The Beer Factory

Place Lux is my idea of a living hell, so I only go there when coerced by friends who I can only assume find the location convenient – surely people don’t go there for any other reason?

Actually, I did once meet someone who liked going there, but I think his reasoning was that it was a good pick up spot. Considering he spent the evening trying to hide from someone he’d slept with a few weeks before, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s correct, but perhaps that isn’t such a good thing.

Last week a friend was in town for work, and since the location was convenient for her, I tagged along to meet her. Aside from the practical location, she was part of a big group, and the theory was that the Beer Factory was quite big, and we could sit there easily.

Yay! The Beer Factory! Last time I went there I had one of the ten worst meals of my life, and then nearly got run over on the way home (not their fault to be fair). This time I decided to eat beforehand.

One waiter sat us down in the sofa section upstairs, then another came along and told us we couldn’t eat there (despite all of us having eaten on the sofa at separate times in the past), and that he would have to make us up a table. After trying out several increasingly bizarre table formations, he settled on seating us in a straight line. We sat, he gave us placemats and cutlery, then we perused the menu. I confirmed my earlier decision not to eat, which led to much disgust from the waiter when he returned – ‘all that work for nothing, laying the table’. Fair point, admittedly, but isn’t the customer always right?

Further drama ensued when my friend asked if it would be possible to open a window, and, after deliberation, several waiters came to (sarcastically) tell them that ‘of course you can open the window – just open it’. I’m sure that they would have liked it less if we’d just opened the window without asking.

Everyone else seemed to enjoy their meals, which was good, and my glasses of wine were delicious, however, would it be too much to ask to go somewhere and actually receive pleasant service? It’s not that hard to be polite – seriously, I’m English, I should know. Smile, don’t make sarcastic comments, it’s NOT DIFFICULT!

Oh, just to be clear, it’s not actually a beer factory as some of the trip advisor reviews seem to suggest.

Categories: Food & Drink | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Le Pain Bénit

Considering how much time I spend complaining to colleagues about how boring the food options near our office are, I don’t actually get out and explore new places in my spare time very often. I’m usually too knackered to go out and eat in the evenings, and I have a tendency to hibernate at weekends. I was actually recently described as the laziest, sleepiest weekend sloth a hyperactive friend of mine had ever met. He’d phoned me twice to try and arrange something on the spur of the moment, and found me asleep both times, but that’s just really bad luck on his part – I am almost never asleep.

Although not exactly planned, I have been visiting a few new places recently, in the evenings, at lunchtimes, during the weekend, you name a time, I’ve probably been eating something. As I’m a little ashamed of the lack of effort I’ve put into this blog of late, I’ve decided to spend some time doing my least favourite kind of blog post – the restaurant review. Maybe I can find a way to make this a little less of the living hell it usually seems to be? Do you also die a little bit inside when I talk about food?

First attempt – not really talking so much about the food as my day.

A couple of weekends ago we decided to do some much needed Christmas shopping along Rue du Bailli and around Place du Chatelain. This is probably my favourite area of Brussels; I think because it reminds me of Brighton and it’s a nice place to hang out if I feel a bit homesick. After buying about one present for family and a new coat for myself, I decided it might be time for lunch. As the rain started, we slipped into Le Pain Bénit (Rue du Bailli 12). From the outside it seemed like it was just a takeaway sandwich bar, but we were relieved to find quite a big seating area out the back.

As the waitress told us that if we wanted to eat in, we could just take a seat and someone would take our order, I realised that I’d had one of my occasional breakthroughs with French and that I was no longer translating things into English to understand them. Sadly, I’d got quite quick at translating, but it takes me a long time to think all the words through in French, so I tend to stand like an idiot for ten seconds processing things. Ten seconds later we took our seats.

We started ordering the pizza baguettes they serve there (a baguette with pizza topping, if that wasn’t obvious), when the lights went out. It seemed that someone had turned the oven on, which had tripped the fuse. Because this was Belgium, and Belgian people are lovely and helpful, the waitress was soon standing at the fusebox surrounded by the rest of the clientele, eager to help her fix the problem, cheerfully shouting out possible solutions as the one before failed.

Eventually, the lights came back on, our pizzas were cooked, we ate them and we left feeling full and satisfied. I’d definitely stop here again if I fancied something sandwichey while in the area. I can’t remember if they had anything more substantial on the menu, but the sandwich selection was great.

