An artisanal bakery which boasts quality breads and cakes almost too beautiful to eat. There are various different breads to try, from traditional baguettes to olive, walnut, apricot and hazelnut; but I’m told that once they’ve found one they like customers tend to stick with it. Even the Neptune restaurant I’ve featured before buys its own particular type of loaf from here. The bread is made upstairs and allowed to rise 24 hours before baking. It’s a process that takes time and space, but here production is limited by the premises rather than number of personnel. So after 26 years with the shop and atelier in the same building, the Saint-Aulaye has just moved to a new building which has the same surface area, but will no longer require its 12 pâtissiers to traispse up and down four flights of stairs.
“Photo? Of course, je vous en prie!” He says, as he hands me my box of strawberry and raspberry tarts. “Everyone in Brussels knows about this atelier”, he adds. “Oh?” I say. I hadn’t known, and I only wish I’d been told about this place earlier – it has been here for 60 years, after all. Now there’s no need for that sinking feeling as you plod home after a late night at the office and remember that the fridge is bare, or wonder what to eat after an impromptu gathering leaves you unexpectedly drunk and ravenous!
Here’s what I suggest: head down the long corridor that opens out into the cavernous atelier, weigh yourselves on the huge and antique scales. So that’s 20 bags of flour…. Re-emerge from there. Enjoy some beers and frites in the bars around Place Jourdan. Return several hours later for bread, rolls, croissants or tarts. Weigh yourselves again. From Midnight the cocoa-buttery smell of fresh pain au chocolat will waft down the corridor to entice you in – for this is the hour of the first fresh pastries of the day. What a great idea in a land where supermarkets generally close at 8pm! Open every day from 19:00 to 7:00. From 7:00 the actual bakery on the square takes over, but that is not so much fun.
Rue Général Leman, 8 1040 Etterbeek
Google map: bit.ly/VjxshK
Garcia’s tearoom is packed on a Sunday morning, but in the adjoining blue and white tiled bakery business is slower and you can call in and pick up your sweet Portuguese pastries at any time. On a quieter weekday morning I had my first sampling of savoury Portuguese treats in the tearoom – including mini shrimp croquettes, cod and chicken pastries. Now I’m hooked, but that’s okay
because I can still have one of everything available and it will still be as cheap as Belgian chips.
The owner is from Lavre in Southern Portugal, but left to see the world. To remind him of home, and us of sunnier Mediterranean climes, we sit next to a recreated façade of his house, happily caffeinating ourselves. Hearing Portuguese spoken on the terraces around Place Flagey, it seems like a large proportion of Brussels’ Portuguese community must have settled in this area, but no, they’re everywhere, says the guy serving my pastries. What a lovely language, and what lovely pastries!
Avenue de la Couronne, 75- 77, 1050 Ixelles
Google map: bit.ly/VjwfXv
No need to walk far from the Sablon square to find an inexpensive place to eat: for a start there’s the Parrot just off the square – ideal for lunch or as a prelude to a night out. Here the speciality is pitta, 72 different types of pitta on my last count. These come in baskets cradled in the nook of the server’s arm, and are deceptively filling – if you disagree you can just order another. There’s scope to have vegetarian, salads and pittas with dried fruit and nuts - all proving that pittas don’t have to be unhealthy or predictable. You get four different sauces to dribble on your pitta, and insufficient
napkins, but never mind. Some of the contents are liable to escape, scattering themselves
mischievously, making mess! Enjoy in a graceful bar of art nouveau swirls, turquoisey walls and
unpolished marble table tops. For 10 euro for a pitta and freshly squeezed juice you can’t really go wrong. Well-known but still a nice mix of exchange students, local couples and groups. Everyone gets a lollipop with the bill: we wouldn’t want to disturb this genteel Sablon neighbourhood afterwards, would we? And just a short hop from the rum bar I mentioned earlier.
31, rue Watteau, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
+32(0)2 512 99 22
Google map: bit.ly/NkyhTF
* Bec is our Been there local for Brussels. You can view her profile here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/articles/brussels-local-rebecca.jsp and follow her tips here: www.ivebeenthere.co.uk/travellers/Becinbrussels
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com
Search Been there
Your tips about Brussels