Monday, 16 September 2013

EAT! Brussels Restaurant Festival

And what is a restaurant festival when it's at home, then? Well, EAT! Brussels was a chance for restaurants in Brussels to show off and attract new customers, all collected together in the Bois de la Cambre, a forest park area (which includes a man-made lake complete with its own fancy restaurant, Chalet Robinson [warning: website plays music and may inspire feelings of extreme envy]).

From top to bottom: Tibetan fried tasting plate; Indonesian chicken curry; Hungarian goulash.
The Dutchman and I felt that some were more successful than others. Our first stop was the Le Tibet booth, who gave us a mixed plate of fried things with the hottest, spiciest, most lip-tingling sauce I have ever encountered. The one at the top of the photo - essentially a Tibetan Cornish Pasty - was excellent, the others kind of forgettable. The Indonesian chicken curry felt lacklustre, as if someone had just dumped some pieces of chicken in coconut milk and left it for a while, and if that's the level of cookery you're presenting as a lure for people to come to your restaurant, then I'm certainly not going to make the effort to visit you. The third photo above is of the quite frankly marvellous Hungarian venison goulash. YES. We ended up licking the sauce - with juniper and red wine - from the plate when we'd finished. But the potato dumplings were a bit stodgy and an unappealing grey colour inside, and I think it would have been better with bread for mopping, but perhaps I'm just greedy. We also attempted to get Congolese food (goat curry, chicken wings, fried plantain) but after standing for ten minutes whilst the eight women behind the booth ignored us, we gave up.

But there were some delicious delicious positives...

Babdar: lamb m'rouzia:

Fork-tender lamb, slow slow slow cooked so that the spices and meat are completely fused. There's a multi-layered taste - cumin, ras al hanout, a sweet burst from the raisins, crunch from the almonds, and the cous cous soaking up the gravy. Whilst I'm very glad that we shared the plates, as it meant we got more tastes, for this one there was a bit of a battle to keep the forkfuls even. We will definitely be heading to Babdar to see what else they've got to offer.

Strofila: baklava cigars (with champagne!)

I do love a good baklava. These had a touch more clove than I would usually go for, but they were full of pistacho and deliciously sticky from the honey, and tasted wonderful. Unfortunately, we could not do the planned taste test between these guys and O Liban (a Lebanese restaurant we've been meaning to go to) because they had run out! Oh woe. But there was champagne! We'd bought a pass which included a number of extras, such as water, coffee, and an Aperol Spritz (fizzy, bright orange, bitter, strangely compelling) and champagne. I felt that these little things added to the experience. I wouldn't have paid for a glass of champers on top of buying the food, but by getting this deal we ended up with a glass of something with every plate, AND to round it all off, SECOND PUDDING in the form of a scoop of salted caramel icecream from La Coupe which was absolutely gorgeous.

All in all, I really enjoyed myself. It was nice to wander around, choosing what we were going to spend our tokens on, looking at all the options available and planning future dinners out. Brussels seems to have a lot of festivals or special weeks (I'm keeping my eyes peeled for Chocolate Week coming round again) and it just feels festive and fun. And it gave me the gift of m'rouzia. NOM.

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