La Manufacture seems like a restaurant with a lot of potential. Located just a bit off all the touristy spots, but still in the heart of Brussels’ city centre, this old leather manufacture serves Belgian food with a little twist.
The place is a bit hidden in one of Brussels’ side streets, in a big courtyard, where you are greeted by the restaurant’s friendly staff that will guide you in an equally friendly way through your evening. They are happy to advise you on food, your choice of wine and they are also happy to tell you a bit about the history of the place.
It was 27 years ago when the old leather factory, known for its unique designs, was repurposed to a place where people enjoy food and drinks. The floor tiles, which are made from small wooden squares and put together piece by piece, as well as the chairs and tables are still from back then, as the waitress told us. The restaurant is spacious and mostly kept in brown and Bordeaux tones. With a lot of metal elements, such as pipes and a heavy staircase leading up to the 2nd floor, the place displays a very industrial flair. For my taste a few decorative details would make the place feel a bit cosier, because as it is now it is not too clear whether it could be a place for a relaxed evening with friends, or a business dinner or something in between. The place is casual, waiters are easy going and close to the customer, but not too relaxed and food is rather simple (traditional dishes) but is presented in a way that is a bit overdone for what the food is.
A big plus were the wines, as they have a nice selection of different bottles and open wines, also from areas such as Armenia, which is a welcome change! A minus is that they use an iPad as wine menu and I am, in general, put off by digital menus, as for me they take away all the charm that a well-designed printed paper menu can have.
We shared the Foie Gras terrine as a starter that I liked a lot. The sweet confitures served with it were delicious and matched well and the toasted brioche-type bread was the perfect pair up to the terrine. Unfortunately, I was not a fan of the ‘shrimp croquette’ at all. Maybe it’s a matter of taste, but the cream the croquette was filled was too liquid in its texture and the taste was stale. The main dishes, steak with fries and Iberian pork were both good, but especially the pork was too expensive (around 24€) for what it is; two pieces of good and tender pork, not more not less.
The sides that came with it were arranged in a way that suggested an attempt to haute cuisine, but the taste was nothing special and the long green beans as well as the potato puree reminded me more of a simple home cooked dish. And this would be absolutely fine, I am a fan of home cooked, genuine cuisine, but then it should be presented (and priced) as such. Last but not least, the dessert. We chose the assortment of several different little desserts and I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised by those, especially the crème brulee and the tarte tatin – all not to sweet, nice texture and an interesting taste.
Overall, I think this is a place with much potential: It has an interesting menu, with seasonally changing ingredients and dishes (such as varieties of veggies, fish and meat, like pheasant in winter, for example), situated in a good spot with interesting history and extraordinarily nice staff. But it seems that the owner needs to decide whether it wants to be an upper-price-range place with an interior and dishes mirroring this, or to downgrade and make everything simpler, cheaper and more accessible.
Good to know:
Address: Rue Notre-Dame-du-Sommeil 12 – 1000 – Brussels
Telephone: 02 502 25 25