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Cafes and Jazz in Brussels

It's a fact I noticed that the grain of madness in Brussels was best fed in the fertile grounds of the bars, clubs, cafes and nightlife. As they say :"you name it, you got it!". You have it all, of all forms, sizes, all deliriums express themselves in Brussels. Nevertheless the night life is more restricted to bars. Over the "estaminet" Brussels has nothing really delirious, especially comparing to Ghent, Antwerp and Liege who dethrone it largely due to their good student ambience.And more, as the week-end is there, the European techno-bureaucrates and local students flee to the country or sea side. It's worse in summer. All authenticity vanishes and leaves room for the tourists. Nevertheless I prepared you a little mixed tour of different Brussels follies. There are others of course, that you will discover by yourself, like big boys;-)


A LA BECASSE, rue Tabora 11Open until 1.00 AM (2.00 AM Friday and Saturday). A popular and joyful "troquet", rustic and rural, centennial and well alive, where the "Lambic doux", la "blanche de Bruxelles", and the "gueuze caveau" which goes with a savory"tartine de tete pressee" or cheese. The customers will look upon you with sympathetic curiosity, wondering how you discovered the typical prototype of the Brussels "estaminet". It's an excellent bar for the late-sleepers or not sleepers at all.

LE PERROQUET, rue Watteau tel 5115790. In the heart of the Sablons antiques area, just at the border of the Marolles. I wouldn’t have listed this café here if it wasn’t for its beautiful Art Nouveau decor  where all the favorite materials of this architectural art are assembled. Iron, glass, ceramics are living together without any jealousy;-). Small terrace in the sunny days to have a drink and swallow quickly some copious pitas.

A L'IMAGE DE NOTRE DAME, impasse des Cadeaux  3 Near the rue de Marche-aux-Herbes, open from 12.00 to 1.00 or 2.00 AM, depending on the clientele. I had to explore very seriously this neighborhood to find by chance this old troquet at the bottom end of an alley. Convivial, without doing "too much", a lot of tourists never find the place, so much the better. A peaceful halt to dip your lips in an abbey beer, looking from the glass stained windows to the tin pitchers, from the tin pitchers to the heavy beams....

DE ULTIEME HALLUCINATE, Rue Royale 316, Tel 02/217.06.14 Seasons and Art Nouveau specialty cafe north of city-centre near (north of) the Botanical Gardens. Beers are presented on individual serving trays, in their own unique glass, and with little cups of roasted nuts on the side. Don’t try the restaurant, very expensive. Very Flemish atmosphere. Nothing extraordinary but the Art nouveau décor is so pure.

CHEZ RICHARD, rue des Minimes 2 At the corner of the place du Grand Sablon. Open from 7.00 PM to....the last client leaves. The good old Brussels troquet, packed with usual customers. The place is especially filled with the antique dealers invading the place du Sablon every Sunday

GOUPIL LE FOL, rue de la Violette 22 "The estaminet of your dreams to have a quiet conversation , by listening to the good French chanson" says the publicity about this troquet. If its' not Trenet, it's Brel or Piaf on the gramophone. The prefect place for conversations at random, conversations for the middle of the night....

LA FLEUR EN PAPIER DORE, 5 Rue des Alexiens tel 02/511.16.59 This one dates back to 1846, so historical is probably the appropriate adjective here. Good variety of beers, lots of art 'n' things the walls. Artists, painters, writers used to come here at the beginning of the century

Located in a historical location "De Weegschaal". This is a genuine, original café-brewery, serving only three self brewed beers, a white beer, an ale and a special Grand Place. Several types of mugs: 0.25 cl, 0.50 cl, a pitcher of 1.3 liters and a beer colmun of 2.5 liters!!where you can tap yourself your beer out of a small barrel. The decor is magnificent, the drinking rooms are scattered along the brewery machines, three stories high. A lot of brass, all looking new.(courtesy of  OBER  )

A LA MORT SUBITE, 7 rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potageres tel 02/5131318. Open every day 10.00-1.00 AM.  The café owes its morbid name ("Sudden Death") to a dice-game, played by the regulars at the beginning of the 20th century.  Originally, the owner of the café bought barrels of lambic at gueuzebrewery "De Keersmaker" from Kobbegem and blended his own gueuze. When the café was overtaken by the brewery in 1970, the blending moved  to Kobbegem and the brewery started using the name "Mort Subite" for its Gueuze, kriek, faro, and a whole range of fruitbeers that complete the list.This café also serves the white Lambic Mort Subite: a unique opportunity! The lambic, geuze, kriek, Leffe and Trappist that are served, still attract the customary clients, just a little deranged from time to time by a few lost tourists. To keep your beer company you can eat sandwiches and omelets. On the door, a panel: “The house is not responsible for the damages that would be caused by its cat!”. That’s Belgium! Humor and derision. (courtesy of OBER)

MOEDER LAMBIC, rue de Savoie 68, just next to the maison communale of Saint-Gilles. A place, a temple, a spot not like the others. To put in the tierce of the estaminets of the city. Minuscule and hot as a cocotte-minute, full of vibrations and usual customers. More than 1000 ( THOUSAND!) different beers in stock, no comment. It's quite simple, they serve you "all the Belgian existing beers", dixit the waiter. Around gross wooden tables, young sympathetic loudmouths you can easily make acquaintance with. An authentic spot, I tell you! Long life to Moeder Lambic!

