A lot of people will say Brussels is a extremely boring place where there isn’t a lot to do. A good number of those complainers, though, will agree that it is a place where you can eat well.
I agree that there are a lot of good restaurants in the city. We need to take in consideration that the population of the capital of Belgium is made up of over 40% of foreigners. This means that the little Italian restaurant will be ran by a Neapolitan family, the kebab shop will be as good as in Istanbul or even the local Brazilian churrascaria will serve the correct meat.
Last night I was having a sniff at the Tripadvisor site for the city and had a look at the ratings of the joints near the rue des Bouchers – I was impressed by what I read.
For all the nice places in Brussels there is an area that will unite restaurants in mediocrity. The rue des Bouchers is a pretty little narrow cobbled street filled with more than 30 restaurants. The setting is very nice – the establishments will have seats in the street, display their fresh catch of the day and propose menus in all the languages of the universe.
When you walk along the rue des Bouchers, the first thing you will notice is that all the restaurants will have taunts trying to get your business. I have a rule, that I apply anywhere in the world, which is never to eat in a place that needs to have a salesperson convincing you to have a seat. Most of the eateries display the deal of the day proposing an affordable 2 or 3 course menu (15 to 25 euro).
I always knew that you should not eat in the area, but the stories I read in the Tripadvisor reviews were shocking. First there are a lot of negative opinions about the quality of the food. Then there are the complaints about the bait and switch scams where the menu is no longer available or must be accompanied by a 100 euro bottle of wine to be valid. Some other reviews will mention menus without prices and two course dinners reaching amounts of 300 euro.
I think the two exceptions that must be cited in the rue des Bouchers are the Chéz Leon and the Aux Armes des Bruxelles. The first is not brilliant, but at least will not scam you. I have never tried the second, but it is one of the most traditional restaurants of the capital (quite expensive also).
Most cities in the world will have these tourist trap areas. Luckily, with the advent of the Internet,you can read about these areas before your trip. They still exist because they prey on people that will over value the view or the setting above the service or the food. On a Saturday evening, a lot of restaurants in the rue de Bouchers will be packed by tourists throwing away money on crappy meals. But we all know that most people have more money than sense… or knowledge.