So You're a Brexit Negotiator in Brussels? Here's Where to Drink

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So You're a Brexit Negotiator in Brussels? Here's Where to Drink

Negotiating Brexit in Brussels from now until 2019 is going to be thirsty work.

British officials will travel to the European Union's headquarters in the Belgian capital at least once a month in an effort to reach a deal to extricate the UK from the 28-member bloc.

And after wrangling with the unelected European bureaucrats they’ve spent the best part of 40 years denigrating and undermining, they might find themselves looking for refreshment and the odd spot to quaff some French wine, eat authentic Italian pasta and perhaps even nibble on some Belgian fries. Definitely no having their cake and eating it, of course.

They could go for a pint at notorious journalist haunt The Old Hack, directly opposite the EU building where the negotiations are taking place, and where for decades diplomats have whispered into the ears of eager reporters such as Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary who was the Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent in the 1990s. And there’s always Kitty O’Shea’s on the same block, an Irish pub where the UK Independence Party's Nigel Farage can sometimes be found delivering his latest diatribe against the European project to anyone who’ll listen.

But with the next round of talks scheduled to start on Monday maybe they could be a little more daring. So here’s Bloomberg’s guide to some of the best restaurants, bars and cafes in the Belgian capital, where you might - or more likely won’t - find a Brexit negotiator or two.

Etiquette Wines

We love this large wine bar, across the road from the gorgeous Bois de la Cambre, a large park that is part forest, part lake. There are hundreds of wines from around the world which the friendly and well-informed staff are happy to discuss and let you taste.

Distance from the talks: 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers)

Brexit negotiator guide: If all is going well, this is a good place to relax and celebrate the fruits of your labor with the sort of French and Spanish wines you’ll hope Britain can still import despite leaving the European single market.


This is a minimalist restaurant serving modern dishes with minimal fuss. It’s informal and reasonably priced, and a fine escape from the nearby tourist joints. But when we went for lunch, it was deserted. It’s too austere for conviviality.

Distance from the talks: 1.9 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: “Too austere for conviviality” may sound too much like the European Commission negotiation room for your liking.

Boulangerie Charli

This simple bakery is great for breakfast. The scrambled eggs with farmers’ bacon were as good as any we have tasted: Soft and rich and packed with flavor. The pain au chocolat and croissants are also popular. Service is friendly and attentive. Charli is a real find.

Distance from the talks: 1.7 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: Bacon and eggs? Home away from home!


Chef Christophe Hardiquest’s cooking at this two-Michelin-starred restaurant is outstanding. We would be surprised if he doesn’t win a third in years to come. His signature dish of jewels of white pearl oysters with vodka-tonic gels was the best of dozens in Brussels and among the best this year. The dining room is light and charming, with tables outside and an open kitchen. But be prepared for a punishing bill. The five-course seasonal menu costs 185 euros ($211) and the wine list is unforgiving.

Distance from the talks: 3.5 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: With these prices, if they catch you here the tabloids will have a field day.

Les Brigittines

Chef Hardiquest sent us to this brasserie with a dramatic Art Nouveau dining room, green walls and dark wood. The food is gutsy and not for the squeamish. If you fancy pig’s trotter followed by tripe, this may be just the place for you.

Distance from the talks: 1.6 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: With tripe on the menu after a hard day negotiating Britain’s withdrawal from the EU... well, the joke tells itself really.

Le Pre Sale

We heard this place was great for moules frites and went along not realizing that mussels are out of season. Apparently, they are best in months that end in “er.” The floor and walls are tiled, which makes for quite a lot of noise from groups of young diners.Rue de Flandre 20, 1000. Tel. +32 2 513 65 45

Distance from the talks: 1.8 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: Yes, mussels are out of season but don’t worry, these negotiations could last until early 2019. You’ll definitely still be here in the next month ending in “er”. And the one after that. And the one after that...

Tonton Garby

Long queues form at this sandwich shop where the friendly owner draws on 50 cheeses as well as meats and vegetables to tailor-make individual sandwiches for each customers. This is slow food in slow motion but it is worth the wait.

Distance from the talks: 1.3 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: With the two-year Brexit clock ticking down to the U.K.’s exit in March 2019 with or without a deal, there’s probably not time to wait ages for a sandwich, to be honest.

La Villa Lorraine

This smart French restaurant is one for plutocrats. You can sip fine wines at the back of a 19th-century villa while enjoying Michelin-starred cooking and expensive ingredients such as lobster, foie gras and Kobe beef. If you can’t afford it, there is a brasserie, too.

Distance from the talks: 3.6 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: If we spot you here, we’ll know it’s gone REALLY well.

Restaurant de l’Ogenblik

This traditional brasserie was founded by six friends in 1969 and serves hearty plates of comfort food, with steak and fries and desserts such as lemon sorbet with vodka. It’s refreshingly old fashioned. We wonder if these are the original waiters.