L'ARCHIDUC, rue Antoine Dansaert 6 It's of course when night set in that you embark in this Art Deco ship, who navigates its soul along the rue Dansaert since 1937.You have the blues, an evening to finish? On the upper deck, you let yourself impregnate by quite jazz, a glass of juniper or Fernet Branca, observing the clientele well over thirty.

H2O, rue du marche-au-Charbon 27 Intimate bar with heavy hangings and vague astrologico-Atlantide. Perfect for a sweet cooing between 4 eyeballs, encouraged by a profusion of candles and a restful classical music. You can temper a little hunger tagliatelles, salads and cocktails as a prelude to a more elaborated alchemy....

LE SUD, rue de l'Ecuyer 43. Near the place de la Monnaie. A building looking like an old squat, a big sun over the entrance door, Cool reception comity where you pay a small fee to member of hell knows what, and at the end of an alley you penetrate in the Saint of the Saints: brute decor, recovery furnishing, studied destroy-dirty look, you are trampling peanut shells. Plenty of Arab advertising posters in coming directly from the Cairo souks; Moroccan lanterns and candles. Very mixed public: grunge and forty years old coming to lurk the grungettes who undulate in the back dance hall, on a skilful cocktail of soul-jazz-funky-swing. Live concerts on Thursday from 9.00 PM on and glauceous annex called CLO-CLO CLUB for dancing on Saturday. Specialty: lemon-vodka, you can sip from the bottle.

LOP LOP CAFE , 29 rue de l'Ecuyer near the place de la Monnaie. It's a tavern draining a young clientele, especially on Friday and Saturday evening when rock and jazz groups are performing. It's so packed that the clients overflow into the street in a disheveled but convivial ambience.

L'ORANGE BLEUE, rue Antoine Dansaert 29 Evening bar , precious, refined, baroque and intimate, a bar in the semi-darkness, a landmark of the Brussels nights. Come very late, at the end of the night.

LE ZEBU, rue de Flandre 50 There is a straw of psychedelic-revival in this cocktail and tapas bar, held by a very sympathetic Frenchman, Hugues. His staggered Zebu stuns by a decor in constant evolution: ethno-exotico-trendy with a little dada-kitsch delirium. Young artists exhibitions, kung-fu movies, Christmas brats, world-music coming out of a jungle and astonishing cocktail mixtures which doesn't leave you liver untouched...

PLANET CAIRE, rue de l'Hopital 29 Small entrance fee. Between the Grand Place and the Sablon. A really not spectacular entrance (display window of an old and empty shop), sympathetic control. It's a night bar  with acid-jazz, funk, hip-hop and dance. Cool ambience, rather young and homogeneous public. Inviting chairs? Everybody looks happy to be there, as well the clients, the waiters and the DJ's. Beers and booze for very democratic prices.

The following bars are best to go when there are no special music evenings. Their essence is before all musical and it’s on these nights that you can feel  the best vibrations. Yeah man!!

LE TRAVERS, rue Traversiere 11 If I had to mention only one jazz establishment in Brussels it would be inevitably that one. The best music played continuously ever night. Unavoidable and always at the top.

LE GRAIN D'ORGE, chaussee de Wavre 142 at Ixelles. It calls itself the "Bistrock". A corridor, ridiculously small, it receives nevertheless every Friday night excellent rock and blues assimilated groups. A strong place , musically talking, in Brussels who doesn't look that way. Packed with fake Hells wearing their gaudy rings and flourished beards. Free entrance and paying drinks;-)Happy hour form 7.00PM to 8.00 PM.

CHEZ LAGAFFE, 4-6 quartier des Marolles. Tuesday and Saturday from 9.00 PM to 00.30 AM for jazz groups, the other night it's piano-bar. You can eat also, though the food doesn't exactly is the best I ever ate . But people come here for the music.

BREWERY/MUSEUM (in Belgian: Musee Bruxellois de la Gueuze ASBL) 70 france for a tour of the worlds only Gueuze museum! Open Saturdays 11am - 3:30PM mid-October to June. Call to reserve a place in the tour. Vandenstock (owned by Interbrew) - Rue Delaunoy, 02/522.19.35) is open to the public.