I’m not a very spontaneous person, but when I saw a deal on the Eurostar website - a night in a 4* hotel in and a return train journey from London giving you a full 24 hours in Brussels for only £120 – I just couldn’t resist! I’m a total sucker for a good bargain, and when I realised that had I booked this train and hotel separately (rather than together as a package) it would have cost about £400 (!) I was firmly sold – and rather smug.
How exciting and sophisticated to just ‘nip’ over to BRUSSELS on the glamorous Eurostar! After all the train journey itself is only two short hours, I had never been before and thought I should jolly well seize the opportunity.
Of course Brussels is bursting with wonderful museums and art galleries, monuments and incredible wonders, and 24 hours is certainly not sufficient time to see all of them. But this - being a food blog – is about that cultural aspect and what a miraculous window it is onto a culture.
One of the positive outcomes of having such irritating dietary requirements is that it actually opens up a whole avenue of delicious un-stereotypical food adventures. I went to Brussels and had delicious Belgian food, yet didn’t have any sausage, potatoes or beer! Although I did have a waffle that was AMAZING – a gluten-free and vegan one no less which was as delicious as the real thing - if not better - from a sweet little place right next to the Grand-Place called VeganWaf.
Anyone who has been to Brussels has almost certainly returned home a firm chocoholic. I had never seen so many exquisite boutique chocolatiers in one place in my life – from those more commercial brands like Guylain, Leonidas and Godiva, to the more exclusive ones such as Mary, Corné Port Royal, Bruyerre and Neuhaus (the inventor of the praline), to those I had never heard of such as Frederic Blondeel, Laurent Gerbaud, Elisabeth (incidentally the wife of Frederic B.) and Maison Renardy. These last three became my favourites – Laurent Gerbaud and Maison Renardy for their hot chocolates and free chocolate samples (ginger truffles!) and Elisabeth because the lady working there gave me so much dark chocolate bursting with toasted almonds to sample I was almost embarrassed!
I was completely overwhelmed walking through the sun-speckled, exquisite Victorian-era galleries with floor-to-ceiling windows full of truffles, bonbons, macarons dipped in chocolate (oh yes), giant slabs and sculptures, fountains of molten chocolate lava just asking to be sipped. Where does one even begin when faced with such incredible choice?!
The hot chocolate at Laurent Gerbaud was pure heaven – and for 4 euros you could choose a chocolate to go with it. I loved that crippling decision of which to try – and really appreciated how they had a whole section that was labelled vegan i.e. extra dark! My discovery of Maison Renardy was especially amazing – made all the more wondrous by the fact that it was off the beaten track in a district called Ixelles, away from the tourists and only cost 2.90 euros! And the best part was that these hot chocolates were either already dairy-free or could be lovingly made with plant milks, and it just was the easiest thing in the world to ask for that option. This was almost too much deliciousness to handle…
But enough about the chocolate! Brussels was also filled with healthy eateries serving gluten-free, dairy-free and vegan delights. As mentioned earlier, I had the most fabulous vegan and gluten-free waffle from VeganWaf, dripping with maple syrup, which sank into the hot soft dough…
So if you’re going to Brussels and fancy something different, or just need a healthier more cleansing pause from your sausage and beer escapades, I’ve listed below my top picks in the city for guaranteed delicious gluten-free, vegan food:
VeganWaf is jewel to be discovered, nestled in between stores selling crappy tourist merchandise about 10 metres from the Grand-Place. These guys have nailed the vegan & gluten-free waffle: they use rice flour in their batter and it’s completely delicious – and you can even get a scoop of vegan ice cream to go on top.
THE place for both sweet and savoury waffles (made with banana and rice flour) and also tons of other wonderful plant-based treats such as raw cakes, smoothie bowls etc. Everything is vegan and most menu items are also gluten-free, and they’re located just 20 metres from the Grand-Place. The owner Emma is also completely lovely!
A bohemian and earthy café near the main Flea market. Everything is vegan, but limited in terms of gluten-free options – although it does have free Wi-Fi.
A great pit stop on your way into town from the station which serves some vegan and gluten-free cakes and also dairy-free milk options to pair with their delicious coffees.
This is beautiful light and gorgeously decorated café and restaurant has a few locations across the city – perhaps the most welcoming being the one, which is 100 yards from the major museums. They offer lots of vegan and gluten-free options and everything is on the menu is wholesome and healthy-ish. Check out their cool quirky products, events and even ‘Le Brunch Club’.
A stone’s throw from Brussels’ central station, this unassuming little café serves lactose-free and vegan arepas to die for. Arepas are basically baps made from corn flour, originally from Venezuela, and thus are effortlessly gluten-free. I realise it’s a bit random to eat Venezuelan food in Belgium, but their hot and crispy arepas filled with colourful veggies and lactose-free melted cheese are definitely worth trying!
This is a chain of healthy self-serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea places and is a reliable place for organic, wholesome food – again with lots of vegan and gluten free options. The format is like a very upmarket canteen and they do great breakfast formulas, the coffee is delicious and they even give you free chocolates infused with carrot oil – an obvious theme given the carrot in place of the ‘i’ on their logo.
A delicious build-your-own hearty salad and granola bowl place with tons of vegan and gluten-free ‘superfood’ options; they also have great smoothies, yogurts and snacks too. There’s even one in Brussels Midi Train Station so you can pick up a bowl of goodness for your journey home on the Eurostar.
This trendy cafe range of classic and vegan brunch options, and it’s right in the very centre of the city. A might seem a bit expensive and more of a place for your IG feed, but it’s definitely the place to go when you need a matcha or charcoal latte fix!
With multiple locations throughout the city, online ordering and actually pretty reasonable prices, this is the place to satisfying your juice cravings. I definitely recommend trying all their green smoothies and juices!
These guys are very environment conscious and now use all compostable straws and cups for their drinks. They have a smaller menu but you can add booster ingredients such as acai, aloe vera and turmeric, and their also very reasonably priced (cheaper than Bon) as a large smoothie of 55cl is only 4.90 euros.
These guys make delicious smoothies and juices and don’t hold back on the avocado – always a great sign! Try their avocado sunrise smoothie with avo, lime and pineapple or you fancy something warming and restorative, their Hot Joe (made with apply juice, cayenne pepper, ginger, honey and cinnamon) really hits the spot.
Until next time, Bruxelles - merci infiniment!