The combination of Belgo-Franco cuisine and rugby is not exactly common in Belgium. But those are the two “try-mendous” ingredients you will find at Invictus restaurant.
Invictus was the favorite poem of Nelson Mandela and the title of the film retracing the epic tale of the South African team during the 1995 Rugby World Cup. While the sport is not exactly massive in Belgium, the owner is a big rugby fan as is evidenced by the black and white photographs of famous games which adorn the walls of this stylish and relaxing restaurant. Mohamed Chouaf inherited his passion for the sport from his father who ran a restaurant in Place Flagey for some 35 years.
Mohamed used to help out at his dad’s place from a very young age but,when his father retired, he decided to branch out into the restaurant trade and open a place of his own. Such is his love of ruggers that even the name was chosen because of its rugby connections.
The owner has himself played the game to a very high level in Belgium and he still trains a local team in Brussels when he’s not busy running the business. He even met his wife Murielle through rugby – they met while both were attending a rugby competition in Israel. She comes from Toulouse, a great bastion of rugby. But, of course, visitors to Invictus are primarily concerned with the food and here, there will be no disappointment.
If there is a house speciality it has to be couscous but not any old couscous you understand. This version is based on a very old recipe once used by Mohamed’s dad at his former restaurant in Ixelles. Like a certain well known soft drink, the actual recipe remains a secret but, happy to report, that it’s very, very tasty indeed and almost worth the visit on its own. In fact, some of the customers who used to eat at the Flagey restaurant now frequent Mohamed’s place (primarily for the couscous).
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There’s a lot more to Invictus than couscous though and the a la carte, which is regularly updated, features lots of other equally delicious dishes.
These include lovely starters such as a mix of Chimay and Parmigiano cheese and shrimp croquettes; shrimp cassolette and also Nicoise salad with grilled fresh tuna. The mains selection is just as impressive, with a great choice of meat, fish and pasta (not forgetting the couscous, of course). One recommended dish – and a highly popular one with customers here – is the caramelized lamb shank served with browned potatoes and green asparagus. Another best seller is the ravioli, stuffed with ricotta, mushrooms and black truffle shavings.
The lamb chops are also popular along with swordfish, presented with organic rice and lemon capers.
The emphasis throughout is on the quality and freshness of the products used for all the dishes served here. This shows in the quality of the finished product which, suffice to say, is very enjoyable and satisfying. This is due, in part, to the efforts of the talented Portuguese-born chef and the sourcing policy employed at this restaurant. Worth pointing out too that there is a good children’s choice, a delightful rear garden and also a great selection of carefully-chosen wines, recommend by wine expert Serge Degand, a good friend of the owner.
The restaurant is situated directly opposite the sprawling European parliament, a location which can be something of a mixed blessing. When the parliament is sitting business in the area is always lively but, when the assembly is not (or has decamped as it does once a month to Strasbourg) then things can be somewhat more quiet for all businesses in the vicinity.
However, after a fairly slow start business has really picked up at Invictus and, even on a quiet midweek night, it can be quiet busy. For rugby fans there is, apart from the lovely food, the added bonus of being able to watch some top televised games on a big screen in the restaurant.
Mohamed tries to ensure that all international games are shown in the restaurant which makes for a great occasion for a group. With the big winter internationals coming up, this will come as great news for the growing number of rugby fans in Brussels (as well as the countless expats, of course).
The restaurant is generally closed at weekends but can open if there’s a top game being shown on TV (call for details). One thing you can be assured of, whether you are a fan of the oval ball game or not, is a very friendly welcome and a very nice dining experience.
Good to Know:
Address: 42, Rue de Trèves- 1050 – Brussels
Telephone: 02 230 75 90