The story so far
Au Sterkerlapatte is one of those Brussels restaurants which was on our list to try for a very (very!) long time. We were told by various friends that if we want to try out true local Brussels cuisine, this is the place to go to. In its glory days, Au Stekerlapatte was the go-to address for the artsy scene in Brussels – actors, radio and TV journalists, press.
However life got in between and we never found the time to go. How is that even possible?
Then, just as we finally gave ourselves the necessary kick in the b*** we found out the restaurant was closed for refurbishment. Bad timing. But actually our luck, because when we finally made it there last month, the whole experience
met surpassed our expectations.
The restaurant is set on a back street between Saint Gilles and the Marolles, somewhere behind the Palace of Justice. As much as we have been walking and exploring the area we always missed this restaurant. And we consider ourselves as locals … It takes a bit of an effort to find the place! The upside however is that once you do find it, you don’t really want to leave.
I mentioned the refurbishment. Cleverly, the owner however has kept all the original features which are typical Belgian art nouveau inspired – wrought iron bar, stained glass dome, wooden panels seating. The decoration is a bit of local bric a brac (my guess is that it all comes from the Jeu de Balle market). Overall impressions? Very cozy in the typical, traditional Brussels brasserie style. A gem of a place which I hope is on every locals radar and even more, I think every tourist should go if looking for the authentic Brussels atmosphere, not yet tainted by over-tourism.
As much as I like taking in (and taking about) the décor of any restaurant we go to, we do primarily go out to eat. And oh boy, is the food delicious in Au Stekerlapatte. Without lying, I think this restaurant makes it easy into our top 5 restaurants in Brussels.
The menu is an intriguing combination of Belgian food with Marolles inspired dishes and the occasional ‘outsider’. Personally I don’t see the need for Asian influenced dishes in such a traditional place, but I guess the thinking behind is that the menu satisfies a wider palette. The attractiveness of Au Stekerlapatte is by far its Belgianism … not its curry.
Back to the food. It doesn’t get more local than this! We had a hard time choosing from starters such as the terrine maison, or the typical Marolles dish of bloempanch (black pudding). Mains were equally interesting (and dare I say more than enough to make a meal) from steak frites to a roasted knuckle of ham.
I should mention that upon the detailed introduction to the typical of the area dishes from the maitre d’, it takes a brave soul to dive into the Marolles dishes. I didn’t have that in me so I opted for the safer option of grilled mussels for starter and boulettes (meatballs) for main. My husband went fishy for starter (squid) and then bit the Marolles bullet and ordered the pigs trotters for main. To go alongside our food, we chose different glasses of wine as Au Stekerlapatte offers a very decent wine selection by the glass.
When our starters arrived I already thought we will never make it to mains … let alone desserts. But as time ticked by, a glass of white wine followed the cava aperitif, a glass of red followed the glass of white, and so on … we ate our starters, we talked some more, our appetite for the mains returned, we ate some more, drank some wine, talked some more and suddenly it was time for desserts.
I know what you are thinking. How could they eat more?! How could they walk home?!
Well … I dare you to resist the most scrumptious mousse of speculoos you ever had! I had my fair share of Belgian desserts and I can honestly say a visit to Au Stekerlaptte is justified by this mousse alone. Or the café gourmand, which in my opinion was a 100% win-win as I literally had a mini piece of each of each of their signature desserts. Dead-o-dessert heaven!
And yes … we were (finally) full!
Service with a smile
The maitre d’ was a quirky character from ‘bonjour’ onwards. Besides loving his food he was also a great talker and we learned a lot about the neighbourhood, the food history of the Marolles and generally about Au Stekerlapatte history. Did you know the name of the restaurant is Marolles dialect for a flat fish and it hints to swimming in two direction at the same time? A true pleasure and the reason I adore this kind of Brussels restaurants where tradition still lives on. For one lunch time we felt a bit like tourists, discovering a side of Brussels we didn’t know.
Another month of gym and I will probably have burned the calories eaten. Then I think it is time to take the extended visiting family for a back to the roots Belgian dinner. After that I think we will go again for dinner in tete a tete to soak in the Brussels beat. And then I think we will go again just because.
I would like to extend our thanks to Au Stekerlapatte for organizing this amazing lunch and to the staff for hosting us and dealing with our endless questions and cameras with grace.
Disclaimer: as always, all opinions written are our own.
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