Name a restaurant that will open on both New Year’s Day and Christmas Day?
Not easy, is it. The answer is Chez Leon in Brussels which just so happens to also be bucking the current trend in the city and country’s hospitality sector.
That unfortunate trend has seen lots of restos here either been forced to close for good or sustain major financial hits due to the ongoing – and worsening – health pandemic.
A well-established Indian restaurant in Uccle, which had been on the scene for many years, recently closed permanently due to this very reason, becoming the latest casualty of the coronavirus crisis.
But, happily, Chez Leon is reportedly going from strength to strength at present and will also open its doors every day over the upcoming festive period for folk here who, basically, just want to get out and let someone else look after the cooking.
It’s a prospect that should have widespread appeal – after all, isn’t the holiday season supposed to be a time for relaxation?
Those who take up the offer won’t be disappointed because the high standards this most famous of Brussels restos has been setting for decades now are as good as they’ve ever been.
The food is very tasty and also, just as important in this day and age, very good value-for-money. The thick and glossy menu is itself worth a visit, as are the amazing number and range of artefacts that adorn its decorative walls. It’s all looking very festive right as can be seen from these photos.
In fact, even if you don’t come to eat (and that would be a bit of a shame!) this place is well worth visiting just to wander around its myriad of corridors and passages to see the quite staggering collection of memorabilia, both related to the resto itself but also Brussels.
Once you’ve exhausted yourself dazing at the books, letters, photos, displays etc you can sit down to sample some of the great, traditionally Belgian, dishes on the card,including items like tomate aux crevettes grises, croquettes au fromage, lapin a la Kriek and Ardennaises. The dish that it’s most famous for, and the best seller, is oysters and there’s a huge choice of these. You can wash down the lovely food with one of the “in house” Chez Leon beers which are also excellent.
It’s all served by the incredibly loyal and long serving staff including Alex, its head waiter who’s worked here for no less than 37 years! Another, Said, has been here a mere 19 years! In an industry known for its high staff turnover, this is impressive and reflects well on the founders/owners (the Vanlanker family).
Another great idea from the owners here (and what better excuse to get out and dine at Chez Leon over the holiday period): children up to 12 eat free!
This dining institution is very much back in business which contrasts with a lot of places. To offset the crisis, a €66 million package of extra financial support for the catering and hospitality industries, to allow staff to be paid their end-of-year bonus, was recently approved by the Belgian federal government.
But there are also new restrictions on cafes and restaurants in an attempt to slow down the fourth wave of coronavirus, with both having to close early and reintroduce the limit of a maximum six people per table (over the age of 12).
It all adds up to yet more misery for this badly hit sector.
Happily, though, there is a glimmer of good news and, for that, you’d do well to head to this still-fantastic restaurant right at the heart of Brussels.
Chez Leon, 18 rue des Bouchers, Brussels, Tel: 02 511 1415