This 4 star hotel, located centrally in the Avenue Louise district of Brussels, has 421 recently refurbished rooms/suites which have been designed around the theme of "zen". After choosing your room (Superior, Deluxe Panorama, Panorama Suite, Deluxe Suite) sit back and enjoy your stay: the hotel offers free Wi-Fi, which works excellently, a free mini-bar and a widescreen television. If you don't want to venture out of the hotel, The Restaurant is a safe and stylish choice. Under the direction of Pierre Balthazar, who has ten years serving Heads of State, you will find an exciting menu full of flavour and fresh ingredients. The Spa offers relaxing massages if you need to unwind after a long flight. Still not convinced? The Hotel was Barack Obama's choice when he visited Brussels in March 2014.
Where we ate
Ici is a real gem of a spot, located in the genteel neighbourhood of Ixelles. This neo cantine is the perfect spot for a group brunch with kids, a girly lunch, a productive work session with a tea or an afternoon snack. You can even hire it out for private events. Everything on the menu is healthy and seasonal, and the cakes are made with organic ingredients. The space is light, leafy and calm which lends an unpretentious vibe - something I appreciate since moving to France from the UK.
La Mercerie is a charming (and photogenic) tea salon. The menu comprises both sweet and savoury - I indulged in both because it was a rainy afternoon (any excuse). Fresh produce from the local farmer's market are to be found on the menu, something I'm a big fan of. I would highly recommend the date cake which is served with a warm caramel sauce.
Pierre Marcolini is a well-respected Belgian chocolatier and pastry chef, winning the title of (international) Best Pastry Chef in 1995. Marcolini is heavily involved in the training of his staff and travels as far as Mexico and Venezuela to test cocoa beans, farmed by independent growers. There are several stores in Brussels so you won't have to look too hard for a sweet treat: the macarons are excellent but his chocolate and pastries are just as tempting.
Maison Dandoy is a lovely place to have a waffle. Best known for their speculoos products (I hope you all know what that is, if not go out and try it now) this family bakery has been baking biscuits for the folk of Brussels for over 180 years. We picked up a few bits to bring back and share with our Parisian friends.
Where we drank
Beer Mania: technically you can't drink here but with over 400 craft beers in stock, Beer Mania is the place to buy your hops. They also host beer tasting events and cooking classes, around the theme of beer obviously. Not making it to Brussels soon? No worries, they deliver internationally.
Little Delirium is slightly less manic than Delirium, the beer joint that can be found in the city centre full of boozy tourists (Impasse de la Fidélité), which suits me just fine as I am not good in drunken crowds. With over thirty beers on tap to choose from, you can taste the Belgian beers whilst on their terrace watching the stag groups walk by (often in fancy dress).
Café Walvis is situated in the bobo district of Dansaert and is ideal for a fun afterwork or a Sunday brunch with friends/family. JB and I stopped by here for a beer (or 3) after an afternoon walking around the city and taking photos.
What we saw
I always love a good nosey around a book store, although it's less exciting for me when the contents are exclusively in French. Originally opened in 1984, Librairie Candide underwent a refurbishment in 2010 which has left it looking pretty swanky. Filling two floors and open seven days a week (08h - 19h) you can find international newspapers, books on health, psychology, religion and psychology, in addition to an extensive catalogue of classic literary works. Only French (for Anglophones, fear not, there is a Waterstones in a different part of the city).