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  • Writer's pictureNini

Brussels & London 2023

Hello! I am coming back to this blog after a long time. The expectation I gave myself of trying to write at least once a month was clearly a bit too high. Life happens, and you know that’s okay, but to be honest, for a long time, I had no idea what to write about. I haven’t been experimenting or learning in the kitchen for a while, either due to the lack of time or simply not documenting what I was cooking because I’m constantly creating content for my other work. I wanted to just focus on the craft of what I was making, whether it be bread, cake, or a new recipe from one of my many cookbooks. Providing, in the next few months, that I can give myself more time, my aim is to start cooking and baking and enjoy being in the kitchen and documenting the process.

Today I will not talk about what I made but what I ate. At the end of May this year for two weeks, I went to London and Brussels to spend time with loved ones. It was a wonderful time when I got to reconnect with old friends and had time to enjoy the food scene. London is one of those cities that, no matter which borough you are in, has a variety of restaurants from all different cuisines that are unique. I will say eating out in London can be pricey, but there are places where one can enjoy a lovely meal at half the cost. Unfortunately, I did not go to those places. I need to explore more of the TikTok Food scene in London to discover those hidden gems. Before diving into the food experience in London, let me first share my experience in Belgium with you.

Belgium is one of the small countries in Europe, and I can say how easy it was to get there via the Eurostar. Brussels was a trip where my sister and brother-in-law treated me for my 30th birthday. It was my first time in the country, and all I knew about it was that it was famous for its chocolates, waffles, and beer. As a person who enjoys eating anything sweet, I was extremely excited. As we walked from the Eurostar to our Airbnb in the center of Brussels, our first stop was the famous Manneken Pis, which is the city's most visited attraction. The statue, depicting a small boy urinating into a fountain of water, has stood there since approximately 1618. To be honest, the statue itself was a bit underwhelming. I thought it would be slightly bigger; however, the height is genuinely that of a young boy. As the crowds gathered around Mannekin Pis, you could look around and see multiple chocolatiers and waffle shops. I recently came across an interesting discovery that brought a smile to my face. Right across from the iconic Manneken Pis, a Waffle House was offering unique treats: chocolate-covered waffles in male and female genitalia adorned with colorful sprinkles. I presume that Mannekin Pis was the muse. As we walked our way to the main square in Brussels, I was mesmerized by the beauty of its architecture. The craftsmanship going into each pillar and statue is remarkable. I do have admiration for old buildings; you can really see the history and craftsmanship in them.

Brussels is an interesting place; the capital is quite small, and we were able to explore the city within a day. It was beautiful to see, as it was the late days of spring, the weather was beautiful, and you could see the city was alive; people enjoyed the comforts of the park, the bars with outside seating, and of course, the sunshine! During the long weekend escapade, we planned to see our family friends and explore the cities, including Brussels and Bruges. To understand and see what there is in Bruges, all you have to do is watch the classic “In Bruges” starring Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson. Not only is the movie a classic dark comedy, but you also see the beauty of Bruges. However, being in the city was much more mesmerizing than the movie. When visiting Belgium, I aimed to try as many Belgian delicacies as possible, and I did. I consumed delicious cheese croquettes, asperges à la flamande (white asparagus, boiled egg, and salmon), and carbonnades flamandes.

One thing I definitely recommend everyone to have while in Belgium is Frites (Belgian French Fries, with mayo), *which honestly is the best snack in the world. I mean, potatoes, in general, are just great vegetables, but the way Belgium makes these fries, the potato is crispy and fluffy. Just pure fatty goodness. Another delicacy is the Belgian waffle; I mean, I would be an idiot not to have one.

In Belgium, there are thousands of places where one can get waffles; every other store or café sells them. You can see in many places; some have bombarded the waffles with chocolate, sprinkles, and fruits. However, those didn’t seem too appetizing to me. During our walk into the city, we came across the Royal Galeries of Saint-Hubert and found Gaufres and Waffles. Now this seems to be popular for locals and tourists alike. The menu had a mixture of sweet and savory options, and the flavor options were more creative and gastronomical. For example, one savory waffle is “Gaufre & Duck + Foie Gras.” I will say that due to the menu and gastronomical flavors that it offers, it may be a bit pricier than the other waffle places in the city. You can check out their website here. However, my sister and I went traditional and ordered one with chocolate syrup and one with icing sugar. I’ll say this: the only time I will have a waffle will be if I am in Belgium because it was so light and fluffy and not that sugary. Over the years, I have reduced my sugar intake and don’t appreciate cakes or sweet things with too much sugar. I can go on about the chocolate that is available in Belgium, but just know that no matter which chocolate shop you enter, you will come out with chocolate gold. I still have a jar of chocolate praline and don’t want to open it because I know soon it will be gone. One thing I do appreciate, especially in Europe, is the portion sizes. Meals may be a bit on the high side; however, I find that it does equal the portion you receive. Besides the food, another must-do in Belgium is enjoying tasting and drinking the beer – a fan favorite for tourists is heading to Delirium Tremens. The décor is great, and the selection of beers was plenty. I believe there's still so much more to explore in Belgium, with its food scene, especially in its other cities. Hopefully, in the future, I'll have the chance to visit them.

London is always fun to explore the food scene! The city is so big that there is bound to be a restaurant that has been there for years and years, but then it's new to you as it’s the first time you try it. This time around, I tried a delicious Korean BBQ with a friend near Oxford Street, and then on another day near Covent Garden, enjoyed some noodles and dumplings at this small Chinese place. One place I do really enjoy going in London is Borough Market. Every time I visit, I find there is something new! It was nice to go with my sister as being a Londoner, she now knows the best places to buy and eat there. So, we came with empty stomachs and decided on having a starter, main, and dessert. We first started with having a margarita and tacos from Padre – which were heavenly – could have had another two but saving pennies for our other treats. Unfortunately, we were not too happy with our “mains” we had ordered because for the price we paid for them, it was extremely little to share, even though we asked if it would be enough. I can't remember the name of the place where we had it. Then for dessert, we enjoyed sharing a Knafeh from Arabica Bar and Kitchen; for a chilly day, this cheesy dessert is just what you need. After we ate at Borough Market, I like to explore the produce section, and for those who enjoy cooking and using lots of spices, one place I would recommend you go is Spice Mountain – they have spices from around the globe. Besides Borough Market, what I enjoyed this time around in London was eating at the restaurant Carmel.

My sister and brother-in-law treated me to a meal there, and honestly, I was taken into another dimension. The food was spectacular. The simplicity of the meals, but the powerful flavor combinations were unbelievable. The menu takes inspiration from cuisines across the Eastern Mediterranean. We first started with a traditional flatbread of Za’atar, Tahina, and Fermented Chili, then the courgette Tzatziki, Fried Aubergine, Lamb Shank Shawarma and ended the meal with the apricot sorbet and a dessert which was a special at the time of raspberry ice cream with meringue and Chantilly cream. Each dish was sublime, but I could have easily enjoyed another portion of the lamb shank and the raspberry meringue.

Europe's culinary landscape is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered, with each region spotlighting unique spices, herbs, fruits, or vegetables that define its essence. Here's to the hope that I can embark on this culinary exploration soon. Until our next adventure!

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