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.

Friday, April 6, 2012


Since living in Brussels I've had an inexplicable urge to take bus 95 as far as it can go.  Not to the terminus in the centre of town, you understand, but to the other end, way away from the shopping crowds, to places with strange Germanic names like Heiligenborre or Weiner.  Then I stopped getting bus 95 so often, and I now have a similar urge with tram number 7.  I want to carry on, past my stop, and see where the tram takes me.  Preferably the driver will be not one of those that likes alternating violent breaking with violent acceleration, so that I can concentrate on looking out rather than stopping myself falling and crushing the elderly man next to me.   And then I'll write about it and share it with you.  There's no promise that this experience will be interesting.

I haven't spent much time in Watermael-Boitsfort, but I have cycled and run through it, on a tour organised by Pro Velo or as I struggled onto the final third of the Brussels 20km.  At the time my brain dimly registered that my pounding feet had taken me to somewhere villagey, where people lined the streets and clapped us passing.  So it's good to return, on the recommendation of my neighbour, M, and her troupe of tango-dancing friends.

To get there, we stay on bus 95 for some time, winding our way through calm residential areas, before finally getting off at Fauconnerie.  I step off the bus and immediately notice that the air is cleaner out here- I can smell leaves and the approach of Spring.  All that is missing is a meadow to run across madly, our arms waving in the air. 

The Psylophone nestles on the corner of a side street, in a real local community.  Inside framed photographs show rosy-cheeked residents enjoying themselves at the annual two-day "Fête du Quartier".  "It's been going for about 20 years", says the waitress breezily.  I'm reassured and instantly at home in this custard-yellow painted hideout, with its tall green plants.  I sit on the wooden bench next to the old stove and take in the wooden furniture, the yellowing map of the world on the walls, the small kitchen window at the back where the cooks are at work....  Then my eyes fix on the poster, and everything makes sense.  It is a man and a child, in black and white, with the proud headline "Alternative libertaire".  Underneath it reads;

"Un mensuel différent pour des lecteurs dissident". 

I'm not quite sure if I'm one of those, but I like to think I am.  And this is the ideal place to tuck yourself with a book on a weekday evening (at the moment I'm avidly reading The Help, and I'd like to read it here in the Psylophone, company or no company).  I suspect it's very busy later in the week, but on a Tuesday I only have my friend, a couple of staff and a few other customers for company.   The staff are friendly but not fussy, and tonight the customers are middle-aged ladies, wearing silver jewellery and scarves and looking like they're just back from a trip to Goa.  My exotic adventure to India is still only a half-baked idea in my head.  Perhaps next year.

Anyway, psylos are psychedelic mushrooms, my friend tells me.  He's full of useful pieces of information like that, always expanding my French vocabulary.  I look sharply over at those plants again, but no, they're just plants....  "Ca fait un peu Guy Debord; mai 68", he muses, and I recall my attempts at reading that Debord pamphlet several months ago before my meeting with Jan Bucquoy.  Here I feel welcome, especially when the waitress offers us bottled or tap water.  Now, that never happens.  The toilets have ancient plumbling and smell faintly of bleach.

The food is delicious!  An eclectic, wide choice of Belgian with cuisine du monde, priced fairly and colourful on your plate.  The portions are generous like at La fin de Siècle, but we're missing the background noise.  You can have keftas, curries: we had tasty aubergine farcie à la kefta and curry de poulet à l'orange.

Afterwards I don't really have room for dessert, but we share one anyway.  A cinnamony clafoutis à la rhubarbe.  My friend knows I am unable to resist any dish with rhubarb or ginger in.....

Then we slip out, into the chilly night, leaving the staff and their friends to eat together in front of the bar.  As the warm beacons fade into the distance, I realise I have found another bar I feel I belong in, that reminds me of the pub where I used to work in the narrow streets of my university city.

I was in two minds as to whether to write about this place.  Because the 95 bus, the Psylophone, and Watermael-Boitsfort, might become my next little retreat.  A place where I can escape the city, when I haven't really escaped.  So come, by all means, just not all of you at once!

rue de l'Hospice Communale, 90
1170 Watermael-Boitsfort

Take Bus 95 to stop Fauconnerie.  Retrace the bus' path about 100 metres and turn left up a small side street.

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