Eat & Drink

Published on January 20th, 2022 | by Brussels In View

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Branching out to help beat the pandemic blues

There’s more than just food and drink on the menu at one Brussels restaurant. As well as some tasty dishes you will also find a large serving of Belgian “can do” spirit.

The Belgian owner of Callens Café found a novel solution to the “triple whammy” that’s still badly impacting the horeca trade in the city and Belgium.

Jean Callens “branched out” by selling Christmas trees from the restaurant, located at the top end of Avenue Louise, and also personally constructing a full-blown,heated Alpine-style log cabin outside for the cold winter months.

Jean’s move was inspired not just because of the season but also as a response to the wretched and ongoing health pandemic that’s still  causing havoc for the city’s hospitality sector.

Like most other businesses, his has hit by a triple whammy. First was the vaccine certificate that everyone entering a restaurant now has to produce. Second was the problem posed by tele-working in Brussels – people who might otherwise be eating out at lunchtime who were, and still are, working from home.

This has impacted on many restos, including places like Callen’s Café, at the foot of at the foot of the city’s famous IT Tower, that traditionally rely on a healthy lunchtime trade. The third setback was the onset of Omicron, the new variant of coronavirus that resulted in the re-introduction of stiff new restrictions in Belgium (still in place).

Not one to be easily defeated by such things, Jean has tried to respond positively and in the best entrepreneurial spirit. 

The restaurant itself is a real mainstay on the Brussels culinary scene. It dates to 2004 when Jean opened it but his family’s traditions are deeply rooted in the trade.

Jean is the third generation of a family which first distinguished itself in the industry as far back as WW1 at the seaside resort of Blankenberge.

The Hotel Marie-José Blankenberge was, in fact, managed by the Callens family until 2008. While he initially launched Callen’s cafe with the help of his brother Olivier, Jean is, today, in sole charge of the place.

It has two parts, one which has an elegant “lounge” atmosphere and offers a menu based on tapas,small dishes to share, which can be accompanied by cocktails

On a different note, still in an elegant and contemporary setting but more “classic”, is the other part of the restaurant which boasts a more gastronomic offering.

It can also be privatized for all imaginable events for up to 200 people, whether it is the restaurant or the more informal area.

Many like to try the great value for money, €25 pp Sunday brunch, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.There’s also a great terrace overlooking the wonderful Cambre Abbey opposite and great for a walk after a meal here.

Callens Cafe, Av. Louise 480, 1050 Bruxelles
T. +32 (0)2 647 6668

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