I've been in Belgium for how long, and not even one mention of chocolate? Blasphemy. Not to worry. I did save the best for last, and so I hope this post will satisfy any chocoholics out there.
There are 4 main chocolate brands that you will see plastered everywhere in Brussels: Pierre Marcolini, Neuhaus, Godiva, and Leonidas. Leonidas is the cheapest, and its shops can be found in many of the main metro and train stations. Godiva, well, you know Godiva. Neuhaus was founded in 1857, and its flagship store is located on the main place. And then there is Pierre Marcolini, definitely the sleekest and modern of them all.
Finally, there is also Galler, which I don't really count as being among the "magic circle" (even though they are Belgian Royal Warrant Holders) since they have 2 separate lines: the stuff available in grocery stores (candy bars and their infamous "cat's tongues" which were designed by Belgian comic book artist Philippe Geluck) and the more delicate pralines available only in their shops, which are actually few and far between. From their website I learned that some of their shops also had their own cafes, offering wine and chocolate pairings and many unusual flavors of hot chocolate, in addition to tea, ice cream, and other sweets. This I had to experience, and so one afternoon we took the tram out to the Uccle neighborhood to visit the only such cafe in Brussels.
While the menu had many types of hot chocolate that I would be interested in tasting just to be able to say that I had, like the Green Tea one, I was really intrigued by the trio of hot chocolates in the styles of the 14th, 16th, and 18th centuries. For 4.70€ I was not disappointed:Each version had 2 different aromas, and it was up to you to identify them. The waitress suggested that I start with the 18th century one (on the right) and time travel back to the 16th and 14th century ones (on the left). The answers were printed on the placemat underneath the cups: The only one I didn't like was the 16th century, whose main flavor was anise (licorice - bleh) with hints of hazelnut. Otherwise, I really liked the 18th century one (cinamon and orange flavor), and the 14th century one was fine too (spice and honey).
My boyfriend got the wine pairing, which involved 2 glasses of wine that were paired with 2 chocolates each (12€). I didn't try the wines, but he enjoyed them and said they reminded him more of Porto, and that Chypriote wine he once had at Senderens that he still won't stop talking about, than anything else. And who wouldn't appreciate an excuse to imbibe on wine and chocolate in the middle of the afternoon under the guise of a "tasting menu"?!
I bought about 4€ worth of assorted pieces before leaving, including every version of caramel (the one with salted caramel was my favorite), violet (disgusting - felt like I was eating soap), jasmine (not bad), and curry (I chickened out and made my boyfriend eat this one without telling him the flavor, he just responded, "spicy?"). And how does Galler measure up? Well, just last night we visited the trio on the Place des Sablons -- Pierre Marcolini, Godiva, and Neuhaus -- picking up a few pieces from each. And Pierre Marcolini was our favorite. So delicate but complex; in comparison Galler is almost like a Snickers. Really. And about the same price as Pierre Marcolini anyways.
Do not let this deter you from a trip out to the Galler cafe; I was certainly grateful for this chance to visit an adorable neighborhood that I would otherwise not have seen, and now I get to say that I have had all these different flavors of hot chocolate. But if you are looking for the ultimate delicacy, those exquisite pralines with each name and flavor emblazoned in gold leaf, head to that Japanese mecca, Pierre Marcolini, which has style and flair that the others can't quite match.
Parvis Saint Pierre 6
B-1180 Bruxelles (Uccle)
Pierre Marcolini, Neuhaus, and Godiva are located 3 in a row on the Place des Sablons in Brussels, with many other locations throughout Brussels and Belgium.