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, September 24, 2011

In de Nieuwe Visbank

Do you remember that scene in Pretty Woman, where, as part of her initiation into upper class society, Julia Roberts is in a restaurant eating snails?

Sometimes in restaurants I feel like Julia's character.  I ate snails for only the second time in my life here, at In de Nieuwe Visbank.  The first time was in a dimly lit restaurant in the Latin Quarter, where I bravely chose them for my starter.  Unwisely as it turned out, because the neighbouring tables of impossibly gorgeous  young men and women on evening dates were

rather too close for comfort.  Unlike some of the other customers, I did not feel an urgent need to impress, but I still felt curious eyes swing towards me when my garlicky snails arrived, along with a curious long metal implement, that looked like it properly belonged beside a dentist's chair.  In fact there were two implements: one like a mini forcep for gripping the snail; and the other like a long metal toothpick.  This second one was a little disturbing: it reminded me of an ancient Egyptian embalming tool, used for extracting tissue from body cavities.

Rather inexpertly, I managed to grip the snails with my forceps, and scoop out the buttery, garlicky interior.  I reflected that embarrassment could happen several ways: either I would succeed in pinging the snail across the restaurant onto the dress of some beautifully attired French girl; or I could catapult it into her companion's wine glass; or propel it into the path of a waiter, who would catch it deftly, Pretty Woman style.  The prospect of garlicky breath for hours after was of little significance compared to these other potential disasters!  And yet somehow this eating episode passed without incident, and I felt proud of myself for forgoing the steak for a change, and trying something new.

Fast forward several years and I am 30 years old, and thankfully less readily embarrassed.  I've been to In de Nieuwe Visbank in Grimbergen several times, and think it is a great place to eat things that you don't eat very often. Yes, here I have eaten delicious, exceedingly garlicky snails.  On another occasion I've had frogs legs - I hadn't realised quite how bony they were, but again they are quite delicious in garlic!  And on still another occasion I've eaten lobster in front of my boyfriend's parents, probably only for the third time in my life.  The restaurant has tablecloths, a lobster tank, well presented dishes and attentive table service, but I am much more at ease here than I was in that Parisian restaurant.

Of course you can eat steak, and plenty of other meat dishes.  But the name of the restaurant refers to fish, and that's what I generally have for the main course.  There's sole, red mullet, snails, and many other fish, but I am stumped by the French names and still would not know the names in English.  Fish is one of the big gaps in my general vocabulary.  Note to self: I need to learn the names for fish, plants and birds.

What would I recommend you eat?  Well, I like the homemade fishy croquettes as starter, as well as the snails and frogs legs, of course.  For the main course you could have sole, or half a lobster prepared in several different ways.  Mine (pictured) is aux petits legumes, with a creamy sauce.  I realised when eating it that I would have preferred a more low-key sauce, because the creaminess detracted from the flavour of the lobster.  

My lobster aux petits legumes
Prices are reasonable, but understandably slightly higher than places where lobster, snails and frogs legs are not on the menu.  A two or three course meal for two could cost at least 100 euros, with or without wine.  However if you have a starter, you will probably not require dessert as the food is generally quite rich. 

On a warm evening, eat outside with the view of Grimbergen's church.

Something meaty: canard?

 Tel: 02 270 94 04

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