“Hi, I’m Kaja, I’m German and I like bread“. At least that’s the cliché and I am definitely meeting it. Living a year in Paris didn’t change this situation, it made it even worse. A dinner without a piece of baguette or nice piece of bread?! Impossible!
What I’ve learned while visiting some of the bakeries is that Belgian people have quite different requirements when it comes to bread. What they categorize as “good bread and baguette” is not necessarily what French people would approve (or me). Apparently sourdough is not super welcomed and neither is a too crispy and hard crust with a gooey and elastic inside. Many like their bread pre-cut, which is not possible with all breads because then they’ll stick together or get dry quite fast.
Therefore, while I’m living in Brussels the following 5 bakeries are my trusted ones so far. I like my bread just as those ones bake it – crispy outside and perfect, not too soft but rather gooey and elastic on the inside.
1. La Fleur du Pain
Located right next to Place Flagey, you´ll spot this little bakery easily on a Saturday morning – the line of people waiting to grab one of the delicious baguettes, brioches or savoury treats is unmissable. The French baking chef Laurent Richard is in Brussels since 1990 already, bringing the best of French baking to the European capital. The bakery on Flagey, however, opened quite recently. I tried a very nice olive focaccia, their baguette and another savoury pastry with goat cheese and ham and to be very honest, I would´ve liked to buy much more. Their chouquettes looked as if they were very keen on being dipped in my morning coffee, while their shiny chocolate bun (nope, I don´t mean Pain au Chocolat) reminded me a lot of the ones I used to eat in Paris; cut in half with soft, salted butter on top. They also have a choice of breads made from different flours such as rye or spelt, different sorts of baguette, éclairs, fancy little cakes and much more you should discover.
Price Range: Baguette around 2€, breads 2-5€
Good to know: Place Eugène Flagey 24, 1050 Ixelles, Website: Lafleurdupain.com
2. Boulangerie Gâteau
The simple yet nice logo on the big window facing the street, next to the entrance door says it all: Gâteau. Cake, that’s what you’ll get. But not only. They sell perfect baguette, croissants and all the other things a good bakery should have. The French baker Baptiste is happy to tell you his stories about bread and to introduce you into the secrets about good baking. When you enter the boulangerie-pâtisserie you’ll be greeted by a large black cupboard with a selection of different breads (with grains, nuts, dried fruit and made from sourdough and spelt, rye, wheat or other flours) and of course – baguette, either the tradition or the longer version of it, the Ficelle. The black-copper lamps put the perfect spot on the pastries and yes, this is another place where making a choice is not easy.
But I had to make one. The pain au chocolat was exceptional; all buttery, very crispy and the chocolate inside was delicious. I think I have found a new favourite spot for the little chocolate pastry in Brussels. The baguette reminded me of France; all gooey and elastic inside and super crispy from the outside. The Scandinavia bread I tried, made from rye and spelt and wheat flour with apricots and cranberries reminded me a lot of the breads I use to buy when I am in Germany and it was equally delicious. Last but not least, the cherry on top, the éclair with a vanilla filling and chocolate glazing. To be honest, there is no words to describe that one, go and try yourself!
Be aware that on weekends lines become long and bread disappears quickly. So either be early, or tell the nice people at Gâteau what you want them to “save” for your.
Price Range: Baguette artisanale 1,70€, pain au chocolat 1,30€, breads 3-5€
Good to know: Rue des Boers 7, 1040 Etterbeek, Website: gateau.brussels
3. Boulangerie Charli
Don´t expect to leave this bakery after a few minutes. The huge variety of freshly baked breads made from all kinds of flours and containing all sorts of grains, fruits and nuts, makes it rather hard to decide for one. Buy them all?! Logistically a bit hard, although I would love to do that. So one day, i walked in, determined and decided what I´ll order and went for their Tarte Tatin and a Cappuccino, sat down and spent the next 10 minutes or so in heaven. The apples were soft, almost falling apart, caramelized but not too sweet and the bottom was buttery, crumbly and delicious. I just HAD to buy a bread for home and decided for a rye sourdough one. I also tried their brioche, which was very fresh and fluffy even a day later
They have two places, directly on the opposite of each other, one focussed on sweet the other one on salty things. If you’re interested you can peak into their kitchen, where all the magic is happening.
Price Range: piece of cake 3-5€, Brioche 3,5€, bread 3-5€
Good to know: Rue Sainte-Catherine 34, 1000 Bruxelles, Website: charliboulangerie.com
4. Renard Bakery
It´s hard to pass this place without recognising it, let alone entering. Their tarts are presented right at the entry, filled with fruit, chocolate and other delicious ingredients. They sell all kinds of breads, brioche, tarts, croissants, sandwiches and even jams. I haven’t tried their cakes yet, but the artisanal baguette, their Madeleines, Croissants and one of these waffle sandwiches filled with heavy vanilla cream. I liked all these things and so did my two friends, who are French baguette lovers and don’t approve anything.
The place was renovated last year and was turned into a light, minimalistic space with a lot of white elements, a long marble counter and a light beige floor. Everything here looks very appealing and it is hard to resist, believe me.
Price Range: Baguette artisanale 1,70€
Good to know: Place Fernand Cocq 3, 1050 Ixelles, Website: Renard Bakery Facebook Page
5. Pâtisserie Garcia
Portugal in Brussels. I haven´t been to Portugal yet, but it´s high on my to-go list. Until then, I´m catapulting myself there gastronomically. Pâtisserie Garcia, or Pastelaria Garcia, is a spot in Brussels I really like. It’s unpretentious, people are very nice, prices are very low and the coffee and food is great. It’s a short walk away from my apartment and until now, all visitors I brought here were happy and so was I. We sat down at one of the stone tables with a view facing the inside of Pâtisserie Garcia. It’s kept in dark blue and white colours with a few traditional and nice elements such as a small fountain attached to the wall. The waiters speak French or Portuguese, depending on what you prefer and are fast and friendly. We ordered a Portuguese coffee with milk (or as they call it: Galao), two Pastel de Nata, a ham and cheese croissant and a thick piece of toast with salted butter on it. All simple but delicious and enjoyed in a great atmosphere. Also, both times I’ve been here there was plenty of Portuguese people, which means that they seem to approve it.
Just next to it, on the corner of the street, is their bakery offering even more pastries, bread and savoury produce. The decoration is similar to the café so once you enter you are leaving Brussels and visiting Portugal. I immediately fell in love with both places and I think you will, too.
Price Range: Coffee 1,70-2,30€, Pastel de Nata 1,20€ at the bakery and 1,30€ at the café
Good to know: Avenue de la Couronne 75, 1050 Ixelles, Website: Patisseriegarcia.be