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Old-school glamour at new-look Café Metropole

23:11 12/01/2017
The revamped eatery at the Hotel Metropole in central Brussels hopes to balance history with the needs of a contemporary public – just don’t mention the pedestrian zone

While the Hotel Metropole was fighting a high-profile legal battle with the City of Brussels over vehicle access, its sumptuous eatery, Café Metropole, was busy reinventing itself with the help of a new head chef.

The capital’s pedestrian zone has been the subject of polemics since its inauguration in 2015, but few of its critics have gone as far as making it the subject of legal proceedings. The owners of the historic five-star Hotel Metropole did just that, arguing that accessibility issues were adversely affecting its bottom line.

It won a rare exception to the city’s new car-free zone, a one-way channel down the Wolvengracht, between the bustling Nieuwstraat and Muntplein and right up to the hotel lobby, facing Place de Brouckère.

Meanwhile, inside the building, another set of changes was in full swing. Incoming head chef Benjamin Obsomer was tasked with overseeing a relaunch of the hotel’s restaurant. All marble and varnish, Café Metropole is an original Belle Epoque treasure dating back to 1890.

Obsomer’s mandate was to balance this history with the ever-evolving demands of a competitive hospitality industry. So the works ranged from maintenance and restoration of vintage fixtures to the development of a new menu.

On the menu

Obsomer, a veteran of the Belgian brasserie scene, kept signature standbys like the prize-winning Metropole 31 club sandwich while introducing new French- and Italian-inspired dishes.

Among his more adventurous creations is duck breast with speculoos and poached Asian pear. It’s not all so exotic, though. There’s still down-home brasserie fare like smoked salmon, steak tartare and croquettes.

The bar has been brought up to date as well. Not only will the connoisseur find the timeless trappist beers on which Belgium’s brewing reputation rightfully rests, Café Metropole also stocks top-quality craft product made by local upstarts. (Explore Zinnebir, made by Brussels’ own Brasserie de la Senne.) Then there’s a carefully selected wine list and a full range of liquors and cocktails.

Metropole’s Parisian-style terrace, meanwhile, has been a prime spot for coffee, ice cream and people-watching since the days of the horse-drawn carriage. Even in winter, warmed by heat lamps, the place remains a worthwhile pit stop on a city-centre stroll.

Written by Georgio Valentino