It has often been said that Belgian cuisine is served in German portions, but with French finesse. While this perhaps does the Germans a disservice, it is certainly true that Belgian chefs do not skimp. Traditional dishes tend to include generous helpings of potatoes, leeks and meat, washed down with plenty of the famous beer, and even fine-dining establishments have an open-handed approach.
This, and a warmly efficient approach to service, helps to make Belgium a particularly enjoyable country in which to eat out. Added to this is its chefs’ long tradition of using regional and seasonal ingredients, a trend that is in keeping with the slow-food movement sweeping the culinary world at the moment. It’s an ethos that works at every level of cooking, whether it’s a simple eatery with communal tables or one of the finest of gourmet establishments.
Balls & Glory
When the original Balls & Glory opened in Ghent as a pop-up restaurant in 2012, it was an immediate hit. The secret to its success lay in its unique brand concept: it specialised in meatballs, made to exacting standards. Created by Wim Ballieu, the innovative recipes are based around mince from the restaurant’s own farm; this is turned into meatballs by hand and stuffed with a wide range of delicious fillings. Today, there are outposts in Antwerp, Ghent, Brussels and Leuven, all providing a relaxed setting for good, simple food.
Balls & Glory, Godefriduskaai 30, 2000 Antwerp, +32 (0)3 227 16 00
Founded by three friends with a passion for food, Les Filles is a restaurant and cooking studio with an emphasis on healthy, organic cuisine. The guesthouse atmosphere means that visitors take their place at a communal table, cut their own bread, and even help themselves to the food. In this relaxed setting, there is no menu – rather, the chefs cook different meals each day according to what they find at the market.
Les Filles, 46 rue du vieux Marché aux Grains, 1000 Brussels, +32 (0)2 534 0483
Located on the banks of the Scheldt, the recently opened Ras – short for Restaurant aan de Stroom, or ‘restaurant on the river’ – offers stunning views over the waterfront and the cathedral. Here, the dining experience is much about the architecture and interior design as it is about the – albeit exquisite – food. The menu features seasonal dishes, alongside classics such as salade Niçoise and sole meunière. As for desserts, the house special of crème brûlée, chocolate mousse and tarte tatin is not to be missed.
Ras, Ernest van Dijckkaai 37, 2000 Antwerp +32 (0)3 234 1275
The Michelin-starred La Source restaurant, set in the charming La Butte aux Bois country hotel 80 minutes drive from Brussels and Antwerp, is a food-lover’s dream. Celebrated chef Ralf Berendsen serves modern Belgian cuisine at its best. The signature menu features such standout dishes as scallops with cauliflower, vadouvan – a particular mix of spices – cashew nuts and jus of shore crab. During the summer months, visitors can dine al fresco in the extensive terrace, which was chosen by restaurant guide Gault & Millau in 2015 as the most beautiful in the whole country.
La Source, Paalsteenlaan 90, 3620 Lanaken, +32 (0)89 739777