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.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Maison Antoine

Friday evening came and it was time for my usual walk home, this time stopping off to buy something summery to eat.  With a bag of frozen peas under one arm and clutching a mint plant I strode purposefully past the tables on terraces, imagining myself as the "fille avec la menthe" subject of some arty French film, which would of course be set in Paris.  However encounters on my way to and from work would not feature in any film.  There's the man I observed one morning extracting bottles from the bottle bank with an improvised fishing rod, presumably in order to collect the recycling vidange money.  There's also the corner shop, which is the only place in Brussels where I can expect to attract the attention of some bored-looking youths.  But only in Summer.  Today one of them looks down at the mint and then up at me.  "Vous êtes ravissante", he says, somewhat optimistically and certainly unconvincingly.  I smile shyly and look down at the green shoots on the mint plant, my green jacket and green peas, and reflect that this kind of thing doesn't happen very often.  Green me: the "vous" is already a bit of a giveaway.  I walk on.

Anyway I'd already decided I was going to write about frites again.  This time the subject of the scribbles in my beer-stained notebook is none other than Maison Antoine, which has been serving them up since 1948 and will forever be remembered for its crown of " best frites in the world".  This of course was the view of The New York Times, and must appear in some article somewhere that I've never managed to find.  I'd better not upset anybody here.

On Wednesday I queued dutifully for frites from Maison Antoine, happy to put off meeting a group of unknown people in a nearby bar for my first appearance at a Spanish conversation evening.  There's certainly no hurry in the food preparation and here the anticipation is part of the thrill.  By the time you've reached the end of the queue you are definitely hungrier than when you started, and you find yourself considering others on the long list of menu choices.  Should I have a small or a large portion of frites?  And what of the sauce?  There are 29!   Better order everything now because you don't want to queue again....

I'm glad to say that we did opt for the smaller frites.  The larger portion was enormous, but the small was also to prove too large for our appetite, so it's a good thing that we weren't tempted by any of the other brochette or burger offerings.  Our appearance in the bar with our parcels of chips helped break the ice with our new group of Spanish language enthusiasts, and gave me an excuse not to speak, at least until a few chips had been consumed.  It transpired that I was the worst Spanish speaker there.

Because initially I didn't feel confident enough to say much at all, I was able to devote my full attention to the chips.  It's great that several of the bars surrounding the square have decided to become partners of this famous baraque à frites, meaning that you can sit, eat and drink at the same time.  The Grimbergen blonde I'd chosen seemed a happy match, because the chips were all a lovely uniform golden colour, perhaps a little too uniform.  After about a third of the cornet I came to the slow realisation that I have tasted better.  It was almost a shock to acknowledge that they were, yes, rather lacking in flavour!  Surely this could not be right... 

So I kept munching and tried to be as objective as I possibly could.  How did they compare to others I have tasted?  In research for previous frites articles I had also been hungry, so it was not my appetite at fault.  Yes, I'm afraid they were lacking the lovely beefy taste of the frites from Le Coq d'Or, and also, more controversially, were not as flavoursome as the chips I had had from Fritland.  No doubt I should sample these latest ones again, but perhaps my next stop should be Fritflagey.

Maison Antoine
1, Place Jourdan
1040 Etterbeek
02 230 54 56

1 comment:

  1. After a few beers, language skills tend to improve significantly. This is proven to be true.