Tuesday, May 16, 2006
In the heart of the Matonge, the mostly African part of Brussels, Place Saint Boniface has a great atmosphere regardless of the time of day, weather or season. Still nobody will deny that nothing is better than a balmy early summer night of chitchat and wine on the terraces surroundings the little square. Less snobby and pretentious then the similarly terraced Sablon this is a relaxed place. In the few hundred square meters around the church and the three by three streets creating a grid there are more then a dozen restaurants and bars. Some are excellent, some just ok, most are relatively cheap. My personal favourites are L'Ultime Atome and Cafe Florian. The first is a big brasserie with a big ego and equally important patrons but also lacking any pretentiousness. Food is not spectacular but always decent and the atmosphere is excellent. Pople are mostly young but not exclusively with an artsy streak that dominates intertwined with the fashonista European crowd that is bored to tears by the Place Luxembourg dating scene and preferese the less agressive and more relaxed Boniface. Quite often I write or read over tea or red wine on the cobblestone terrace or inside on the one step elevated and railed platform in the back. People will hang out till the early hours of the morning. The later is a small tea and coffer merchant that also has a few tables in two tiny rooms and three or so tables on the sidewalk. Both the tea and coffee selections are incredible. There is also the Japanese soup place Yamamoto serving a dozen or so heavy, garlic laden ramen soups. Definitely a hungry man's place as the soup bowls are huge. As an added bonus for my obsession the place also houses two magnificent camera stores. One dedicated to new equipment and carrying Nikon, Canon, Leica, Bessa SLRs and rangefinders and mid format gems. The other is a used material store packed to the brim with excellent choices mostly Nikon, Leica and Canon film stuff. Facing each other the two, belonging two the same owners and equally named Campion, are long established institutions serving the city and its international visitors for decades. I am their loyal and pleased customer. Part of the magic light in this picture comes from their windows so indeed is a tribute to their invisible contribution to our photographic endeavours.