“You’ll know you’re there,” I say to friends and colleagues to whom I’ve extolled the virtues of Brussels’ La Bonne Humeur “when you see the enormous mussel outside.”
Yes, a colossal mussel, stuck on a spike like the head of an anti-monarchist during the time of the Tudors and Stuarts. Hardly the precursor to a ﬁne dining experience you might think. But after visiting La Bonne Humeur I might make it a prerequisite for all future restaurant trips. “ What’s that you say? A new Belgian eatery? Yes, I’d love to- actually, hang on. Is there a plastic mussel outside? No? I’m sorry, I can’t. I simply can’t.” The hallmark of quality has been established, and it involves an oversized bivalvia mollusca crafted from ﬁbreglass.
The menu is extensive (and traditionally Belgian) enough: rabbit in Kriek, eel, poached cod, cheval, steak and so on. However, there’s one dish that they do better than anything else. Oui, c’est vrai: moules frites. For around 18 euros you can have a kilo of moules in your chosen stock – marineres, vin blanc and a l’escargots are amongst the regulars, but there’s also a constantly-evolving list of specials currently featuring moutarde, lardons and feta. If you so desire, you can super-size to 1.5 kilos and enjoy a supplement of cream but you’d need to be a) completely nuts or b) have an obesity-related death wish. But my God, they’re good. And so it’s for the moules, the glorious, never-ending cast iron vats of moules, that I keep returning.
Moules, Glorious Moules.
But, I hear you cry, there are lots of places in Brussels that do mussels. Alongside Jean Claude Van Damme and bureaucratic civil administration it’s probably the city’s greatest claim to fame. What makes this place special? Well, since I moved to Brussels I’ve heard innumerable tales of the damage caused by English-speakers and Eurocrats. All the authenticity has been stripped from the city centre since hoards of tourists, expats and their families descended. Desiring nothing more in the way of a culinary experience than a cone of chips or a defrosted wafﬂe on the journey between Manneken Pis and Grand Place, their arrival has meant the quality of traditional dishes has plummeted.
But La Bonne Humeur? It’s as if the whole place has been instagrammed. The formica tables have been rubbed white in patches by Belgian elbows during the days when fags and food went hand in hand. The owner grins bleary-eyed from behind the counter, offering around ashtrays and shots of limoncello after hours on a Saturday when the doors are safely locked. To weary expat eyes, it’s a glimpse of old Brussels seen through a hazy lomo lens.
So go. GO. Now, before the Eurocrats ﬁnd it. Look out for the giant mussel.
Tempted by this review? Book your table at La Bonne Humeur online now.
Restaurant de la Bonne Humeur
244 Chausee de Louvain,
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