Guestblogger Els Debremaeker
In a city like Brussels there are always new places to discover, but sometimes also 'old' places: we had a wonderful lunch at Chez Léon recently, the restaurant of the family Vanlancker that has been in the centre of Brussels since 1893!
A few steps from the famous Grand Place, on the corner of a cobble stoned street you find the green and white checked tables of Chez Léon. This place started more than a century ago as 'friture' serving chips and mussels, but later became a restaurant with Belgian gastronomy. The restaurant's history is painted on the wall like a cartoon and with three generations sitting at our table the conversation soon turned into a history of Belgium!
We were warmly welcomed by our waiter Billy who tended our table with French charm. Good food gets even better with good service and we were spoiled with attention the whole lunch. From the wine recommendations to the smile that lits up every room, our waiter was always there for us.
This is a great place to bring foreign friends to when visiting Brussels, but was also perfect for our family lunch outing. The menu offers the best of Belgian gastronomy and has a nice selection of vegetarian dishes and salads, everybody will find something he or she likes. Mussels and frites are still one of the most popular choices.
I began our lunch with a French touch: the aniseed Ricard gave me an instant holiday feeling and yes, we felt a bit like tourists in Brussels that day. As a starter I had some delicious homemade shrimp croquettes, the recommended dry white Pouilly-Fumé wine was perfect with it. The eels with green sauce were an excellent choice for the grandparents and a mozzarella starter made the teenagers happy. I choose to have wine for lunch but my father tasted the recommended beers. Belgian dishes and Belgian beer are always a good match.
The interior is a feast for the eyes, in traditional brasserie style the tables have checked tablecloths and the mirrors on the wall reflect the moves of the white-apronned waiters. I loved the open kitchen with old black and white photos framed on the wall. The restaurant has been completely renovated but has kept that Brussels turn-of-the-century feeling with the wooden beams and art deco lights.
For main course we each chose something different. My monkfish came with a creamy pepper sauce and I had a red Brouilly wine with it. Red wine and fish, I like it. Mum had cod with a perfect mousseline sauce and the men at the table all took meat dishes - no surprise here! The youngest went for 'stoofvlees': beef stew. It is one of the best Belgian comfort food and it always comes with frites! The frites at 'Chez Léon' are hand-cut of course. The other two men went for a classic steak with mushroom sauce and enjoyed the frites too.
We hardly had any place left for dessert but then we saw 'crème brulée with clementines' on the menu and couldn't resist to share one. There were three spoons on the table...
Writing all this down, makes me want to take my diary and soon plan another visit to Brussels with the family. Lunch at Chez Léon will make everybody happy again, I am sure!
Rue des Bouchers 18
T 02 511 14 15