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Where in the World to Eat: Châtelain, Brussels

Where in the World to Eat: Châtelain, Brussels
Châtelain, just south of the city centre in the classy Ixelles district, is Brussels' up-and-coming foodie hotspot. Away from the tourist trap in the Grand' Place, it's where Ixelles locals gather to eat, drink and discuss the latest developments on the somewhat rocky Belgian political scene. Brussels resident and journalist Zoe Casey joins them.
 

The neighbourhood still  buzzes with the creativity first instigated by some of Belgium's finest architects of the early 1900s and leaders of the Art Nouveau movement. Victor Horta and Paul Hankar, who both lived in the area, left their mark on the elegant façades that still line the streets. Look up high and you'll notice the swirling wrought iron balcony railings, plaques inlaid with dreamy patterns and mermaids with flowing hair. Today, Châtelain is peppered with designer boutiques, stylish shoe stores and quirky jewellery shops along the rue du Baili, rue de l'Aqueduc and their offshoots; perfect for a day of browsing in between stops at a whole host of fine eateries. From outdoor evening markets, where you can sup oysters and try new wines at one stall, and sample local cheeses and breads on another, to some of the city's top restaurants and exquisite chocolate shops, the area is a must-visit for travellers looking to delve a little deeper into the culinary quirks and architectural highlights of the Belgian capital.

Oeno Tk wine bar
In the shade of the stunning Eglise de la Trinité is the Oeno Tk wine bar, 29-31 rue Africaine, (02 534 6434; oenotk.be). Decked-out in cork, its walls are adorned with a huge range of wines, including Belgian rhubarb wine and other local varieties, as well as wines from all over Europe. Stop here for a wine-aperitif with Spanish bellota ham and olives to nibble on while catching the last of the evening rays. Oeno Tk's terrace is
Where in the World to Eat: Châtelain, Brussels
Image: Matt Williams
also the perfect spot to marvel at the 17th century church which was once located in the heart of Brussels' old town but moved in 1895 to save it from demolition when the second King of Belgium, Léopold II, decided to modernise the city by constructing huge boulevards.
Oeno Tk wine bar, 29-31 rue Africaine, (02 534 6434; www.oenotk.be).

La Quincaillerie
Once a hardware store designed by Victor Horta in the 1900s, la Quincaillerie, 45 rue du Page (02 533 9833; quincaillerie.be) is an atmospheric restaurant installed between the ranks of wooden draws from the original shop. Here you'll find Belgian cuisine at its best. The Shell fish bar offers the 'plateau Quincaillerie' which overflows with oysters, clams, scallops and winkles. Although pricey, the restaurant is known among locals for its divine confit de cuisse de canard pan-fried in truffle oil.

Raconte moi des salades
Raconte moi des salades, 19 place du Châtelain, (02 534 2777) is another top and lively Châtelain dining spot, with the added advantage of being slightly less hard on the pocket. In the summer, the terraced garden makes a romantic place to try the one of the restaurant's wide range of copious salads. Gourmands should plump for the salade riche, with foie gras, smoked salmon and magret de canard. The salade de thon juste grillé is lighter and bursting with fresh summery flavour.

Wednesday evening street market
As soon as the working day begins to wind-up on a Wednesday, locals and Brussels' markedly European crowd head to the evening street market at Place du Châtelain. Belgian producers gather here to show-off their range of fresh produce including a Wallonian cheese speciality, the fromage de l'Abbaye de Maredsous, organic breads, olives, hams and dried meats. There's also a host of street food stalls offering Italian-style open sandwiches, Thai food and, a Belgian classic, the Liégeois waffle. For shoppers and browsers alike, the champagne stall is an ideal place to soak up the mid-week party atmosphere.

Irsi chocolatier
Any visit to Belgium is incomplete without stepping inside a chocolate shop, and Châtelain is no exception to the city's reputation for producing some of the finest chocolate in the world. Handed down through the family since 1926, Irsi, 15 rue Baili (02 648 7050; irsi-chocolatier.be), is the area's most famous chocolatier. Fresh chocolates filled with crème fraîche are its speciality, ask the owners to talk you through the different flavours including the crunchy délice noix and the velvety ganache chocolat. For the especially sweet tooth, the shop also has a huge range of home-made sweets and marzipans.

Le Salon
For afternoon tea and cake, Le Salon, 5 rue Baili (02 648 6539) offers the most mouth-watering range in Châtelain. Billed as an English tearoom with English cake names to boot, its deserts have a decidedly Belgian taste-twist. The light and airy cheesecake is ideal with a refreshing green jasmine tea, and the rich, spicy carrot cake matches the tisane des petits bonheurs with perfection. If ice-cream is your thing, however, stop just a few doors down at the Glacier framboises dorés, 35 rue du Baili, for a choice of home-made ice creams from the Belgian peculiarity, speculoos, to the intensely fruity prunes rouges.

Where in the World to Eat: Châtelain, Brussels
Image: Matt Williams
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