has maintained its traditions up to the present day.
Marolles also hosts an absolutely top notch restaurant, Le Wine Bar des Marolles.
Don’t be mistaken by the name, though.
While the wine served here is excellent, arguably the main reason for a visit is the quite delicious food.
They say first impressions count for a lot and, if so, then that is one box that is ticked immediately the minute you walk through the front door.
It’s cosy, intimate and very welcoming, with a touch of old fashioned comfort that’s not so easy to come by these days.
Located on an ever-bustling street that is at the heart of what is undisputedly one of the city’s most historic areas (the Marolles) the quality of the restaurant’s cuisine easily matches both the warm décor and friendly service.
There are two menus from which to choose: the daily suggestions card, with dishes reflecting the changing seasons, and the fixed option.
The current suggestions card contains starters such as scallops, snails, smoked eel (that underrated Belgian dish), veal brain, hare terrain and pork tongue. Saint-Jacques with chicons (another traditional Belgian product) is one of the most popular with customers.
Wild duck, pheasant and fish are the three mains options.
For the fixed card, there’s plenty to choose from, with everything being equally wonderful.
Starters include cold foie gras – a customer favourite – along with sardines in oil, warm goat cheese with salad,chicken liver terrine, Iberian ham (also very popular) and French sausage and Iberian chorizo.
For mains, you have more mouth-watering dishes such as Irish steak (one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes), beef cheek, kidney and sweetbread, a great old Belgian traditional dish, and Morteau sausage with green lentils.
To finish, there’s also a nice selection of deserts to round off what is a very satisfying dining experience.
Considering the first class quality of the food, the prices are very reasonable indeed, particularly when compared with lots of other restaurants in Brussels.
The wine can be carefully matched with each dish, with sommelier Xavier Meyrueis very much in charge of proceedings on this front.
He used to run his own restaurant in the south of France before relocating to Belgium three years ago to work in a two-starred restaurant.
He draws on his wide experience in the trade to guide diners through the fantastic selection of reds and whites.
A more recent addition to the team here is Morgan Le Borgne,who hails from Brittany, and arrived at Le Wine Bar des Marolles just a few months ago.
He says what attracted him to work here was the emphasis that is placed on working only with fresh, seasonal (and, where possible, local) produce and ingredients.
The person responsible for that worthy policy is the owner, Vincent Thomaes who,for 25 years, was at the acclaimed Chateau du Mylord in Ellezelles, near Tournai where he oversaw one of the most wonderful gourmet institutions in Wallonia.
Wishing to have his own business, Vincent, also a trained sommelier, moved to Brussels to launch Le Wine Bar des Marolles. It was originally situated in the nearby Sablon but, a few years ago, relocated to its present position, just along from the famous Sunday flea market that attracts hordes of visitors.
Be careful when booking: it is open 4 days only, on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and booking is very much advisable at busy times.
Seating about 46, it is relatively small but boasts a great ambience and even better food.
If you’re arriving from the “upper part” of town, that is, near the Palace of Justice, a good tip is to take the lift from Poelaert which will deliver you almost to the restaurant’s front door. Why bother walking down when you can use the time sampling the lovely charms of this fine eatery?
If you are looking for somewhere special to treat a loved one this Christmas then this place ticks all the boxes, not just some of them.
Next door, an extension of the restaurant has been opened which also doubles up as a fine food and wine epicerie.
You can also take something from the same menu here, including wine. But it seats a maximum of four people, hence it has become known as the smallest restaurant in Brussels!
Le Wine Bar des Marolles
Rue Haute 198, Brussels
T. +32 (0)2 503 6250