Name: Nica Broucke
Profession: Journalist, cultural omnivore and inspired by Brussels for more than thirty years, former chief editor of Elle-magazine and former art critic at De Morgen newpaper.
Lives in: Laeken
“A museum of contemporary art in Brussels after all?” you might ask. Indeed, it is unbelievable how little known this city museum, hidden behind Place Ste Catherine and located in a former power plant, is to the general public. It’s a real shame because artistic director Carine Fol manages to organize the most intriguing and interesting exhibitions. Don’t hesitate any longer and go visit “Where are the sounds” – the exhibition runs until September 10th.
Centrale, Place Sainte Catherine 44
I am so fond of oysters that I told at school it was my favorite animal. When I was asked why, I replied: “Because it is delicious, and it can change sex!”. Enter the school’s psychologist! Luckily I am more or less ok now. That is, as long as I can savor a sweet-silt oyster now and then. For years I used to enjoy them at Noordzee, the place to be in Brussels for seafood, until Bjarke left! The young Viking from Copenhagen has eyes to drown in and a smile no wifty can resist! (Yes, yes, I did research among my fortyish, fiftyish lady friends!) He can open any oyster with a whoosh. And I must say, also the smørrebrød tastes delicious. Add to that a glass of cool white wine and you only have to slurp and enjoy!
Smørrebrød, Place Sainte Catherine 47
From all the fashion shops in Brussels, Stijl is number one with a bullet. I have known Sonja Noel since we both studied at VUB University. When I lived around the corner of her boutique (at that moment located next to the first Pain Quotidien in the first part of rue Dansaert) I stared at the wonderful clothes in the window and saved enough to buy a skirt and jacket by Dries Van Noten. At that time he was not that well known, but these items are still hanging in my closet, and I even wear them nowadays. Sonja stubbornly goes for quality and style. Her selection is unparalleled! The clothes are quite expensive, but I prefer one designer item over ten cheap frocks. After all: ‘The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.’
Stijl, Rue Antoine Dansaertstraat 74
I got to know Peter-Jan Scherpereel and Tom Mares when they intervened at Art Brussels. These two architect/designers also decorated Samba Bar in Antwerp, near Het Eilandje. Their style can be called timeless, warm and skilled. It might seem weird to use the word ‘warm’ to describe designer furniture, but it is associated with their strong design, free of pretense and the use of diverse materials and meticulously chosen colours. If I would have the means, I would immediately order one of their kitchens – just like Michaël Roskam already did!
PJ MARES, Rue de Flandre 144
The same motto as before: it is better to choose one good quality piece instead of ten inferior items. Carine Lauwers, who has had a long career in fashion, started Unica a few years ago, a concept to make tailor-made clothes available to everyone. Unica stands for pure ‘slow fashion’ and this is the place where you should get your perfect Petite Robe Noir that will suit any occasion. There is only one basic model that will be adapted to your personal shape and style. The price starts at 190 euros. Depending on the material you choose, the length, whether sleeves or a belt are added, etc. you pay somewhat more. Carine shares this cosy workshop in the rue de Flandre with Nadine Serbruyns, a former lawyer who enthusiastically took up the art of upholstery and now refurbishes designer furniture in a very unique way. Small-scaled, handcrafted, exactly what I like!
Unica, Rue de Flandre 118
I am still confused why you can find Showroom_144 at rue Lepage number 47 instead of, as you might expect, at number 144. Well, this is an unusual shop anyway. Frank Pay and Kathleen Wercks turned to upscale (vintage) furniture after a career in music and fashion. Most items are Scandinavian – furniture, lamps and accessories. Regularly they organize an exhibition in the shop with photographs or paintings. A wonderful place to discover unique pieces, run by unique people.
Showroom_144, Rue Léon Lepage 47
The first Margiela shop ever! When you enter you are completely absorbed into the world of Margiela: the smell of the ‘Untitled’ perfume, trompe l’oeil wallposters, floors and mannequins painted white,… Martin Margiela is/was one of my favourite designers. Recently I visited the exhibition at the MoMu in Antwerp about his years at luxury brand Hermès and when you see all these clothes he designed, both for his own brand and for Hermès, you have to conclude that he was an exceptionally gifted and enthused artist-tailor. Margiela has long since left the fashion business and with the recent passing of Jenny Meirens, the initial Margiela years seem to be over. Luckily Nicola Vercraye manages to create some kind of continuity. From the collections now designed by the team of John Galliano, he chooses a very strong collection. I must admit I am jealous of the archive he established. But on the other hand I was spoiled by him when he used to lend me dresses for an Elle-party or any other occasion. The stocksales Nicola organizes twice a year are very popular because you can buy beautiful items at reduced prices, and you can enjoy them for years and years.
Maison Margiela, Rue de Flandre 114
I love to come here and riffle through the clothes. Sometimes you can find a real gem, sometimes though, you make a bad bargain. The pair of trousers, for example, with enormous flares in a 70s synthetic fabric… why on earth did I ever buy those? But one thing is for sure: your asset is always original and unique!
Think Twice, Vieux Marché aux Grains 57
My favourite hangout even though I don’t come here that often. But when I go to a pub, it is definitely at Martine’s. I love the no-nonsense interior, the lack of ‘hipness’ (which makes it hip again) and that very special atmosphere. And most of all I am fan of beautiful Martine, the pub owner, ever since she had a pub near the flea market. Usually I order a White Spritz, a drink I introduced here myself after I discovered in it in Venice: half white wine, half sparkling water.
Daringman, Rue de Flandre 37
I am a regular here since I discovered this restaurant. The people I invite over here are very surprised. Bel Mundo is a sustainable and social project. They cook with vegetables from their own garden – who would have guessed to find such a wonderful green lane near the canal, next to MIMA. Lunch is worth every cent of the 7,5 euros and on Thursday and Friday evening you can enjoy a 3 course menu for only 19 euros. On Sundays zero-waste collective Eatmosphere organizes a Mary-Pop-In brunch on a gastronomic and therefor somewhat more expensive level. I give them a fat eight for atmosphere and cosiness!
Bel Mundo / Mary Pop-in
Quai du Hainaut 29, 1080 Molenbeek
I do not have a record player, but when I see vinyl I always get nostalgic. Like this one from Arbeid Adelt, an EP that brings me back to the 1980s. Damn. We are getting old!Seymour Kassel Records, Rue de Flandre 93
My children have outgrown Kat & Muis for a long time, but I have not: I found these yellow golden sandals in my size!
Kat & Muis, Nouveau Marché aux Grains 35
A cocktailbar at the Marché aux Poissons with a ravishing terrace, very friendly boys to serve you and an exquisite Gin Fizz.
Skylab, Quai au bois à brûler 9