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Belgians of the week – 08/10/12

My boyfriend took these shot on his phone for added sneakiness – please excuse the quality.

I didn’t even have to tell him to take this one – he just knew!!

I think Zeeman is my Dutch word of the day. Ah, Dutch. How I wish I spoke you…

I like the juxtaposition between this guys bald head and fluffy mohair jumper. He reminds me of characters from a children’s TV show set in Scotland, where they all wore big jumpers with huge necks covering their mouths.  It wasn’t The Family Ness… I think it was on in the 90s… Aaargh!  What was it?

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Fixed Working Hours

A 2010 article in The Economist mentioned the findings of a Eurobarometer opinion poll, concerned with finding a correlation between entrepreneurialism and age or nationality.

The survey found Belgians especially keen on fixed working hours, a finding that rings true for anyone needing a Brussels plumber at the weekend.

This reminded me of our first trip to get registered at the town hall.  My boyfriend had taken along his contract and the fonctionnaire read through it with interest.

Wow!  37.5 hours per week.  That is a lot of hours.  Maybe you can negotiate to work less next time? Wow!

We resisted the temptation to ask how many hours she worked; it would only have upset us.

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Dinner on a tram?? Why not??!?

For my birthday, the boyf bought tickets for the Tram Experience. Although not especially clear from the title, this is a meal concocted by a Michelin starred chef and served on a two hour tram journey around Brussels, organised by the guys at Brusselicious, and sponsored by Electrolux. As it happened, our trip coincided with the recent week long tram strike, so we had the added novelty of being the only tram on the tracks that night.

The evening started strangely due to the fact that we were going to be be the only tram on the tracks, and we had to take a taxi to get to the tram stop. At first the taxi driver couldn’t understand that we wanted to be dropped at Place Poelaert, and then, once he understood that we wanted to be dropped there, just couldn’t understand why. To add to his confusion we had to turn back half way, after forgetting the tickets – somewhere around this point he started screeching at us, asking if we wanted cash, as we could stop at a bank. After reassurances that we’d just forgotten something, and needed to go home before we headed to, yes, yes, to the Palais de Justice, that’s right, we got back en route. On arrival, he drove round the roundabout a couple of times, just to make sure – finally stopping in front of the courts with a quizzical look on his face.

We were early, so we decided to check out the view while we waited.

The tram eventually turned up a big 15 minutes later, and we were off. Our menu was created by Bart de Pooter, who runs De Pastorale (good luck with the link, it won’t work for me), which is somewhere near Ghent. Interestingly, he’d chosen to serve a different Belgian beer with each course. Well, I suppose catching a futuristic tram for dinner wasn’t strange and Belgian enough… The first beer (which I thought was going to be champagne) was quite shocking, but when I got into the swing of things, it was actually pretty nice. Just a shame I’d fancied a glass of wine all day.

No pictures of the food I’m afraid, I was starving and tucked straight into each course, much to the disgust of the waiter who was trying to explain what things were – this also backfired, since they stopped the tram for you to eat the first two courses, both of which I finished with some difficulty while still moving. Here’s the menu (with my descriptions in italics):

Amuses BouchesCrème brûlée fois gras (the single most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted), a cold soup thing, and a piece of bread on a stick

Starter – Calzone of Wild Samon and Green Asparagus, Chorizo Vinaigrette, Fresh Herbs
The chorizo vinaigrette was probably the second most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted

Main course – Braised Oxtail, Creamed Potatoes and Carpaccio of Goose Foie Gras

Dessert – Pineapple Ice Cream and Coconut Colombo
This was a little disappointing after the other courses. Seriously, a lump of pineapple and some coconut ice cream (the most boring flavour ever)? The boyf enjoyed this a lot more than I did, but mine still had a bit of skin or something on the pineapple which made it impossible to cut. 

The route was an odd choice. I was expecting to go through the city centre rather than some suburbs which I struggled to name. On the plus side, I did get to see some areas I didn’t really know (seriously, judging by this map I thought we went in the opposite direction). Our first course was eaten at Montgomery, and the main course was eaten under the Hermann-Debroux viaduct, which is not the prettiest place in the world – but at least I now know it’s a place! The route would probably have been more enjoyable in the summer on a lighter evening.

