mussels in brussels


Mussels in Brussels is not only a tacky rhyme, it's also a tacky tourist tradition. The front desk clerk at our hotel warned us about the "tourist restaurants" (she hadn't been herself, but was convinced they were purveyors of low quality mussels). She also relayed cautionary anecdotes of previous hotel guests being sick after eating at said restaurants. These establishments are located on Rue des Bouchers/Beenhouwerstraat, near the Grand Place.

The clerk told us that regardless of which restaurant we chose, we had to have mussels while we were in town. We were curious to try them, so we found a few good reviews of Chez Léon on TripAdvisor and knew that it would be in the vicinity of our sight-seeing that day.

The service was the worst we've ever had. The waiter was so incredibly rude, and if we weren't so hungry, we would have left. We really should have left.

Our mussels arrived a few minutes later. We found them to be overrated. It's tempting to blame it on our choice of restaurant, but Chez Léon seems to have a decent reputation (online) for quality mussels. Why do people eat mussels? Is there any particular flavour or texture that is appealing? If so, we didn't experience it.

Since our visit, we have read Anthony Bourdain's 'Kitchen Confidential', and don't think we'll be eating mussels again. (You can see what he has to say about mussels, amongst other things, here.)

Fortunately, the unending supply of sweet desserts in Brussels made us forget all about the gross dinner.

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  1. I adore mussels, glad you got to enjoy them in a city of a rhyming name!

  2. Haha - touristy or not, they look incredible. I'm a seafood nut and sometimes there is nothing better than fresh mussels. :)

    Oh yes, and I've read Kitchen Confidential too, lol. I don't think that is true for ALL restaurants, but yeah we take a little risk here and there sometimes when we eat these. :)

    Bre @

  3. Monica in Austin29.7.10

    I love your blog and photography and have enjoyed living vicariously through you both on your travels! More pictures of Brussels please!!! I am so intrigued by that part of the world.

  4. Boo on bad service. I'm not a fan of mussels, so I'm glad you had some tasty desserts to make up for it!

  5. I enjoy mussels but with all the chocolate choices I would have a hard time eating anything else!

  6. I am big on mussels! i thnik they are a unique texture, just like any shellfish. They should come in a big bowl of broth though. Is there broth in your bowl?!

  7. Looks like we enjoy the same things ... just had a heaping amount of mussels for my birthday. Keep on enjoying life! XO

  8. I became very sick the last time I ate mussels. Blech. I'm sorry your server was rude. Lame.

  9. Bourdain scared me off of mussels too. He is such an adventurous eater that I know if he says something is dangerous it really must be!

  10. It's all in the juice with mussels ie. the sauce is so tasty you don't taste anything else!

    I'm scared I might change my mind was I click on over to that 'Kitchen Confidential' link...

  11. did you get to see the "ManekenPiss"?? They dress him sometimes for festivities!!
    Have fun, I haven't seen Bruxelle in a long time!!

  12. Did you get to see the ManekenPiss? They dress him sometimes for festivities! I haven't seen Bruxelle in a long time. Have fun!!

  13. the red bunngalow - You're right. It's kind of a risk anytime you eat at a restaurant.

    Daisy & christine - Yeah, there was. It was gross too! I had frog's legs once. The sauce was so amazing that I didn't care what meat it was... but, then, what's the point?!

    WendyandGabe - I know! I wouldn't eat half the stuff he touches.

    Everything and Anything - We did - and it was dressed up. We'll post the pictures soon.

  14. I love mussels, they are so delicious!

    Lovely blog!

    xx fesi-fashion

  15. I don't like mussels either, they look great, but always disappoint. These pictures are amazing. I hope you have a great time in Brussels.

  16. Anonymous2.8.10

    You guys complain wayyy too much for two people who have the pleasure of experiencing something that only a very, very small population of us are lucky enough to experience. Parts of the world do suck, but you should be much more grateful and content.

  17. whoa, chill anonomysto. So if the food is underwhelming and the waiter is a dick then you're ungrateful and spoiled? Oh. Thanks for clearing that up! It's a blog, these are just the opinions of the writers! No sugar coating necessary.

    When I was in Belgium is 2004 I had one of those 'uugge buckets of mussels. Probably had around 60..couldn't eat 'em again for YEARS. I'm such a brat, huh?

  18. Looks like an awfully cute spot on that little crooked road — too bad it wasn't enjoyable!

    I make efforts to try new foods while traveling — some I like, some I don't. I like the experience of it. Mussels do have a lot of things going against them, but you never know :)

    Hope you got to try some of Belgium's amazing beer with those mussels, and during your stay!