This blog is a celebration of the wonderful world of vegan cooking. Enjoy!

* The title of this blog refutes the dangerous idea that veganism is a weight-loss diet and that all vegans are skinny. Conversely, being a-not-so-skinny-vegan is also not the same as being overweight or unhealthy. All food intake must be part of a balanced lifestyle.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Vegan Brussels

EDIT: Since I first wrote this blog post quite a few very helpful readers have made some corrections about my impressions of what is and isn't vegan. So make sure you check out the comments section!



Every vegan knows that one of the most difficult things about being a vegan is finding places to eat in a foreign country, especially if the language is not your mother tongue. Happy Cow is my go-to place to find places to eat but it's not always possible and, sometimes, when you do rock up at a restaurant listed as vegan-friendly, you can find yourself lost looking for a restaurant that hasn't existed since 1998 or in front of a waiter who has never heard the word vegan in his/her life.

Luckily my recent trip to Brussels was pretty successful on the food side of things. There's a great vegan restaurant open for lunch right in the centre of the city and a couple of other vegan-friendly hotspots littered around town. Also, Belgium is the chocolate capital of the world so you can get some really great, high-quality, milk/butter-free chocolate. But you need to be careful where you shop.

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Chocolate

To start my little guide to vegan Brussels I'll give some hints about where to find good chocolate that is suitable for vegans.

The wikitravel website recommends Neuhaus and Leonidas on the cheaper but still good quality end of Belgian chocolate but I'm not sure I'd recommend either. Both seem to use butter instead of cocoa butter in most of their dark chocolates. You can get dark chocolate on a stick in Neuhaus that is vegan but that's about it. We also went to two separate stores and the service was friendly but pretty hopeless. Leonidas was very similar but the chocolate was even cheaper so I couldn't find any vegan-friendly options at all.

Galler Chocolatier chocolates can be found in most supermarkets.
It's great quality chocolate but a bit cheaper than the chocolate found in boutiques
(but not lesser quality!).
 I did find vegan friendly options in the local express supermarkets like Carrefour and GB. My particular favourite was Galler whose Noisettes chocolate (hazelnuts in cocoa butter and surrounded by dark chocolate) was absolutely delicious. It's definitely more expensive than chocolate you'd buy in the supermarket at home but it's still a lot cheaper than what was being sold in the 'boutiques'. I also saw Galler chocolate being sold in many of the chocolate shops that have a mix of brands. Just be careful to check out the ingredients (helpfully in English as well as Dutch and French) because some of the dark chocolates have cream in their centres.

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Frites


 The frites (fries/fried potato chips) in Belgium are supposed to be the best. The secret, apparently, is that they double fry them so the chips are crispy and golden. There are many places to pick them up around the city (you can see Wikitravel's recommendations here) but you shouldn't pay any more than about 3 euros for a large cone including a sauce.

One of the great things about the frites in Belgium is the huge range of sauces available for them. Unfortunately, most are not vegan so you might just have to stick with ketchup or, like me, without any sauce at all. You also need to be careful that the store you go to uses vegetable fat to fry the chips in. A quick Google search should help you out.

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Den Teepot
Rue des Chartreux 66, Brussels
Open: Mon-Sat 12pm-12pm

Den Teepot is the only vegan restaurant in Brussels.
This is Brussels only vegan restaurant and is, unfortunately, only open for lunch Mon-Sat 12pm-2pm. The menu is very simple but this means the food comes out very quickly but is beautifully presented, fresh and very tasty!

There are two soups available (a miso or a vegetable soup) as a starter and then you choose one of four options for your main. These options are actually all very similar with only slight additions as they go up in price. Dish A is a brown rice and vegetable dish (it sounds basic but it tastes brilliant!) for 9 euros. Dish B is Dish A plus a croquette of brown rice, quinoa, potato and herbs (11 euros). Dish B is Dish A plus seitan (11 euros). Dish D is Dish A with the croquette and the seitan (13 euros). There is then also a selection of cakes (not on a menu but rather delicately laid out on a cake dish and brought to you for your selection) and herbal teas, if you are still hungry.

The vegetable, brown rice and croquette dish (Dish B) at Den Teepot.
The flavours and textures on the plate are magnificent!
Even though the dish looks very simple it is packed with individual flavours and is really quite filling. We both had Dish B and were surprisingly full after the meal despite the fact that we were ravenous before.

The only complaint I'd have is that we were not offered any water and the food is quite salty. It's also not easy to find the restaurant (it's upstairs to an organic food store; just head through the wooden door as soon as you walk in to the shop's front door). However, the waitress was lovely (and spoke Dutch, French and English) and the food was really delicious so I would highly recommend a visit!

