Brussels@Heart - Brussel - Brussel-regio
Leuke buurt, je eigen appartement, je thuis in Brussel.
(Van onze Engelstalige mysteryguest)
Pity the business (or weekend) traveler who tries to find a room in Brussels on short notice. Until I had to make reservations two days before a seminar on Swedish broadband in Brussels, I did not realize how difficult it could be. I visited several online bookings sites, only to discover that most availabilities were in chain hotels housed in concrete high-rises. Worse, I found nothing below 150 EUR per night. Silly me, why didn’t I check our own site, weekendhotel.nl?
I found Brussels at Heart and left a frantic message for the owner, Carmelo Miraglia. He called back and told me that he still had a room, so off I went with my husband, Willem, whom I usually don’t drag around to conferences, on the super efficient Benelux Express.
We arrived in the middle of the hottest day in Belgium and found Carmelo’s B&B, a ten-minute walk from the Brussels Nord station. Carmelo greeted us warmly and showed us around our “room”, which is really an apartment, located on the ground floor of his three-story house on a quiet side street, close to the Vlaamse Schouwburg.
The Zen interiors, wooden floors, modern and tranquil furnishings were exactly what I missed in hotels that cater to the business traveler (or to any visitor, for that matter). The apartment has a kitchen, although we did not get a chance to use it. The end of the hallway past the kitchen opens up onto a small patio whose walls are painted a deep Amalfi stormy red. It is there that we took our breakfast – a basket filled with croissants and nutty bread, bowls of fresh fruit, luscious jams and a large pot of French roast coffee.
I attended my seminar the next day, fresh, alert and feeling really good, which is something I rarely experience when I stay in business hotels whose single-glazed windows often look onto busy streets. Because the B&B lies close to the metro stop, it took me only fifteen minutes to get to the EU Parliament area. Later in the afternoon, I met up with Willem for lunch in the Elsene neighborhood, ten minutes from the EU Parliament. We came upon rue St. Boniface whose sidewalks were teeming with people lunching outdoors and settled on an Italian restaurant called Mano a Mano, whose excellent pizzas and salads fueled the rest of our day.
After lunch, we headed off to the Horta district and it was there, in the wilting heat of the second hottest day in Belgium, that we decided to stay an extra day. So I rang Carmelo from my mobile phone and politely asked if we could have one more night at the apartment. To our delight, he said yes.
No visit to Brussels is complete without a dinner one talks about months or even years after the event. I could certainly say this about Little Asia, a stylish Vietnamese restaurant on 8, rue Sainte Catherine (www.littleasia.be), a great tip from the owners of The White Room, yet another great “weekendhotel” in Brussels. The décor alone is worth the visit and in many trendy places these days, would have been the main attraction. But Little Asia serves dishes that are unbelievably good. No detail is spared – from the dark bamboo trays used to serve coffee to the pretty noodle bowls. We dined on spring rolls with a piquant chicken and vegetable filling, which we rolled in lettuce and mint leaves and dipped in nuoc mam (fish sauce), followed by sizzling shrimp in a spicy black bean sauce. For dessert, we had banana and tiny tapioca pearls in a deep bowl of luscious creamy coconut milk. The food was so delicious at Little Asia that we decided to come back on our second night in Brussels.
Our impromptu decision to stay an extra night at Brussels at Heart was not something I would have even considered had we been staying in a chain hotel with institutional green carpeting. It’s not the big things that make people want to stay longer – not the great museums or the monuments – but the fine details. In our case, it was Carmelo ’s warm and friendly welcome, the apartment we could have easily called home, the funny neighborhood with its tapas bars, and somewhere along the way, a great Vietnamese meal in a stylish restaurant.
- Kamerprijzen vanaf Euro 95,-
- 32 rue des commercants - koopledenstraat
- 1000 Brussel
- 0032 0486681655