The world seems to be on a nostalgia kick lately, from TV to fashion to music. A recent Vanity Fair article criticizes society for this lazy cultural phenomenon, but like the masses, I’m enjoying a little throw back to the past. And it’s no different with cuisine in Belgium.
Last Saturday night the husband and I joined friends for dinner at Les Fils à Maman near Place Chatelain, a perfect example of nostalgic love. Opened about a year ago, this restaurant is actually a copy of one in Paris but so comfortable and good I don’t care. The name roughly translates to “mama’s boy”, appropriate for a restaurant that is designed around food your (Belgian) mother would have made for you as a kid. I’m not sure everything on the menu quite fits that description, but a cute idea nonetheless.
The décor is a hodgepodge of childhood relics, with old comic book covers, toys and posters covering the walls. You can even find the odd Pez dispenser, radio and children’s book lying about. And if that weren’t enough to send you back in time, the toilets are plastered with old photos of the young owners with their family and friends.
The theme continues with the cleverly designed menu, which looks like a school notebook, multiplication tables and all. Choices include some true comfort food such as a cheeseburger, cocotte du chef (casserole) and poisson pané maison (grownup fish fingers). We had heard that the portions were very generous so we mutually decided to skip having starters to make sure to leave room for dessert.
Most of the group went for meat – entrecôte, onglet a l’échalote or the cheeseburger – but I decided on the chicken (served with fois gras and Calvados-soaked apples) and was not disappointed. My dinner mates were kind enough to let me sample their dishes as well. The cheeseburger ranks among the best in Brussels and the steak and its huge side of crispy, thin fries was perfection. All main dishes are reasonably priced between €15-20.
The dessert options are meant to remind you of your youth and as a result are a little unusual. The table had some difficulty choosing between the banana and Toblerone milkshake, fondant au Crunch and crème brulee au Carambar. All were good but I recommend going for the K’fé gourmand (3 mini-desserts and a coffee) to sample a few. Plus the bill even comes with a jar of sweets to enjoy at the end of the meal.
The restaurant is run by four friends – Nicolas, Audrey, Giuliano and Lorenzo – who wanted to return to the kitchen of their youth. They even have their own mothers cook a meal once a month! The whole place has a warm and fuzzy feeling about it, with a relaxed atmosphere and service but top-quality food. With a decent cocktail menu (a bit unusual for Brussels), it makes for a good place to go with a group of friends. I saw that they serve Sunday brunch for €22 which would definitely be worth a trip back.
29 Rue Fourmois, 1050 Ixelles (corner with Rue de Page)
Tel: +32 2 534 56 26
Open: Monday to Sunday, 12-2:30pm and 7-11pm, except Saturday lunch and Sunday evening
Images via City Plug and Les Fils a Maman.