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Mr Falafel  
53 Bd Lemonnier, Brussels
Open: Daily 12pm-midnight
The very petite Mr Falafel has tasty and inexpensive
vegetarian food.
Mr Falafel is a very tiny falafel snackbar between the two exits of the Anneessens tram/metro stop or about a 10 minute slow stroll from the Grand Place so it's very convenient to get to. It's not exactly in the most spectacular part of Brussels (there seem to be no women on the streets after 8pm at all) but it's one of the only places in town that is 100% vegetarian and it's extremely cheap. It's 3 euros for a pita with hummus and 4 falafels and you then help yourself to quite a big range of salad and sauces to stuff your pita with. Not all of the salads are vegan but I just avoided the ones that looked like they had cream in them (I'm not sure if the lovely lady behind the counter speaks French or English because our total transaction was done with smiles and gestures so I didn't get to ask about the salads so just took the ones without sauces).

A falafel from Mr Falafel: pita filled with hummus and falafel that you then
stuff with your own choice of salad from the salad bar.
There are a few tables and chairs in the tiny space but you might end up sharing a table because it's a popular spot! If you are after yummy, cheap vegetarian food then this is the place to go!

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Le Pain Quotidien
Several locations, see website for map.
Le Pain Quotidien, Rue des Sablon
 Le Pain Quotidien is actually a chain of bakeries found all around the world, including Australia and the UK, but the majority are in Belgium, where the chain started. It is quite a pricey bakery/cafe/restaurant but their goods are quite yummy and the service is quite pleasant. We visited the same store (Rue des Sablons 11) twice because it was situated across from the very beautiful Notre Dame du Sablon and about 200 metres from the the Magritte Museum, Fine Arts Museum and the palaces.

The organic (bio) muffin at Le Pain Quotidien is vegan and delicious!
The vegan options are clearly labelled VEGAN on the menu (if you are eating in) or the price list (if you take away). The take away prices are much less than the eat-in prices, even for the same items. On both occassions I had the organic vegan muffin (one was blueberry and the other apple). The cafe has a pleasant, shared oval table as well as some more formal, smaller restaurant-like tables in the back but I would recommend skipping the extra costs involved with dining in, grabbing your muffin and taking it to the Place du Petit Sablon, across the road, to eat it in the park.

If you happen to take a day trip to Bruges (which I would highly recommend, but pack a raincoat!) there is also a store there.

Take your vegan muffin across to the lovely Place du Petit Sablon.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for this post. I've been thinking about going to Brussels again and haven't been since I became vegan. Will bookmark this.

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  2. Hello! I am vegetarian and i leave in brussels. you need to know that most of the fries that are sold in "fritkots" in brussels are fried in horse's fat or beef's fat, so not vegan at all! :(

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  3. Hi. I live in Belgium and I just wanted to point out that this other person was right about the fries. We have a "vegetarian" organization in our country (EVA) and they list vegetarian/vegan restaurants etc. (including places that sell fries) Problem is, they are not reliable. I went to the 5 fries places in my city they listed as using vegetable fat, and all of them told me they used animal fat when I asked them in person. Same problem with restaurants they list - usually they are not vegetarian restaurants at all, this organization just uses the absolute minimum criteria to determine whether something is veggie or not (which of course is very unrealistic for most vegetarians/vegans). Some of these people running restaurants on their list don't even speak/understand our language, how would they possibly know what was asked them.

    Also, if I remember right, there is something not vegan about that Galler Noisettes chocolate. I think it's the "vanilla" they use. Any vanilla that is not listed as extract may not be vanilla at all, or not completely. As I don't eat it, I suppose this may be the case. It may thus be from animal origin. Yep, we have sucky laws when it comes to food labeling.

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  4. Hi! I am going to Belgium next month and this post is very useful for me!! Thanks for the information ;) I am going to read some other posts, I like your blog!
    I also have a vegan blog (in spanish): quinoawakame.blogspot.com
    See you!!

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  5. Indeed, unfortunately belgian fries are most often baked in animal fat (ox fat) :-(
    If you ever come to Belgium again, check out our lists of restaurants that serve vegan!
    greets from Bruges (only 40km from Ghent!) :-)

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  6. Hey, a thing I do for my fries is go to the hallal kebabs. The fries are often not as good as from a real "frituur", but I have never discovered one that was using animal fat. :)

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  7. You given some valuable tips in your article. I'm very much impressed with your post.

    kimera

    ReplyDelete