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.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Café Merlo

"If you don't like it, I'll drink it.  I'm also thirsty!"  Says the barman at Café Merlo.  We've just scuttled in, like beetles shrouded in winter coats, after several minutes of purposeful walking, heads down, through the May drizzle.  Once inside and warm my glasses steam up and I don't know what to have to drink, as usual.  On the list there are very few beers I don't know the name of; I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not.  Mainly just to please our affable barman, I pretend I've never had Rodenbach before.  I have, but think I disliked it, and I hope to be proven wrong.  My friend has the "Brussels calling", with its tagline "bitter is better."  The barman's advice: whenever you see the name Brasserie de la Senne, try one of their beers because they are always good.   Good, and they're from Brussels.

Sadly for the Rodenbach, it is not a beer I appreciate or will pick ever again.  But I don't think I can hand it back.  Instead I am left wondering how a beer can taste so much like Worcestershire sauce: kind of vinegary, like it should be a flavour enhancer added to an under-performing bolognese.  

Our host is happy to talk, in-between serving everyone at the rectangular bar that encloses him.  Stools and seats are in short supply: I'd have to come earlier on a Friday to be sure of a seat, even though there are some more spaces - and another bar - upstairs. Up there it feels like a private room.

How to sum up Café Merlo?  Perched on my stool I watch Duvel being expertly poured and strain to read the "Loi de l'ivresse" perched in its frame above postcards, spirits and a bottle of Laphroaig.   Flemish is predominant here, but French, English, Italian or Spanish will probably do as well.  This time the crowd cannot be idly typecast from atop my bar stool. 

We decide this is a bar for lazing on a summer terrace.  Outside this is the non-business end of Place Sainte-Catherine.  Inside we could sit in the window nook, with the Scrabble.  Yes, the board games have been duly noted for next time. 

Café Merlo
Baksteenkaai 80
1000 Brussels

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