City wanderings - and a pilgrimage to some of the best eating and drinking spots in Brussels. Or maybe not eating or drinking - ah, oh well.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

La Kasbah

The other night I was out in the Saint-Géry area, near Place Sainte-Catherine.  I'd decided to sample another restaurant.  It is easy to think of Brussels as the Capital of Europe, but if restaurants are an indication then this city is not European, but somewhere near to international.  Within a few minutes of the Bourse building I could have chosen Thai, Basque, Vietnamese, or Malagasy cuisine.  Disarmed by the options on offer, I had a look round the How do you do....Brussels? exhibition in the Halles de Saint-Géry, which presents short snapshots of foreigners living in Brussels.  Black and white photographs are accompanied by short quotes: a Polish lad describes Brussels as "shy, but with potential".  There are the songs too: The theme of rain is obvious, but I particularly liked the choice of La ballade des gens qui sont nés quelque part, by Brassens, and the "entre guillemets ", both of which seem to reflect Brussels well.  I listened to them both afterwards and am happy in my selection!  Unfortunately I was too late to visit the upstairs part of the exhibition, which meant I missed the feature on my friend, the Tasmanian. I craned my head from below to see if I could spot her, but she was too far away.

Afterwards I tried La Kasbah, a Moroccan restaurant that has excited my curiosity for while, I suspect mainly because of the oranges piled up in the window that remind me of the orange seller carts in Marrakech.  There are teapots hanging up and the bar obstructs the already dim interior, so you really have to bring your nose to the window to spy the diners beyond.  The place is always busy, but then a lot of places are!  Eating out is a pleasure in Brussels because there are so many restaurants to try and everything seems to cost less than in London or Paris.  I struggle to remember a bad meal in the four years I've been here.  Of course there was the salade verte I ordered from a restaurant on the Sablon once, when I was with my parents.  It turned out to be just that: lettuce, with not even another ingredient or shade of green to redeem it.  At close to 10 euro I really should have complained, but it was the Sablon and perhaps I was intimidated, and I suppose I could have received the sarcastic reply that is was salad and green, and what on earth did I expect?  Anyway I passed by recently and found that the place had closed.

Meanwhile new restaurants seem to open each week, a phenomenon I find inexplicable in the current economic climate.  Would a café serving up English fried breakfast go down well with Brussels diners, I wonder?  Should I change my job?

The waiters in La Kasbah create a good impression with their friendly welcome and their traditional black and white, which is unexpected considering the exotic interior of the restaurant.  We're given a table against the wall, tucked away, and I don't mind because we haven't reserved and it allows me to photograph the interior.  It is almost like being in Morocco: the ceiling is hung with 120 coloured lanterns, which give a beautiful effect but not much light.  We're told that the place was originally a bakers, and that the original owner sourced the chairs from Eygpt and tables and lanterns from Morocco.  Nobody seems to know who features in the old photographs of Egyptian thinkers and artists on the wall.

The arrival of my tajine is rather a spectacle, like the appearance of an earthenware birthday cake with cherry on the top.  The lifting of the lid releases an outflow of steam that I'm not really prepared for.  After my glasses have de-misted I'm faced with a chunk of pretty hefty lamb on the bone, surrounded by sauce.  The meat is tender and the sauce a delicious combination of prunes and almonds, but I wish I had more of it to soak up the couscous and bread.  My friend orders merguez, and in a return of the salade verte incident, is a little disappointed to find just sausages, salad and potato on his plate.  However this time round I do not share his sentiments: the plate does offer that rare and wonderful thing in Brussels - a jacket potato!

Afterwards I consider a dessert, but decide against it.  Perhaps I'll be back for a tajine and dessert some other time, but now it is time to go dancing.

La Kasbah
is open 7 days a week. 
12:00 - 15:00 and 18:30 - 23:30

rue Antoine Dansaert 20
1000 Brussels
02 502 40 26
The How do you do.... Brussels? exhibition is on until 31 May and is open 10:00 to 18:00 everyday.

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