It was a work trip, I was on my own, and knew none of the people I was going to meet. The only thing I could console myself with was that there should be juuuuust enough downtime to do the Brussels tourist thang - Christmas market, chocolate shops, mussels, Grand Place (have I missed anything?).
First some drooling through the windows of, and being tempted to part with a ridiculous amount of money in, various amazing infamous chocolate shops.
Then a whistle-stop walk around the various sights.
Finally it was time for food, or specifically, mussels. Admittedly Restaurant Vincent is absolutely in the touristy trap restaurant zone around the Grand Place, but there’s something that feels more individual about the place. Entering through the kitchen and past the display of meat hanging in the window, there’s a buzz that hits you immediately. I was squeezed in to the busy dining room beside another lone diner but had a perfect view of the restaurant and the fabulous 1920s tiled murals.
The service in Restaurant Vincent is the perfect reminder you’re dining in the Continent - brusque, aloof, disdainful - thankfully the happy animated chatter of fellow diners is the perfect antidote. Also, no need to take a book if you’re on your own; what the waiters lack in personality they more than make up for in performance. A service station in the middle of the room means you can watch as they prepare the sauce for your steak or flambé your crepes.
I couldn’t, however, see past ordering the mussels. Served a la marinière with lip-smackingly crisp frites (my obsession with chips will no doubt feature in a blog post another day). These were plump and tender molluscs in a slurp-worthy wine, butter & garlic sauce - thankfully a pile of French bread helped to mop up the juices and save my fellow diners from my slurping. Stuffed to the gills I unfortunately couldn’t manage dessert and only managed to waddle happily back to my hotel room.
A tad expensive - yes - but then I thought pretty much everything was in Brussels (not least with the abysmal exchange rate). I’m sure there are less touristy and better value places further off the beaten track, but with limited time available this made for a great Brussels dining experience overall.