Brussels restaurants that are making an extra effort to ensure visitors’ safety are being awarded a special label.
The label, issued by the Brussels region and tourism agency visit.brussels, also applies to hotels and venues.
One objective is to boost the tourist sector as it still struggles to restart its activities. Another aim to provide diners and visitors with the confidence and peace of mind to actually leave their homes and dine out,not least in Brussels.
One such establishment that has been awarded the label is the venerable Aux Armes de Bruxelles, one of the most respected and oldest restaurants in the city (and country). It was given the award (the staff all wear a special badge) in recognition of the efforts it has made to meet the Belgian Government’s coronavirus regulations.
The health safety label, a joint effort in cooperation with the international certification agency Socotec, was awarded to the restaurant’s owners Nadine and Rudy Vanlancker after they introduced several measures to protect both customers and staff.
These include providing hand gel and insisting that their staff all wear protective masks. There is also a “one way” system with indications on the floor for diners to observe. It has also reduced the number of tables so as to meet social distancing requirements.
Efforts have been made too to raise awareness of team members to fully respect the already high hygiene standards. It should, in fact, be noted that for many years the restaurant has also had a “Safety and Hygiene Committee” within it, with all the obligations in terms of controls and processes this involves.
All restaurants and other venues are eligible to apply for the label which is free and are provided with all the materials necessary to communicate their status with the public. Since its launch, more than 20 establishments and institutions have qualified.
A spokesman for the restaurant said: “The availability of this label is a huge benefit for us. Implementing the steps to qualify for the label made us rethink everything but aims to benefit our Belgian and foreign clients.”
“It has been all about rolling up our sleeves to make sure the clientele is afforded everything that has always made us a success: quality and accessibility.”
Such establishments will be subject to random inspections by Socotec to guarantee proper and continual application of the measures.
The masks and gels used at Aux Armes are all made specially for the place and are already becoming something of collector’s items.
The restaurant has been on the Brussels eating scene for generations. Indeed, the head waiter, Pascal Van Rymenant, used to eat here as a young child, a weekly “treat” from his grand parents.
Scores of people are still being treated regularly to the lovely food served here, despite the ongoing health pandemic that has wreaked havoc in the horeca trade in Brussels in particular.
Pascal notes that while restaurants outside of the Brussels Region seem to be doing well now many within the 19 communes of the capital are still struggling to survive.
“It is odd,” he says, adding, “You would think that the virus stopped at the Brussels border but, of course, it doesn’t.”
The crisis has done nothing, though, to affect the quality of the food. From the simplest of dishes such as Belgian stoemp and meatballs to the most delicate of grilled lobsters and appetizing casseroles of mussels, regulars know that they will be able to find here.
Also worth noting that there are free menus for children under 12 who are accompanied by an adult.
The service here is every bit as good as the food, including Ghafar Saghar, the only person here who has worked in every part of the restaurant. He started as a dishwasher and has worked in the kitchen, bar and on ordering supplies.
Originally from Pakistan, he and his colleagues offer plenty of cheerfulness and informative insight into the menu for the restaurant’s mini army of clients.
Unlike most restos that are now operating with hugely reduced menus, the choice here is as extensive as ever, including its very own house beer.
This is partly because much of the lovely food, such as foie gras and fish soup is actually prepared on the premises.
The card, in French and Flemish, contains a big choice of meat, fish and seafood and there are also some lovely deserts and terrific wines.
This restaurant, situated just round the corner from the Grand Place, has been a Brussels institution for many years, counting on the likes of Jacques Brel among its past customers.
Virus or no virus, it is still delighting guests and aims to do so for many years yet.