Brand new resto “takes root” on Brussels eating out scene

Martin Banks
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Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), The eating out habits of Belgians may be changing, according to a survey.

Comeos, the trade federation, reports that the poll it commissioned shows Belgians nowadays go less often to restaurants and more often to fast food places.

Its reports say attendance in restaurants is down no less than 10.8 per cent compared to 2019. The opposite applies to fast food chains where business has soared from 9.4 per cent to 17.1 percent over the last four years.

But one – brand new – Brussels eating establishment seems to be bucking the current trend.

It is called “Timber” and it has set the Horeca scene “alight” since it opened in November.

Bookings are very healthy here, so much so that it is often bully-booked on most nights it opens.

This resto is part of an impressive complex that also offers a hotel, bar and gym (all opened last summer) and which is located in a part of Brussels that’s not known for such a combination of first-rate – and trendy – facilities.

For years this vast building was known as Royale Belge and, for about 20 years or so, home to an insurance company.

It fell vacant for a few years and it is understood the United States was keen to relocate its embassy in Brussels to the site but that the cost of bulletproofing the huge windows that front the building was too prohibitive.

For lovers of good, healthy food that was good news because it meant that the idea for “Timber” then took root.

Entering the resto is possibly like something you’re unlikely to experience anywhere else in Brussels (or Belgium).

One reason is those quite enormous windows (try to grab a view in daylight as it’s well worth it) but also the particularly sophisticated charm that pervades this place.

That starts with a lovely warm welcome from staff members like Ines Ben Abdellah who kindly explains the concept behind the restaurant business and innovative design.

This was the work of a Belgian designer – Lionel Jadot – with the result being a very tasteful combination of what might be best described as a “raw” look – the original structure of the building is visible – and some warm and cosy features.

One of the first things – other than the décor – that may well first strike any visitor is the aroma – a slightly “smoky”, woody sensation. The reason for that is that this restaurant aims to combine  “the best of smokehouse techniques with seasonal dishes.”

Each dish gets the BBQ treatment here – at least one item on your plate is also cooked on a BBQ. Not any old BBQ, mind, but a top-notch one from Japan (even the charcoal is sourced from Japan).

This is all done in a small area, affectionately called the “spaceship”, which leads onto a very wide terrace for the adjacent bar.

The BBQ treatment is certainly original and ensures that each dish has a rather unique taste and flavour.

The menu itself is rotated regularly to ensure only the most seasonal offerings appear on it.

It is quite small – no more than a handful or so of starters and mains – but that is all very deliberate. The message here is clear: It’s all about quality over quantity.

Some current examples of dishes include (for starters) ravioli (mushrooms or beef cheek), grilled leek and seabass ceviche while, for mains, you will find things like grilled butternut and roasted seabass.

Another key concept of this fantastic resto is that it tries to put the emphasis (not only on vegetables) but on Belgian and Belgian producers. So, you will also find coucou de Malines (this being a breed of Belgian chicken from the area of Mechelen) and entrecote rouge de Flandres, a good food label for meat from Flanders.

There’s an equally terrific choice of desserts and a glass of wine can be ordered by the glass or bottle. Belgian beer lovers will also find some of their favourite tipples on the drinks menu too.

In case you wondered, yes, those are real (small) trees between the tables. This is, after all, called “Timber.”

Most “hotel restaurants” largely depend on residents for their customs but, if anything, this place is the opposite (with as many, if not more, of its diners being non-residents) which reflects both the quality of the cuisine (hats off here to chefs Andy Vandegucht and Olivier Langlet) and very pleasant service.

They do say good news travels fast so it appears that news about this new addition to the Brussels horeca landscape, which can seat up to 80, has spread particularly fast.

Dinner is served Wednesday to Saturday and there’s also a good value for money lunch from Tuesday-Friday. Timber is on the 2nd floor of the building and there’s a good on-site car park.

After a fab meal here try to sample another special treat in the locality: a walk in the wonderful Sonian Forest which directly backs onto the resto.


Bd du Souverain 25, Watermael-Boitsfort

02 669 4830

[email protected]

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Brussels Morning is a daily online newspaper based in Belgium. BM publishes unique and independent coverage on international and European affairs. With a Europe-wide perspective, BM covers policies and politics of the EU, significant Member State developments, and looks at the international agenda with a European perspective.
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Martin Banks is an experienced British-born journalist who has been covering the EU beat (and much else besides) in Brussels since 2001. Previously, he had worked for many years in regional journalism in the UK and freelanced for national titles. He has a keen interest in foreign affairs and has closely followed the workings of the European Parliament and MEPs in particular for some years.