The “tapas” is one of the most widely known inventions of the Spanish gastronomy, the custom of having an appetiser before a meal being common throughout the whole country.
No one can explain the origin of this tradition. According to some historians, the” tapa” originated in the Middle Age by a Spanish monarch who ordered that wine should always be accompanied with some solid food covering the jug in order to prevent dirt or other objects from falling in. However, the true aim was to guarantee hygiene, but to combat the harmful effects of drinking alcohol without having food.
Since then, drinking good wine (or beer) accompanied with good “tapas” is a distinctive feature of the Spanish way of life which, of course, you can also enjoy in cosmopolitan Brussels. In fact, it is not difficult to find the mention “Tapas bar” in many restaurants and bars in Europe’s capital.
If you ask me about the best “tapas bars” in town I will point out two recently inagurated.
The best Spanish kept secret in Brussels is undoubtedly the “Hispania”, located inside the newly refurbished “NH Collection Hotel” at Place du Sablon. If you expect to find a “typical Spanish” decoration, you will have mistaken, since its sophisticated ambiance is closer to an English Club than to a Spanish tavern. But for sure you will find traditional and modern Spanish gastronomy in their dishes since behind “Hispania” are the Michelin-starred chef Marcos Morán, the fifth generation of chefs at the helm of Casa Gerardo in Asturias, and Iván Ortiz, who worked in Spain next to great chefs like Ferran Adriá at “El Bulli”.
The “tapas to share” offered by “Hispania” allows you to transform the simple appetizer experience into an authentic meal and complete dinner. If you are looking for really consistent Spanish food – provided that you have free time ahead to digest – ask for the signature dish of chef Morán: “fabada”, the traditional Asturian bean stew with smoked “chorizo” and black pudding.
The second Spanish secret of Brussels that I warmly recommend is the new restaurant “Aragón”, located in the European district, specifically in Place des Gueux 1.
Run by a young and motivated team, “Aragón” is a clear commitment to traditional and honest Spanish cuisine at democratic prices. Every noon they offer a Spanish traditional « dish of the day », the afternoon (and beyond) being devoted to wines and a large variety of classic “tapas” like Spanish omelette, Iberian pig meet, octopus, “empanada” (Spanish patty) …. They also prepare fresh homemade small bites with touches of vanguard. If we talk about the wines, they import directly from local Spanish producers which allow them a unique selection.
Now that you know where to enjoy the best Spanish “tapas” in Brussels you should know that “tapa” in the Basque Country is called “pintxo”. The most amazing “pintxos” were originated in San Sebastián (Donostia in Basque language).
Of course, you can also enjoy real “pintxos” in Brussels as I will develop it in another post. Until then, “¡salud, amigos!”.