I thought this was a super cool thing to do – it was very fun and novel, and I’d jump at the chance to do it again. I believe at one point I looked up at the boyf, mid nom and said ‘I love eating…’. The thing has been a run away success and looks fully booked for most of the year, so I hope they continue it in future years.  More information can be found on the Brusselicious website. I believe the tickets were 75 EUR each.

Categories: Food & Drink | 3 Comments

Belgians of the week – 06/02/12

A drunk stumbles out of a bar by Porte de Hal metro station and walks up to the boyf.

Drunk: Can I have a cigarette?

Boyf: I don’t have any.

Drunk: What, you can’t even give me a cigarette?

Boyf: No, I don’t have any.

Drunk: I’ll kill you!

The drunk is led away by a friend.  As he leaves he turns and shouts

Drunk: Look out everyone – he’s a cop!

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W2B vs French

I foolishly started my first French lesson of the year by telling my teacher that I want to be fluent by the end of the year (possibly by August). Admittedly, I’m aiming for a very basic level of fluent. I just want to understand what people are saying to me, and not feel like crying when I can’t reply. When I manage to reply they normally understand, so that’s pretty good going I think. So, anyway, the teacher thinks this is possible – assuming I actually do some homework, and maybe push the boat out and try actually talking to people rather than panicking – it’s strange how I’m so shy in French.

Out and about, if I stumble across my words in French, people are very quick to switch to English; I’m trying to be better about just continuing in French when this happens, but SHY, remember! I also have a lot of friends who really really like talking in any language, who seem quite keen to take over from me when I get stuck. One of the francophones has been known to take over in English on occasion.

I work in an English speaking office, where, if spoken to in a different language, it’s usually someone who forgot I wasn’t Scandinavian. When my colleagues do talk in French I can follow the conversation, although sometimes missing the point and laughing at the wrong things. If I join in, I usually do it in English to avoid missing the small window of opportunity to say something meaningful (or just something, really) – colleagues have an annoying tendency to continue in English when I do this.

I’ve managed to get past my old problem of focussing on the words that I don’t understand and completely missing vast chunks of conversation while trying to translate something, which usually turns out to be utterly useless – deciding whether they were going to or from somewhere, for example.  Now it’s all about piecing together some meaning from what I do understand (yay!). Another old issue was that I couldn’t remember a word unless I knew how it was spelt, which was a total nightmare – this is also loads better.

Current game = listen to people speak English as a foreign language, then work out how I would say their sentence in French. Not really a game, but good practise I suppose.

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A side(street) order of chips, please…

Google launched it’s street view service in Belgium a few months back, which is pleasing enough in itself. However, they’ve gone one step further and added a cone of frites/chips/fries to the little search dude.

I can’t even begin to tell you how happy this makes me. Google = honorary Belgians.

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National Day 2011 (A very delayed report)

Picture the scene…  It is 21st July, the Belgian national day, and you are enjoying your first ever proper experience of a national day (being British, you don’t really know when your day is).  You are lazy, and forget to post this on your blog for a looooong time.

You’ve cunningly avoided a heavy storm by staying in your office for a while.  Sadly, this means you also missed the parade.  Well, you saw the end of the parade, but it could just have been a bunch of ambulances pootling along Rue de la Loi.  You’ve followed the soggy crowds into the park, where you’ve enjoyed a glass of cava and peered over a fence at the royal palace, wondering if anything is going to happen (no, apparently not).

After a burger, you’ve made your way to Sablon, where people are giving out bags of water which look like they should contain goldfish.  They do not, more’s the pity.  They may actually contain rain water…

Sitting with friends, you enjoy some 7 euro glasses of wine served by the surliest waiter you’ve ever had the misfortune to meet.

Then a group of people dressed as Asterix characters walk by.  You are confused… isn’t he French?

Next, in a more traditional display of patriotism, a marching band head past.

…followed by a drunk woman, marching along behind.

Belgium, I salute you!

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ING Lions, Voles, Donkeys & Bears

I’m not normally one to advertise on behalf of a bank, but I do have a bit of a soft spot for the ING lion.


Look at him.  How could you NOT have a soft spot for him??!?  He’s so stern and orange (and Dutch, apparently).

During a recent trip to the UK, I noticed that ING seem to have taken over there.  They’re like the new Santander.  I don’t really disapprove – check out the cute adverts!

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