Overcoming the odds to serve fine food at the heart of Brussels' EU district

It has one of the best views of any restaurant in Brussels – and also offers one of the best value-for-money cards.

Park Side Brasserie does this despite having to overcome one setback after another in recent years.

The good news is that, even though such problems continue, the restaurant makes for a smashing venue for lunch or dinner, particularly with the warmer weather now upon us.

One of the reasons for that is that it boasts a particularly enviable position: directly overlooking the splendid Cinquantenaire Park. With a large terrace, seating up to 100 people, this makes for a great spot to eat some excellent food while watching the diverse range of activities taking place in the park opposite.

Anyone entering the restaurant cannot help but be immediately struck by not only its size – spread out of different levels – but the exquisite chandelier hanging over the bar at the entrance. This was inspired by a Dutch artist and looks like a huge explosion of champagne bubbles.

It’s quite a sight as is the one to the left – an enormous wine cabinet stretching over not one but two floors which can house up to 1,000 bottles.

The restaurant is co owned by Christian Vanden Bogaard and Henri Baeyens and Christian certainly knows all about great views ... having once run a restaurant at  the very top of Brussels’ famous Atomium.

He later went on to run Adrienne on Toison d’Or, famous for its buffets, while Henri also has a rich and varied culinary background, having previously owned another very well known  Brussels restaurant, Lola on Place Sablon.

Both brought their vast experience in the trade to Park Side when they took over in 2008. The start, though, was somewhat inauspicious because, two weeks after the contract was signed, the financial crisis erupted.

That’s not the only problem the pair have had to overcome in recent years. There was the 2016 terrorist attacks that devastated trade all over Brussels, plus the increasing unpredictability of custom from the nearby  EU institutions.

This was most marked recently with an exodus of people from the area as the European elections took place. But the monthly commute to Strasbourg for the parliamentary plenary and even a changing work cycle, that sees many local eurocrats depart the city for their home states on a Thursday (not returning until the following Tuesday) also having an impact on business.

Such things make it hard for businesses in the area to flourish, not least Park Side which generally offers a higher class of cuisine than many others in the immediate area.

Even this can be a challenge. Selling the merits of a Belgian brasserie to people drawn from such as diverse mix of nations is not easy, particularly when surrounded by Irish bars and low-cost pizzerias.

Despite all this, Christian and Henri – backed by a hard working team – do a great job in maintaining standards and serving some very nice food.

One of the notable things about the place is the great affordability of the food, including the “Menu Bib Gourmand”, priced at just €37 which comprises a starter, main and dessert. This, in particular, offers very good value for money but, so too, does the main card which is tweaked 4 times per year to reflect seasonal changes and availability.

It currently features a nice blend of meat and poultry such as Irish steak, a best sellers, plus fish including grilled swordfish (served with Sicilian way) and the poached cod being two of the recommendations.

There’s also a few veggie and pasta dishes and a main here will set you back from as little as €16.

 Look out too for some nice desserts like that great Belgian classic crème brulee along with some wonderful offerings from the aforementioned magnificent wine cellar.

The prices have been kept low despite assorted challenges facing the two owners, the cost of the Irish steak being one example.This is now 35 per cent more expensive for them to buy (€30 per kilo) than ten years ago.

Even so, the owners spare no effort in trying to stay ahead of the game and that even extends to ensuring there’s a healthy atmosphere in the restaurant, installing a special extraction system that means guests are not impacted by cooking from the open kitchen.

All this may not have happened but for the fact that,one day back in 2008 Christian happened to pass by what at the time was a still-under-construction building.

With those great views over the park, he thought it had the makings of a great spot to dine – and the rest, as they say, is history!

Park Side Brasserie

Av de la Joyeuse Entrée 24, Brussels

02 238 0808

www.restoparkside.be

 

 

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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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