Drinking beer in a 16th century basement…

… is a far cry from drinking beer as a teenager in the basement of my family’s home in Toronto.
And that’s precisely why I love living and wandering in Brussels!


I recently spent the evening with Marla Cimini, a travel writer from the US who jaunts all over the world to follow a great story. So  I was under a bit of pressure to show her some of Brussels hidden gems. Hidden turned out to be the theme for the evening!

Billy & Brolly


Not one to be left at home, Billy, the Wondrous Wander Pup, announced that he was coming too. So we set out in the rain to take the metro in rush hour… a bit of a challenge for a little dog afraid of being stepped on.


We were already nice and wet by the time we got to our meeting spot so what’s a little more rain? This IS Brussels after all. And Billy was wearing his glow-in-the-dark collar so we knew we’d find our way on such a gloomy evening…




After a mini-wander, from The Hotel, through Egmont Park, the Petit Sablon and Grand Sablon squares, we needed to warm up and quench our thirst. So we headed to this street, where I knew we could find both bars and good restaurants.


832 Rue AlexiensWhere did we end up sampling a Belgian beer? In a 16th century basement pub called La Porte Noire, formerly the kitchens of a convent of Alexian nuns (and now you know the origin of the street name)!



146 Porte Noire Polar Turq Logo

Talk about ambiance — this place has it in spades! The vaulted brick ceilings, the slight chill in the air from being underground, the long wooden tables and benches and … the rockabilly music. Well, yes, that was a surprise, but a very pleasant one!

PorteNoire w Marla



The bartender helped us decide on beers, filled a bowl of water for Billy and then kindly took our picture… voilà, the three wet wanderers 🙂




By then we were rather hungry so we walked back up the hill to one of my favourite hidden and historic spots, L’Estrille du Vieux Bruxelles on Rue de Rollebeek, just below the Sablon.

It’s a cosy restaurant tucked behind a beautiful 16th century facade where walking through the ancient studded door swoops you back to medieval times, when it was an inn. I believe that of the several old inns still dotted around the city, L’Estrille is the oldest.

104 l'Estrille Turq Logo


We were warmly greeted by the lovely hostess who ran off to get Billy a bowl of water as we settled down to watch the fire burning brightly in the fireplace. Billy found a spot on the floor beside the radiator, so we all revelled in the cosiness on a damp, chilly day.


Fabulous food, warm, friendly service  and a few glasses of red wine later, we agreed our wet wander through hidden Brussels was a total success.



I might just wait until the warm weather to drink beer in the basement again, though!


A couple of notes:

Thanks to Marla Cimini for the photos of Billy and me with and without her!

Restaurant L’Estrille du Vieux Bruxelles has unfortunately closed since I wrote this post. I’m mourning their loss, but in the restaurant’s place you can check out cocktail bar Vertigo: https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g188644-d11962971-Reviews-Vertigo-Brussels.html


Leave A Comment