Distance from the talks 1.4 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: Britain wasn’t even in the EU yet in 1969. It’s a winner!

Les Brasseries Georges

London-based French chef Claude Bosi sent us here to sample the classic fries cooked in horse fat. You know what? We think they might catch on. But we stayed for the oysters and steak, which we enjoyed sitting outdoors in the sunshine. What a great place.

Distance from the talks: 2.5 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: Avenue Winston Churchill. Need we say more?

La Buvette

This modern restaurant in an old butcher’s shop serves tasting menus at 49 euros and 64 euros. Chef Nicolas Scheidt keeps absolute focus on a few great ingredients and his cooking is among the most interesting we experienced in Brussels. Highly recommended.

Distance from the talks: 2.6 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: The borough of St. Gilles is probably too far from the heart of the eurocrat action and far too exciting for a civil servant to stray here.

Crab Club

The one thing that lets down many bars and restaurants in Brussels is the lackadaisical service. That’s how it is at this hip restaurant, which is too hip to care. But the food is OK and reasonably priced, so it’s perfect if you like to be left alone. Greta Garbo might like it.

Distance from the talks: 2.1 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: Chaussee de Waterloo might have some unfortunate undertones for those trying to get one over the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier. And Brexit Secretary David Davis is no Greta Garbo.

Delirium Cafe

This central bar holds the Guinness World Record for its number of different beers -- 2,004 in 2004 and hundreds more now. To be honest, it’s a bit of a tourist trap, but locals drink there, too, and the service is reasonably prompt.

Distance from the talks: 1.4 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: With so many beers, it’s a good fallback if it all goes horribly wrong or you just want to live up to the British reputation for getting smashed after a day’s work.


This coffee bar and roastery serves the best coffee we’ve tasted anywhere in the world for a very long time. Beans from around the world are on offer. It would almost be worth a trip to Brussels just to go here.

Distance from the talks: 1.5 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: You’ll be expected to be on your game from the get-go, knowing your stuff on the minutiae of topics ranging from the landing rights of planes to the stocks of mackerel in the North Sea. A good coffee to start the day will be essential and don’t expect to find one in the buffet car on the train over.

Friture Pitta de la Chapelle

This food shack beside the Gothic Eglise Notre-Dame de la Chapelle is popular with tourists and locals. You can choose from about 20 sauces to top your frites, which are regarded as among the best in Brussels. Also, it’s a nice alternative to the city’s famous Maison Antoine, where German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been known to enjoy the fries.

Distance from the talks: 1.5 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: If you go here, you’ve gone native way too quickly.

News by Bloomberg, edited Hospitality Ireland

San Sablon

This modern cafe is the offshoot of a fancy restaurant and the food is very serious. The Korean-Belgian chef is a master of flavors, creating adventurous fusion dishes. One features sardine, kiwi, cucumber and gooseberry and it works. This is not a place to miss.Rue Joseph Stevens 12, 1000. Tel. +32 2 512 42 12

Distance from the talks: 1.6 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: Perfect for “ global Britain.”

Comme Chez Soi

This historic restaurant with a beautiful Art Nouveau dining room in a townhouse is the grande dame of fine dining in Brussels. The cooking is classic and precise, and the 60 euro lunch menu is good value for this two-Michelin-star food.Place Rouppe 23, 1000. Tel. +32 2 512 29 21

Distance from the talks: 1.8 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: Comme Chez Soi means “just like home.”

Peck 47

This is a hipster spot that’s popular for breakfast and lunch, reminiscent of the kind of hole-in-the-wall joint you might find in New York or Melbourne. It’s fine but what tasted like UHT long-life milk killed the coffee for me.Rue du Marche aux Poulets 47, 1000 . Tel. +32 2 513 02 87

Distance from the talks: 1.5 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: Warning -- there’s nothing hipster about being a Brexit negotiator.


This bar is hidden down an alleyway in the city center but feels a world away. It’s housed in one of the city’s oldest buildings. There are cocktails, but it is hard to beat a cold beer in the courtyard. Rue de Rollebeek 7, 1000. Tel. +32 2 511 95 17

Distance from the talks: 1.5 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: Where to hide when you’re asked to pay the 100 billion-euro Brexit bill.

Xu Ji

Wandering downtown late at night after one or two beers, we happened upon this simple Chinese restaurant. We aren’t sure if we’d go back sober, but the food tasted good and the service was friendly. A waitress even helped me track down my Uber ride.Rue des Poissonniers 5, 1000. Tel. +32 2 503 01 03

Distance from the talks: 1.7 miles

Brexit negotiator guide: One for the last day of negotiations, when the U.K. finally leaves the EU. “Remember those endless fun months of talks in Brussels?” they’ll say to you in years to come. “Yes. But I’m not sure I would go back sober.”