Family run eatery flying the flag for affordable dining in EU Quarter

The huge daily influx of visitors to Brussels’ EU Quarter could be, perhaps, forgiven for being sometimes disappointed if they put the city’s reputation for top class cuisine to the test.

It has been said that too many of the restaurants in the area offer substandard and overpriced food.

Fortunately, there is at least one exception – Kafenio, a family-run Greek eatery located in the shadow of the European Commission’s Berlaymont headquarters.

It is, in fact, now a real mainstay of the area’s restaurant scene, having opened over 15 years.

The good news is that the high standards it has always been known for are still being maintained and it is still pulling in the customers on a regular basis.

As ever, it is the quality of the food that matters most and, here, you will not be disappointed.

You will find a fine choice of classic Greek dishes here and, for those unfamiliar with this lovely cuisine, there’s plenty of help on hand in the shape of Anh-Tuan, one of the staff members.

After working here for 11 years he’s well qualified to know what to recommend and (in no particular order) says that the top four customer favourites are moussaka, calamari, octopus and lamb.

“These,” he notes, “are our best sellers.”

Before sampling one or more of the above, why not do what most native Greek diners do and start with a good old mezzes though.

Here ,you’ll find a fabulous choice, including sea,meat, cheese and veggie mezzes.There’s also an assortment of house mezzes (cold and hot) which is priced just €18.50 and makes for a nice sharing dish.

The “Mega Pikilia” Menu, priced €34.50pp (min. two people) is also popular and features everything from caviar d’aubergine to cotes d’agneau.

Lovers of lamb will be their element here, with mouth-watering offerings such as grilled lamb chops and lamb “Youvetsi” which is oven cooked and served with (what else?) Greek pasta.

Those who really want to push the  boat out (and have a huge appetite) may be tempted by the “kilo of grilled chops”.

The card also features steak,pork and chicken – a carnivore’s paradise!

 This dish is among those marked with three hearts which indicates that it is “coup de Coeur” (liked very much). Another with a similar symbol is that perennially popular Greek dish: moussaka which is described as the “best in Brussels” (those who have sample it at Kafenio will not disagree with that verdict).

Kafenio has also acquired a reputation for serving probably the best octopus in Brussels, the result of a “secret” in-house preparation.

A top tip is to try a selection of  mezes for starters and then sample the lovely lamb as a mains. That way, you get to discover the very best that Kafenio has to offer.

Aside from lamb, though, there’s other equally nice items, including grilled homemade meat balls stuffed with Kasseri cheese, fresh grilled calamari and several salads.

Everything is homemade using fresh and seasonal products.

There's also a fine selection of Greek (and other)  wines, including from northern Greece which is particularly well known for the quality of its red wine.

The décor here is not the rather stereotypical Greek one (all blues and whites) found in lots of such places. Rather, there is a lounge-bar ambience and you are surrounded by modern art and can sit back in stylish black leather seating. It has been run by the same Greek family for years and this shows in the quality of food and service.

Located at the  very heart of the EU  Quarter, it has been a favourite of eurocrats and locals alike for years, and rightly so. Importantly, it is also well frequented by Greek people in Brussels, who clearly know a good thing when they see it.

This place demonstrates that it is possible to eat well – and at a reasonable price too – if you find yourself in the “home” of the European Union institutions. What’s more, the staff are very friendly and welcoming.

In Greek, the word Kafenio roughly means "meeting place, a friendly bar where you can have a drink and a bite to eat."

That very neatly sums up this restaurant.

Kafenio

134 Rue Stevin, Brussels

www.kafenio.be

02 231 5555

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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