Kafenio, a delightful Greek restaurant at the heart of Brussels’ EU Quarter, really is a genuine family affair.
It is run on a day-to-day basis by Maris and his cousin (also called Maris) who both took charge from Maris’ father Telis Arkoulis. Telis had originally launched Kafenio, with his brother, in 2002 but it was Maris’ grandfather who actually started the family tradition when he entered the restaurant trade back in the 1970s.
All this matters partly because Maris and his cousin now see it as their “duty” to uphold the high standards set by their forefathers. The net result is that, 15 years after it first opened and the “succession” having passed to a new, younger generation, Kafenio is still going from strength to strength and pulling in the customers on a regular basis. As ever, it is the quality of the food that matters most and, here, you will not be disappointed.
From mezzes and grilled dishes to authentic Greek coffee, this is authentic, delicious Greek food which you’d be hard pressed to beat in Brussels. While the “star” is, possibly, the mezze, you’re unlikely to find better Kalamakia (grilled brochettes) anywhere else in town. Several new dishes have recently been added to the menu (updated twice a year), including cassolette de scampis à la feta et miel which is delicious. Other “newcomers” on the card are “Tourlou” Ratatouille de Legumes, a mezze, and Kokkinisto, a mains lamb dish made from a typical Greek regional recipe. The excellent starters include grilled octopus, calamari (fried the Greek way) and crème de Tarama. The eggplant croquette and shrimps in garlic are equally satisfying. An alternative is the assortment of house mezzes, hot and cold (€16.95 pp). The restaurant is particularly known for its grilled lamb (top quality meat which is sourced from Ireland) and one to look out for – and a favourite with customers – is the brochette de Noix d’Agneau grillee.
Kafenio has also acquired a reputation for serving probably the best octopus in Brussels, the result of a “secret” in-house preparation which infuses it with a “particular taste”, according to the owner.
Another “secret” of the quality of the food is that only the freshest possible products/ingredients are used in the kitchen, a good number of them specially imported from Greece.
A heart on the menu (or three, to be precise) indicates the most popular dishes and these include Giouverlakia which consists of meat balls and rice in a lemony juice and another typical Greek dish. We shouldn’t forget of course that perennial Greek fave, moussaka, another best seller here.
A top tip is to try a selection of fish mezes for starters and then sample the lovely lamb as a mains course. That way, you get to discover the very best that Kafenio has to offer.
Aside from the card there’s also a fixed price menu, “Mega Pikilia” which is a very reasonable €31.95 (min. two persons) and includes scampi, lamb and much else besides.
There’s also a fine selection of Greek (and other) wines. Among the 80-strong choice are wines from the Greek islands (mostly white) and reds from the mainland, including from northern Greece which is particularly well known for the quality of its red wine.
The delightfully relaxing ambience nicely complements the cuisine (look out for a fantastic wooden mosaic of the Grand Place which stretches along the entire length of one wall) and it is worth recalling that this is one of two Greek restaurants owned by the family with the other just round the corner on Rue de Treves (it is called Attica which is also the name of yet another new dish on the menu).
Located at the very heart of the EU Quarter (opposite the European Commission’s Berlaymont) Kafenio has been a favourite of eurocrats, locals and tourists alike for years now and it’s easy to see why. It is good for a quick business lunch (the place is full of people working nearby during midweek lunchtime) or a relaxing dinner (Friday and Saturday is more the preserve of families and groups). Considering the quality,it is also very reasonably priced with mains from just €16.50.
In Greek, the word Kafenio roughly means “meeting place, a friendly bar where you can have a drink and a bite to eat.” That very neatly sums up Kafenio – stylish with black leather seating and a lounge-bar with modern art.
Good to Know
Address: 134 Rue Stevin, Brussels
Telephone: 02 231 5555