Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Travel - Beer, Banter and Brussels! (Day 2)

...Waking up the next morning I felt like someone had coshed me around the head with a hammer made of very strong alcohol, in fact, it wouldn't surprise me if I was still drunk! But now was not the time to flake and so with highlights of the student riots in London blaring away on the television I went through my morning routine and settled down in the hotel bar with a coffee to await the ceremonious arrival of my mate and another day of pointless excess.

I think it is a quality unique to the English that when we are abroad, we feel almost invincible and accept everything another country has to offer as a challenge that needs to be surmounted. It was into this dangerous trap that I fell, and it mainly revolved around the vast amounts of food and drink that this city had to offer. Each corner we turned there seemed to be another Christmas market with stalls selling wurst, saucisson, sweetmeats, flavoured breads, mulled wine, beer and of course, belgian waffles! I was once again like a child in a sweet shop! dazzled by the huge range of eatable on offer and, like a bull in a china shop, threw myself into the fray with the abandon of a man who hasn't eaten for many days.

Of course all of this was coupled with copious amounts of alcohol. We started very soberly at a nice cafe where we had a lunch of soft cheese, black bread, cervelas sausage and white radish washed down with light blonde beer flavoured with Elderberry. As if I hadn't eaten enough, I demanded that we went to try the famous Belgian french fries and lo and behold it wasn't long before we were spoilt for choice! The smell of fried food is intoxicating at the best of times and I was drawn to a popular establishment next to the grand Brussels Stock Exchange. For a couple of Euros I was presented with a massive cone full of hand-cut fries topped with the ubiquitous Sauce Andalous (a mayonnaise flavoured with pimentos, paprika and a mild hint of curry). The chips were scalding hot and quite literally the best I have ever had!      however the large quantities of salt and starch again made me very thirsty, so once again impulse got the better of common sense and, ignoring my companions requests for a bottle of water, I marched merrily into another bar where we sank a healthy litre of another local brew!

Then began another lengthy crawl of the Brussels bar scene, starting in the Christmas market outside the stock exchange where we drank some delicious Spanish Cava (for a change) and snacked on bitsize saucisson and chorizo. Deciding to go back to the hotel we once again became sidetracked by a trendy establishment full of gorgeous ladies and smooth gentlemen on a very pretty little square. I thought I looked very cool in my Top Gun bomber jacket... but I'm sure I was the only one! deciding we needed a pre-dinner change from the beer, Campari and Sodas followed by Caipirinhas and finished off with a Bloody Mary and plenty of cigars and cigarettes resuscitated what should have been a spent appetite and we made our way to one of the finest meals I have had in a long time at Les Brassins.

Les Brassins is situated on a small backstreet just of the centre of town and was recommended to me by a good friend and former colleague of mine from my days at CCHQ. It was with one clear instruction I was sent: 'Make sure that you order the Steak on 'one side''. Usually I would not order a steak in a restaurant which had things like sweetbreads, eels, big stews and choucroute on the menu but such a good case was made for this dish that my curiosity was piqued and I realised I would have to try it.

After a few more beers at the bar we were shown to our table whence the menu and another round was brought to us as we perused through the menu. I have always had a thing for taller women being only 5'5" and our waitress was about 6'1" with one of the best pair of legs that I have ever seen! I started with a delicious dish of prawns cooked in a garlic and parsley butter with fluffy and surprisingly light black bread with which to mop up the juices. This in turn was followed by the main event, the Steak sur le face. Huge plates with the thickest piece of steak I have ever seen were brought to the table covered in a crust of mustard, onions and parsley coupled with a huge bucket of fries. I would never usually say that a steak could make one of the most interesting meals that I have ever eaten but the cooking method used was so original. Cooked on one side the top was a deliciously crisp crust giving way to a raw underside! It was bloody delicious and I think a dish that any good chap would be happy to pay for! I followed this with a superb tart tatin, coffee and a cognac!

A great end to a great meal - I am sure you will agree - and, after many more drinks another fantastic day  in Brussels!

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