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Atmospheric Brussels bistro: A reminder of what Belgium does best

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Belgium is, of course, best known for its chocolate and beers, writes Martin Banks.

As good as both are (and they are) there’s the temptation to forget that the Low Country is also richly endowed when it comes to producing its own agricultural produce.

Down the years, this has enabled it to come up with its very own traditional plates, such as carbonnade a la flamande, stoemp, chicons gratin and boudin.

While these Belgian “classics” may not be particularly well known elsewhere, they can, of course, be found in abundance here.

That includes at one Belgian resto that proudly – and rightly - bills itself as “100 per cent Belgian.”

That is a claim that others may make but, to be honest, with rather less conviction than at Zotte Mouche.

This quaint and cosy eatery, just round the corner from the Grand Place in Brussels, really is “all things Belgian” and that, of course, also extends to a very good array of Belgian beers.

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It is unique is another sense: it is one of three restos under the same ownership which are all located within about 100 metres or so of each other on the same city centre street. It seems fitting, then that one of the other restos is called UNIK (the third is called Ricotta & Parmesan).

Back to Zotte Mouche, though, and this really is the place for those who love traditional and wholesome Belgian cuisine. There are also some things, such as peaches filled with tuna and mayo, that you very rarely find anywhere these days.

It is all nicely cooked and presented by a welcoming young team and, yes, very tasty (washed down by any number of first class Belgian beers like Tongerlo and Charles Quint Ommegang).

A new seasonal menu will be launched on 18 September, featuring a few different starters, but all the customer favourites (such as those above and others like vol-au-vent, Americain and blanquette de veau) will naturally remain.

Apart from commendably promoting good old Belgian food and produce/ingredients, this place does a wonderful job on the nostalgia front.

One example is – and this is very inventive – the use of “old” Bruxelloise vocabulary/language on the menu card (the front of which features a French singer from the 1960s).

Inside, you will find phrases and words like “zwanzer” (someone who talks a lot) and “des dikkenek” (conceited) as you try to make your choice of something to eat and drink.

It is a really nice touch and just one of the “nods to the past” people will find at Zotte Mouche.

Another of those is unmistakable: walls that are littered with LP vinyl covers from a bygone era. Trying to recognise some of the more familiar names is recommended (suffice to say that the great Belgian musical icon Jacques Brel is up there along with folk like Johnny Hallyday).

The resto is relatively new and celebrated only its second anniversary in the summer (in typically understated fashion with a majorette-led parade from the Grand Place).

In a relatively short space of time, it has proved a real hit, not least with locals and the many tourists who flock to the surrounding area.

Renaud Waeterloos, the CEO, explains that the resto has, in effect, “two faces”. Weekdays are relatively calm and relaxed but, come the weekend, the place is really buzzing with a resident DJ playing live music for people to dance to on Saturday nights until late.

But, irrespective of when you might come, having something to eat here is always accompanied by a great soundtrack – songs from yesteryear and that aforementioned very colourful and elaborate décor.

This authentic bistro oozes ambience and music is particularly important with the likes of Brel, Brassens and Annie Cordy, from the 1960s to 1990s adding to the atmosphere.

Apart from the incredible collection of LP covers on the walls, it’s worth noting that even the tables and stools have been built with beer bins. It’s all designed to add to the friendly atmosphere in this old-fashioned “pub”.

Zotte Mouche tries to immerse customers in an authentic atmosphere, a place “where life is good, where you can laugh and relax around a good beer and a comforting dish”.

In other words: the perfect place to remind yourself of what really is rather good about Belgium.

Open 7/7, from 11am-3pm and 6pm-11pm.

Further info

Zotte Mouche, 47 rue de l’Ecuyer, Brussels
www.zottemouche.be

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