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Lola Brussels: 20 Years of a Classic Brasserie

Nov 29, 2015

Lola Brasserie in Brussels celebrates its two decades as a place to be and as a place with alchemy of great soul mates.

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Text by Lise Coirier
Photography by Cici Olsson

Lola Brasserie opened its doors in December 2004 and since then, its brasserie-style kitchen has flourished, attracting the chic people of the city. TLmag speaks to interior designer François Marcq, acclaimed “a kind of guardian of the temple with a foundation that has stayed true to the original spirit.” He is one of the protagonists of the great human-driven adventures of the brasserie that embrace the highly curated seasonal culinary pleasures.

François Marcq is renowned as one of the best interior designers in Belgium. His thirty years of experience in fashion and retail have pushed him to develop his own signature by working mostly for private clients all over the world. When he designed the interior of Lola twenty years ago, he was Laurent’s companion, one of the five entrepreneurs behind the brasserie. Together, Marcq and Laurent, who passed away in 2005, first opened Le Faste Fou in Brussels in 1987 and developed the concept of Lola after a trip to New York.

“Faste Fou was very convivial with a bar on the main floor and a restaurant in the upper floor,” the designer states. “With Lola, we both wanted pure design and a minimalist environment with a curved bar counter for people to interact rather than a straight line which would break the dynamism of the space. In fact, a brasserie should be at first a place of interaction and encounter.”

“The red wall at the back of the brasserie has become iconic through the years. It attracts people inside and creates a kind of positive tension within the relatively narrow space. The Lola red has also put the people in confidence and made them to discover and appreciate the open window to the kitchen, an avant-garde detail at the time of its opening. The clients can see and the chef can also enjoy the view on the dining room.”

At the brasserie, ‘Lola’ is a sixth person in the group of the five founders. The personified, animated character of Lola is a lively creature designed by graphic designer Dimitri Jeurissen, who was leading Traces de Doigt before launching his famous graphic design practice, Base Design, between Brussels and New York. When speaking about Lola, one could think it’s a woman: “Her heart shaped mouth. Her way of putting everyone at ease. Her taste for elegance… Her cooking has evolved. So have her customers. The original crowd of antique dealers and gallery owners has expanded with the arrival of the chocolate makers. The area became also more touristic, but Lola is still a neighbourhood girl. When Sablon is alive, Lola is alive… Lola feels who’s there to have a good time and who’s there to talk business.”

What is appreciated at Lola are the salads kept from the Faste Fou and so-called ‘Lola in the garden’. To enhance positive ambiance, “the elegance of suspenders, white shirt, attitude,” Lola is also exploring the festival of one product which is cooked in several different ways, such as scallops, asparagus or artichokes, spiced or served with olive oil and lime. In the festival, ‘the ordinary becomes excellent and makes the excellent familiar.’

The location on Grand Sablon is also spectacular, and offers a view on a unique square connected to Brussels history back to the times of the guilds in the Middle Ages. Nowadays, the neighbourhood hosts a great mix of antique dealers, lifestyle shops, a gourmet market and chocolate makers such as Marcolini, Roger, Wittamer, Cornet and Neuhaus. All these have positioned Grand Sablon as the destination for art and antiques, food and refined delicatessen.

Published for the brasserie’s 20 years of living and cooking experiences, a book ‘Lola, I am twenty years, great!’ written by René Sépul, is full of memories and recipes. Feel ready-to-cook a seasonal skrei with vegetables, butternut and pumpkin risotto, rabbit legs with beer and endives, a yellow lentil stew with pumpkin puree and cherry tomatoes, a chicken tagine with preserved lemons, spices and green olives, and a lemon linguine with Parmesan shavings and Vol-Au-Vent, a typical house specialty. There are also Lola shrimp croquettes, the sardines with thyme and sea salt, pickled herring with warm potatoes, foie gras maison, rib steak with bone marrow, the molten chocolate cake with caramel and salted butter, berry tiramisu, and many more delights. •

Restaurant Lola, Place du Grand Sablon 33 Grote Zavel, B- 1000 Brussels. Tel. +32 2 514 24 60

François Marcq. Photo Serge Anton.
François Marcq. Photo Serge Anton.
René Sépul: Lola, I am Twenty Years, Great!
René Sépul: Lola, I am Twenty Years, Great!

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