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Food & Drink

Moules moments in Brussels

Even non-shellfish enthusiasts tend to give in to the charm of a steaming pot of moules-frites when in Brussels, and quite rightly so – Belgians rustle up this traditional dish with aplomb. Here are seven places in which to enjoy a serving.

Few dishes have as much character as moules-frites. The way it’s served is an experience in itself, seeing mussels jostle for space in a deep casserole and getting to grab the succulent flesh out of its shell using an empty one as a pincer. A helping of crunchy fries, said to be a Belgian invention (though the French dispute this), is the second part of the dish, and mayonnaise is the accompaniment of choice. To complete the experience, Belgian beer is, of course, a must.

As for the recipe variations of this traditional Belgian dish, Moules marinière is the most common, based on white wine, shallots and parsley; the richer version, Moules à la crème, is also popular. In this case, a dash of cream and a pinch of flour are added to thicken the white wine stock a little. Naturally, there are recipes containing beer, and some restaurants pride themselves on offering sauces of the more adventurous kind, adding curry, snail butter or blue cheese, for instance.

Some restaurants serve moules-frites all year around, while others stick to when they’re in season – early autumn to late winter. Like other shellfish, a single bad one can have dire consequences, so it’s best to only tuck into mussels at trusted restaurants with experience in preparing them correctly, such as the seven spots we’ve included in this guide. 

Photo: Le Zinneke

Classic with a twist

Considered by many Bruxellois as one of the best restaurants in town, Le Zinneke focuses on local classics, prepared using seasonal, mostly organic produce. When mussels are in-season, they’re offered in nearly 70 different ways; moules-frites sauces are given character with ingredients such as Grand-Mère Bacon, saffron, lemongrass, Snob champagne, chicory, thyme and Bossemans Cognac. The mussel varieties of choice are Prins and Dingemanse, and you’ll get 1.1kg of either, along with your chosen sauce and a serving of Belgian fries, ready to be dipped in homemade mayonnaise.

Le Zinneke

Place de lá Patrie 26, Brussels

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Moules and more

Housed in a cottage-style building in a central but nicely tucked away location, In’t Spinnekopke is a mainstay on the Brussels culinary scene. The diverse menu centers on Belgian specialties and the moules-frites is prepared with stock based on Lambic beer. For those not so keen on mussels, we’d recommend carbonnade, a classic Belgian beef stew soaking in – you guessed it – beer.

In’t Spinnekopke

Place du Jardin aux Fleurs 1, Brussels

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Photo: La Belle Maraîchère

A true belle

Founded in 1974, La Belle Maraîchèreis is a cherished seafood destination favored by locals and regulars from further afield. The menu changes according what’s available at the local fish market at any given time, meaning that mussels, prepared au naturel, or with white wine, are typically only served between early autumn and late winter (when they’re in season). A family-run affair, this intimate restaurant takes its cuisine seriously, but without a hint of hauteur.

La Belle Maraîchère

Place Sainte-Catherine 11, Brussels

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Photo: Chez Léon

Mussels for all

Chez Léon’s menu is brimming with moules-frites options. Chefs prepare the shellfish in three ways – a pot, à la plancha, or in foil. Located in the city center on one of the more touristy streets, this century-old seafood institution feels pretty cozy for what is certainly not a small restaurant. Despite its generous capacity, it’s often very busy, but in a good way.

Chez Léon

Rue des Bouchers 24, Brussels

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Heritage haunt

Notable for its café-style interior dating back to the early 1900s, La Roue d’Or is also known for its tasty moules-frites, prepared in classic fashion with a stock based on white wine and, if desired, cream and garlic. Elsewhere on the extensive menu, you’ll find heritage dishes including rabbit with prunes, lamb’s tongue and pig trotter salad, as well as more standard options such as fish soup and beef stew.

La Roue d’Or

Rue des Chapeliers 26, Brussels

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Photo: Au Vieux Bruxelles

Cozy comfort

This long-established restaurant, with its wood-paneled walls, is warm and homely in feel, and the same could be said of the hearty, Belgian fare served up. There are a dozen moules-frites options to choose from; curry and blue cheese give a zing to some recipes, but there are more classic alternatives, too. As for the rest of the menu, it’s an all-rounder, and there are several desserts with which to round off the meal, offered in standard and mini sizes.

Au Vieux Bruxelles

Rue Saint Boniface 35, Brussels

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Photo: Noordze – Mer du Nord

Fit for foodies

For excellent seafood, head to foodie destination Place Sainte-Catherine, a square lined with fish restaurants, including the sought-after fishmonger and casual eatery Noordzee – Mer du Nord. Join the queue to have seafood cooked on the spot to enjoy pronto. Mussels are only served here between September and December, and while moules-frites aren’t usually on the menu, you’ll get to try the shellfish in many other guises.

Noordze – Mer du Nord

Rue Sainte-Catherine 45, Brussels

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