Published on August 30th, 2020 | by James Drew0
Flying the flag for classic Belgian cuisine
Name some iconic Belgian dishes and you would most likely come up with four likely candidates. They might be carbonnade, boulet liegeois, vol au vent and, of course, the good old frites (Belgian, not French), writes Martin Banks.
Next question could be: where, in Brussels, can you find each of these on just the single plate?
The answer to that is not quite so simple as there are few, if any, restaurants that would fit the bill.
There is one, though, that does actually serve arguably the four best known Belgian dishes as one and that is Chutney’s, which is aptly located just around the corner of one of the country’s other great icons: the Grand Place in Brussels.
The three specialities, plus fries, are served together in one dish. It is called “trio Belge” (priced just €19.50) and is the undoubted best seller on the menu at this lovely traditional Belgian brasserie, all overseen by (what else?!) its Brussels-born chef.
The emphasis here is very much on what is called “Belgitude”, in other words, the best of Belgian food (and culture).
This is evidenced in just about everything they do starting from the nice, black and white framed photos of iconic Belgian landmarks, like the Atomium.
This extends to the menu which, currently, is which is still having such an adverse impact on the horeca trade here, as elsewhere.
The menu, happily, consists of all things Belgian such as the said Trio Belge along with a good steak sourced from blanc blue, the finest Belgian meat you can find, the famous stoemp with Ardennes sausage, beef tartare, vole au vent with chicken from Mechelen and, of course, the ever popular croquettes with either cheese or shrimp (or both).
The restaurant sources most if not all its products and ingredients from no more than a maximum 50km radius of Brussels meaning a. that it uses only locally produced products and b. that it supports the local economy and local producers.
The same applies even to the drinks card which contains absolutely no international beers (no Heineken here!) but, rather, just good old Belgian beers,including artisanal offerings from small breweries. And why not? Belgium has probably the best beers in the world!
Chutney’s is named after an Indian restaurant that used to be on the same site. When it changed to the current brasserie everything changed but the name.
It is part of the adjacent Warwick hotel that opened way back in 1963 and, before the pandemic, was packed to the rafters most nights. Indeed, trying to get a table at weekends was not easy.
Things have changed somewhat due to the health crisis (as with everything and everywhere else, of course) and the brasserie now is only open on Friday and Saturday nights. The occupancy of the hotel,which was forced to close for four months until recently, is running at only about 20 percent compared with the 90 per cent norm at this time of the year.
That means the healthy trade from hotel guests, many of them tourists in Brussels, has declined a lot.
But, even so, there is a good news story to be told at this pleasant resto, located on a corner opposite a bustling street and within 100 metres of the Grand Place.
The first thing to note is the affordability of the dishes which, given the location, is tremendous (you would probably pay twice as much for often inferior food in and around the Grand Place).
The second important thing to note is the generosity of the portions you are served here which, again, is excellent.
But the best thing is the sheer quality of the cuisine which cannot be faulted.
Just opposite is a street selling pizza and kebabs so this place offers something of a rarity in the whole area: a great Belgian brasserie.
Do not be fooled into thinking this is “just another” hotel restaurant. The original idea for Chutney’s was to forge a brand new concept – a restaurant in its own right – and the owners have done that, despite the recent knockback caused by the coronavirus crisis.
Much of the trade is still from the hotel and/or tourists but that is no bad thing. While this place does not pretend to offer gastronomic cuisine it does succeed at what it set out to do which is offer lovely food and very affordable prices.
Erwan Joguet, the hotel’s assistant general manager who is also in charge of food and beverage, said: “This is an authentic Belgian brasserie and our aim is to give customers what I call the real Belgian experience which means, for example, serving only locally sourced food.”
It is also trying to fly the flag for Belgian cuisine which, at a time of great difficulty for the country in so many ways, is no bad thing at all.
Rue des Eperonniers 32, Brussels
T. +32 (0) 505 5300