There’s more than just food and drink on the menu at one Brussels restaurant. As well as some tasty dishes you will also find a large serving of “can do” spirit.
The Belgian owner of Callens Café has found a novel solution to the “triple whammy” that’s hit the horeca trade in the city and rest of Belgium.
Jean Callens has decided to “branch out” by selling Christmas trees from the restaurant, which is located the top of Avenue Louise.
As it’s the festive season, Jean thought it an ideal time to get into the spirit of the occasion. But, unlike most resto owners who might merely just spread a bit of tinsel and glitter around their premises Jean went one step further by personally constructing a full-blown, Alpine-style log cabin outside his restaurant.
It’s from here that folk can also themselves get into the swing of the season by sampling mulled wine and raclette, all in the comfort of a large, heated log cabin!
The Nordmann, or Caucasian fir trees are known as the “Rolls Royce” of Christmas trees because of their quality.
Each has a beautiful pyramid shape, dense, glossy foliage and a dark green colour and is Europe’s most popular fir.
Jean’s move is inspired not just because of the time of year but also partly a response to the wretched and ongoing health pandemic that has wrought havoc in the city’s hospitality sector.
Like most other businesses, his has had to deal with what represents a triple whammy
First, there was the vaccine certificate that everyone entering a restaurant now has to produce. Second, there was the problem posed by tele-working – people who might otherwise be eating out at lunchtime who were (and, in many case, remain) working from home instead.
This has impacted on many restos, including places like Callen’s Café that has traditionally relied on a healthy lunchtime trade as it is situated at the foot of at the foot of the city’s famous IT Tower and is in the middle of a bustling business district.
The third setback is the onset of the new variant of coronavirus that has resulted in the re-introduction of stiff new restrictions here.
Not one to be easily defeated by such things, Jean has responded positively and in the best entrepreneurial spirit.
Xavier Eugene, a customer who lives nearby, is impressed by the pragmatic approach adopted by Jean, saying, “It’s good that people like Jean are not allowing this dreadful crisis to beat them. This initiative is also helping to attract people to the area which is good despite all the problems we are all experiencing.”
The restaurant itself is a real mainstay on the Brussels culinary scene. It dates to 2004 when Jean opened it but his family’s traditions are deeply rooted in the trade.
Jean is the third generation of a family which first distinguished itself in the industry as far back as WW1 at the seaside resort of Blankenberge.
The Hotel Marie-José Blankenberge was, in fact, managed by the Callens family until 2008. While he initially launched Callen’s cafe with the help of his brother Olivier, Jean is, today, in sole charge of the place.
The resto has two parts, one which has an elegant “lounge” atmosphere and offers a menu based on tapas,small dishes to share, which can be accompanied by cocktails
On a different note, still in an elegant and contemporary setting but more “classic”, is the other part of the restaurant which boasts a more gastronomic offering.
It can also be privatized for all imaginable events for up to 200 people, whether it is the restaurant or the more informal area.
Many like to try the great value for money, €25 pp Sunday brunch, from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
There’s also a great terrace overlooking the wonderful Cambre Abbey opposite. After a meal – or maybe buying a Christmas tree and downing some mulled wine – why not have a pleasant walk in the quite delightful Bois de la Cambre nearby?
All in all, Jean and his staff deserve full credit for doing their bit to inject some real fun into Christmas, the 2nd directly impacted by the pandemic.
Callens Café, Av. Louise 480, 1050 Bruxelles, 02 647 6668