Breakfasts and Beds: Phileas Fogg, Brussels, Belgium
Rue Van Bemmel 6
+32 495 22 09 85
by Sunni Sidup
On the one hand, Phileas Fogg is a strange name for a Belgian Bed and Breakfast. The English explorer didn’t so much as set foot in the country, nor, I see, do the eponymous crisps come in a ‘Belgium Frite’ flavour. On the other hand, alongside Tintin and European Unions, food is high on the list of things the country is best known for. Chocolate, waffles, and, of course, beer: all Belgian specialities that are as delicious as they are bad for you. I was intrigued to see exactly what a Belgian breakfast held in store.
It’s probably worth mentioning at this point that I’m not, in fact, British. I come from a country where a ‘Full English’ is (perhaps more aptly) called a ‘Big Breakfast’, reserved only for weightlifters and those nursing the severest of hangovers, and I still, despite having lived here for over two years, find the idea of chips with my breakfast morally wrong. Yet on my first morning of waking up for breakfast at Phileas Fogg, I felt decidedly on the nationalistic side of the establishment’s namesake. Having regrettably fallen into the category of those nursing severe hangovers, all I really wanted was a good cup of tea. An Earl Grey would have been lovely, an English Breakfast even better, but when I was handed a cup of hot water with a lemon-infused green tea-bag on the side, I knew that it was going to be a very long morning indeed.
A night at the Phileas Fogg feels rather like you are staying with an eccentric French aunt, then for breakfast you gather around her kitchen table with the various other guests, all of whom cannot speak a word of English. You have two options: embarrassingly try out your limited school-level French, or explore the art of the awkward silence. The table is set with two baskets in the middle; one containing cold croissants and a lonely pain au chocolat, the other filled with pieces of miserly sliced multigrain bread. It will take you a while to realise that this is not just a starter. The bread will not be taken to be toasted. There will be no eggs, no bacon, no fruit, no cereal, no other options. It is a coeliac’s nightmare: bread or bread. The highlight of my morning was a Laughing Cow cheese sandwich; the rest I fed to the two Rottweilers circling my ankles.
The place itself is lovely, the eccentric aunt hospitable, the dogs’ barks worse than their bites, but the breakfast is appalling. Stay there by all means, but do so in the knowledge that you will need an early lunch.