Every Saturday and Sunday, Vanessa Zhâ and Marion Sauveur make us discover some nuggets of French heritage.

Today, we cross the borders of France to go to Belgium, and get to know the masterpieces of Art Nouveau in Brussels, while tasting some local specialties. 

This morning, we jump on the Thalys, direction Brussels Vanessa, to celebrate the opening of a legendary place.

The Solvay hotel, a masterpiece listed as World Heritage by Unesco, and designed at the beginning of the 19th century by Victor Horta.

The great architect of Art Nouveau took eight years to complete it.

He had carte blanche, and even a white purse, an unlimited budget to make it a real gem, down to the smallest detail and finish.

Alexandre Wittamer, the owner, takes us into the house, which is just details.

This is what the central staircase looks like, for example: "There is a sort of bronze plant, which is in fact a luminaire, and which is literally rooted in marble. From this luminary leaves the staircase railing, which comes a bit like a creeper to surround itself around. We really have the three materials (marble, bronze and wood), which fit together perfectly, with three trades which must have collaborated. Many think that it is largely in the big leagues of European Art Nouveau, just like a Gaudi. "

A genius who cannot be overlooked.

A little practical info: reservations must be made online.

Can we say that Brussels is the capital of Art Nouveau?

Yes, like Vienna.

But it is true that Brussels alone is home to the largest number of Art Nouveau buildings in Europe.

There are four or five that are essential.

Already, not far from the Solvay hotel, there is the Old England store which houses the museum of musical instruments.

You can't miss it, it's all glass and black metal.

In the Hotel Hannon, you have a very beautiful staircase to admire.

The Tassel hotel is considered to be the founding work of Art Nouveau.

And then, if you want to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of a house of the time, take a tour of the Horta museum: it is the old house-workshop that Horta had built and where he lived with his family.

Brussels is also the capital of comics!

We can even say "the mother city of comics".

The first step is to go to the Belgian Comic Strip Center, housed in a building designed by our Horta elsewhere.

And then, if you are true aficionados, you have to tackle the Comic Strip Trail: around sixty painted walls.

All the comic book heroes are there.

And there are even more contemporary and committed designers like the crocodiles who denounce machismo and sexism for example, it is the very last fresco painted at the end of the year.

Brussels always remains very avant-garde in the end!

For information, you can download the course map.

A hotel to recommend Vanessa to us, if we can travel back to Belgium on Monday or wait for the border deconfinement?

La Maison Flagey, an Art Nouveau guest house, in the Ixelles pond district, with a view of the ponds and Place Flagey.

What are the specialties you should have tasted if you go to Brussels?

The essential: it's the gray shrimp croquette, caught in the North Sea.

It is an elongated dumpling, made of a shrimp bechamel, and fried.

Crispy on the outside and smooth on the inside.

Like that, it sounds simple, but it takes a long time to get them done. 

You have to make a classic béchamel sauce, but before mixing the milk with the butter and the flour, you will infuse in your milk: your shrimp carcasses with white wine, lemon juice, a carrot, a leek, nutmeg, a bouquet garni, as if you were making a broth.

It will give flavor to your béchamel.

You add your prawns to it.

Once ready: let it rest overnight in a cool place.

It will be easier to form your elongated meatballs and roll them in breadcrumbs.

The little tip is also to let them rest once again before plunging them into the frying bath so that they take on a nice golden color and that they do not burst during cooking.

They are eaten with lemon and fried and salted curly parsley.  

Gray shrimp croquette

Ingredients (for 12 croquettes): 

  • 500 g peeled gray shrimps

  • 50 g butter

  • 50 g flour

  • 30 cl of whole milk

  • 20 cl of white wine

  • 1 carrot

  • 1 leek

  • 1 pinch of nutmeg

  • 1 bouquet garni

  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

  • 1 egg

  • 50 g of liquid cream

  • Breadcrumbs

  • Salt pepper

Production :  

1. Melt the butter and add the flour, cook for a few minutes.

It's your redhead. 

2. In another saucepan, simmer the milk with the shrimp carcasses, the cut vegetables, the white wine, the lemon juice, the nutmeg, the pepper, the salt and the bouquet garni.

Filter the milk.

And whisk with the roux.

Add your shrimp.

Place in a dish, film on contact and leave in the fridge for at least one night.

3. The next day, shape the croquettes.

Dip them in the flour, egg white and breadcrumbs.

Put them back in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. 

4. Heat the frying bath to 160 degrees minimum: sear them for 8 minutes (they must be golden).

Serve with lemon wedges and salted fried parsley.

Where do we taste it in Brussels? 

The best are in Saint-Gilles, it's in the suburbs.

At Cédric Mosbeux.

He won the last two competitions for the best prawn croquette in Brussels.

His restaurant is called Fernand Obb Delicatessen and there are all the great classics of popular cuisine.

And in particular the pistol mince pickles, a round bun filled with a mince (raw pork and veal) with pickles.

