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Love at first bite with Max Allman
Becoming owner of Crush Wine, Brussels’ cosy Australian and New Zealand wine shop, was never a planned career move for Max Allman. The way he tells it, “The then-owner asked, ‘You don’t know anyone who wants a wine shop, do you?’ So I drank too much wine, signed the wrong piece of paper and here I am.”
Planned? No. Fortuitous? Certainly, for Allman is a true believer in the Australian shiraz grape. You’ll find him in his shop at 39 Rue Caroly, nestled unobtrusively between Square de Meeûs and the European Parliament, happily extolling the grape’s virtues and converting the most stubborn of Old World oenophiles.
These days I head for Moeder Lambic at Place Fontainas. It has a nice selection of beer and they usually have a guest beer. They do food as well and it’s enough out of town that it’s not too heaving. If I’m ambling around town, La Fleur en Papier Doré on Rue Alexiens is another one. It’s a small, slightly pokey but classic old Belgian tavern with a traditionally grumpy barman who completely ignores you for about 30 minutes and throws you out at 1 o’clock.
MOEDER LAMBIC FONTAINAS
8 Place Fontainas
LA FLEUR EN PAPIER DORÉ
53 Rue des Alexiens
L’Auberg’in is a very homey, very good little French restaurant with an open fire that they grill meat on. I like practically everything on the menu, though the wine menu is solidly French, which I grumble about a little bit. It’s remarkably unchanging. I used to go there when I was young, and then didn’t go back for ages. Suddenly I returned years later and it was the same as it ever was. I talked with a waiter a couple of weeks ago who said he had been there for 20 years. It’s a reassuring sort of place with a very good wine list and not colossally expensive. It’s a bit out of town in a residential area, which is both its downside and probably its saving grace. It will never be the hot new restaurant, and it doesn’t want to be.
198 Rue au Bois
Obviously Australian shiraz is going to be high on my list. It would just be my first choice of wine. As the owner of Crush, I’ve had the luxury to be able to upgrade right to the top of the tree of Australian shiraz, but even part way up the tree you have some really great grapes. You’ve got a lot of rich fruit there, it’s a really nice drink just for sitting around and sipping or having with some food. I’d recommend Thorn-Clarke Shotfire Ridge. A multiple gold medal-winner, it’s a big grower that takes the best grapes for itself and keeps its prices very reasonable.
We say: A family-owned winery in the Barossa Valley, Australia’s biggest wine producing region, Thorn-Clarke has been growing grapes for six generations. They take advantage of the diversity of the region by having four vineyard sites in the Barossa, which lets them grow different grapes in their optimal climate
I’m going to go with parmesan. You can use it in salads, soups, pastas. As cheese it’s gorgeous, a great accompaniment to wine; I use it at tastings. If you’re looking for something simple to serve, you just take a lump of parmesan, chop it into chunks and everyone goes ‘Ooh!’
Just around the corner from my house is a butcher called Lanssens, which has a very good range of meats. They’re not cheap, but their sausages are to die for.
We say: Lanssens has been serving Etterbeek meat-eaters for more than 30 years. The queue is often out the door, but it’s worth the wait. They specialise in small, homemade linked sausages based on family recipes that have been passed down for 60 years. They come in a variety of flavours, such as curry, provençal or cheese. You’ll also find sauerkraut and marinated shish kebabs
67 Rue des Tongres
This is a warm, heavy meal that goes great with full-bodied red wines. I like that you can just fill up the slow cooker and leave everything to cook. I always eat it with mashed potatoes, rice or pasta and a green. Whatever’s leftover I eat the next day as a soup and it tastes even better.
BEEF COOKED IN CHIMAY
200g per person of high quality beef for carbonade
Around 20 juniper berries (crushed)
Salt, pepper, mixed herbs
400g tomato (fresh or canned)
1 bottle Chimay (330ml)
3 carrots, parboiled
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 cube beef stock
Gravy granules (optional)
200g mascarpone/goat’s cheese/cream (optional)
Trim all the fat from the beef and marinate it overnight in red wine, herbs, salt, pepper and the crushed juniper berries. The next morning, remove most of the juniper berries and drain the liquid, setting aside some of the marinade. Sautée the chopped onion until half-cooked. Add beef to slow cooker with the Chimay, tomatoes, basil, onions, carrots, peas, garlic, beef stock and gravy granules. Simmer in the slow cooker for approximately seven hours. At the end, add a splash of the marinade as well as the mascarpone, goat’s cheese or cream to thicken the sauce. If you want an even thicker sauce, create a roux using butter, cornflour and the liquid from the stew, and add it to the mixture