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Belgium’s best restaurants announced in Gault&Millau 2024 gourmet guide
Brussels remains a culinary hotspot on the Belgian gastronomic landscape, according to the 21st Gault&Millau guide, reports Bruzz.
The culinary bible lists a total of 1,385 addresses in the country, including 165 new establishments. Among them are 181 Brussels restaurants, an increase from the 166 that made the cut last year.
The highest-ranked newcomer in the guide is Brussels chef Christophe Hardiquest. Other award winners from the capital are the top sommelier and leading Italian restaurant of the year.
Hardiquest received an impressive score of 16.5 out of 20 and three chef's toques for his new restaurant Menssa in Avenue de Tervueren, Woluwe-Saint-Pierre. A familiar name on Brussel’s gourmet scene, his previous restaurant Bon Bon achieved a staggering 19.5 out of 20 in the guide.
In June last year, Hardiquest closed the two Michelin star restaurant because, in his own words, he "just needed some freedom". However, a new culinary chapter opened with his new establishment Menssa (pictured), which opened in February. Diners can eat in his gastrobar at a wooden counter with a view of the kitchen where the chef and his eight-man brigade transform commonplace produce into gastronomic delights.
Other Brussels restaurants to rise in the rankings are Michelin-starred restaurant Barge, increasing from 15 to 15.5 out of 20.
Top vegan ranking
Ixelles vegan restaurant Humus X Hortense (pictured) also received half a point extra with an impressive 16 out of 20. It’s the highest score for a plant-based address in Belgium. Chef Nicolas Decloedt and his sommelier wife Caroline Baerten preside over the Ixelles restaurant that is committed to zero-waste cuisine.
Gault&Millau’s best addresses in Brussels also include Le Chalet de la Forêt in Uccle, Comme Chez Soi in the city centre and La Paix in Anderlecht. They each achieved a score of 17.5 out of 20.
In addition to the points, the guide’s independent inspectors handed out a number of individual awards. Young chef of the year in Brussels is Georges Athanassopoulos of Màloma Comptoir Culinaire in Schaerbeek.
Prizes were picked up in other categories. The hostess of the year can be found at Comme Chez Soi in Place Rouppe and the best Italian food at Da Mimmo in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert. The sommelier of the year, Jeno Del Turco, is in charge of the wine menu at Le Chalet de la Forêt in Uccle. The award for the best price/pleasure ratio goes to Ioda in Saint-Gilles. Finally, Aster in Rue Dansaert is the Brussels discovery of the year.
New this year in the French gourmet guide is the label H! P, which stands for 'Here Is the Place'. It replaces the POP project, which recognised the best 'fast food' joints. "The H! P-selection brings together trendy and hip restaurants where concept and atmosphere are central, but where the quality of food & beverage always meets the high Gault&Millau standard," explains Véronique Bourgeois of Gault&Millau. "Within the H! P-selection, three winners were chosen for 2024," she continues. They are Bombay BBQ in Ixelles, Bar Raket in Antwerp and Boa in Arlon.
Chef of the year
The chef of the year, Maxime Collard of restaurant La Table de Maxime, is based in Paliseul in Luxembourg province. Specialising in local produce and ingredients, he’s a star name in the country’s gastronomical landscape. "In all his dishes we find excellent basic techniques, aesthetics, original flavours and respect for the seasons," say the inspectors. For director Marc Declerck, Collard "has had an exemplary career and is a culinary promise that we have been following for 15 years."
The Gault&Millau guide can be viewed free of charge via its website or app. Otherwise, copies of the guide are available for €34 in bookstores. Some 30,000 copies of the guide have already been snapped up in pre-sale orders.
Hostess of the year: Laurence Wynants (Comme Chez Soi, Brussels)
Italian restaurant of the year: Da Mimmo (Brussels)
Asian Restaurant of the Year: A Food Affair (Ghent)
The most beautiful terrace: De Kruier (Knokke-Heist)
The most beautiful designer restaurant: Innesto (Zonhoven)
Sommelier of the year: Jeno Del Turco (Le Chalet de la Forêt, Brussels)
Dessert of the year: Charles-Maxime Legrand (Quai n°4, Ath)
Brasserie/Bistrot of the year: Bistrot De Pottenbrug (Antwerp)
Gastro-bistro of the year: Monsieur V (Linkebeek)
Artisan chef of the year: Filip Slangen (Tafeltje Rond, Beveren-Waas)
Vegetable dish of the year: De Poorterij (Dilsen-Stokkem)
Wine list of the year: L’Envie (Zwevegem)
Beer list of the year: Sophie & Nicolas (Comblain-la-Tour)
Pleasure prize of the year: Klei (Ypres) for Flanders, Ioda for Brussels and Merry (Liège) for Wallonia.
The three discoveries of the year: Komaf (Wommelgem) for Flanders, Aster for Brussels and Max&Moi (Braine-l’Alleud) for Wallonia.
Belgians opting for fast food rather than restaurants
In related culinary news, the eating habits of Belgians have changed due to the cost of living crisis, according to a study commissioned by trade federation Comeos.
It revealed that Belgians go less often to restaurants and more frequently to fast food establishments. Butchers, cheesemakers and bakers are also reporting fewer visitors.
Attendance in restaurants is down 10.8% compared to 2019. An opposite trend is noted for fast food chains, which have increased business from 9.4% to 17.1% over the last four years.
In terms of meal deliveries, the number of orders has returned to its pre-pandemic level, but turnover is increasing, due in particular to inflation and diversification, according to Comeos. The average amount per order increased from €23.10 in 2019 to €33.38 in 2023.
For meal boxes, only 6% of Belgians have a subscription to the cook-at-home option. After exceptional growth during Covid, monthly revenues fell by 48%. Despite this drop, the level remains higher than 2019 (+56%). It’s noted that the average amount spent has almost doubled, rising from €20.81 in 2019 to €38.30 in 2023.
Concerning supermarkets, their market share remains significant with a figure of 61% in the first half of this year, compared to 56% in 2019. Bakers, butchers and cheesemakers have a gloomier outlook with a market share falling from 14 to 10% .
The study was carried out by the Shopperware research office, questioned 3,859 Belgians during the first half of this year.
Photos: ©Menssa; Humus x Hortense ©Saskia Vanderstichele