You can enjoy the croquettes to take away! 

Another address: the fishmonger Noordzee - Mer du Nord, not far from Zinneke pis.

To eat on the go!  

Don't we eat fries with it? 

We can: at Fernand Obb Delicatessen, it is possible.

It is THE specialty of the city.

It is absolutely necessary that you take a "cone" of fries if you go to Brussels.

There is a real culture of fries.

You don't make fries with just any variety of potato and they don't bathe in just any oil.

I asked Pascal Willaert of the Maison Antoine chip shop for the instructions.

It has been an institution since 1948!

"You have to take a firm potato. Here in Belgium, we cultivate Bintje. Once we have peeled and cut them, we plunge them in beef fat, that's what gives the taste to the fries. . Usually we cook between 120 and 140 degrees the poaching. After, we wait 20-25 minutes and then there is cooking between 160 and 180 degrees. It must be golden on the outside there must be flesh to inside. " 

In Belgium we do not eat French fries without sauce.

Mayonnaise is the queen, but at Maison Antoine, there are no less than 32 kinds of sauces!

The homemade tartare, which is their specialty, is delicious.  

And on the sweet side? 

The Brussels waffle.

Not to be confused with the Liège waffle.

The dough of the Brussels is liquid (like crepe dough), with baking powder, while the Liège contains baker's yeast.

It needs time to rest and it is malleable, like brioche dough.

The dough of the Liègeoise is not sweet, but we will add granulated sugar, which will caramelize when cooked!

And that's what will give a nice shiny side to the waffle. 

Brussels waffle 


1 kg of flour

350 g melted butter

500g sugar

1 pinch of salt

10 g of baking powder

6 eggs 

1 liter of milk 

500 g of water

Production : 

1. Combine sugar, melted butter and salt.

Add the eggs and mix.

2. Add the flour and baking powder and mix. 

3. Add milk and water and mix.

4. Bake the waffles.  

Belgian waffles


  • 1 kg of flour

  • 400g butter

  • 400 g milk 

  • 4 eggs

  • 45 g baker's yeast

  • 300g granulated sugar

Production :

1. Mix the milk and the yeast.

Add the sugar and eggs.

Add the flour.

Add the butter. 

2. Finish by adding the granulated sugar. 

3. Form dough balls and let stand 30 min.

4. Bake the waffles.

And there is a biscuit to taste absolutely, it is the speculoos.

This crispy cookie, with a brown color and a good taste of spices, that we nibble almost endlessly and which can be about twenty centimeters for the most beautiful pieces!

It was created when spices arrived in Europe.

I asked Alexandre Helson, 7th generation from Maison Dandoy (the reference address in this area), why these cookies are called speculoos.

Here is his answer: "The Latin word speculums means mirror. The mirror effect comes from when it is produced, we type the cookie dough into famous wooden molds which will represent a whole series of figurines from Brussels folklore in general. . When you extract the dough from the wooden mold, you have a mirror effect. " 

The dough is flattened over the entire surface of the mold with great force.

And then you have to hit the mold very hard on the work surface to unmold the raw speculoos.

And above all, do not leave bits of dough in the wooden mold.

At Maison Dandoy, we still make these cookies in an artisanal way, with cinnamon and cloves.

And everyone has their own recipe.  



  • 1 kg of flour

  • 300 g butter

  • 600 g dark candy brown sugar

  • 100 g of water

  • 1 pinch of salt

  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon

  • 1 pinch of cloves 

Production :

1. Mix the brown sugar, butter, salt and spices until you obtain a cream.

2. Gradually add water while stirring.

The dough must be well diluted. 

3. Add the flour and baking powder.

Mix gradually: but it should not be kneaded too long to prevent it from becoming too elastic. 

4. Roll out the dough, cut it with cookie cutters. 

5. Place the baking sheet in the hot oven at 180 degrees.

Leave to cook for about 10 minutes. 

But Marion, Belgium is also the land of chocolate. 

Yes, and today, there is no longer really Belgian chocolate as our grandparents were able to know: a chocolate recognized for its very high percentage of cocoa compared to other chocolates made in the world.

It turns out that there are some talented chocolatiers in Brussels.

If you are a fan of dark chocolate, you must absolutely taste Laurent Gerbaud's pralines.

A balancing act of taste.

It offers pralines, that's what chocolate candies are called in Belgium, with very little sugar.

He does not use alcohol or preservatives in his ganaches. 

If there is a chocolate that I recommend, it is the "Hazelnut station": a small sphere of chocolate which contains a liquid hazelnut-cashew praline.

Crunchy chocolate and the sweetness of praline.

He also produces coated fruits, just incredible.  

I couldn't talk to you about chocolate without telling you about Pierre Marcolini, who we know well in France.

He makes his chocolates from the beans he selects.

He has just opened a biscuit factory in Brussels.

And a new shop at the Grande Place, where you will find speculoos in particular, its Grands Crus bars or its Petits bonheurs (hazelnut pralines).