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How did we know that we needed to hire an Interior Architect

This is a question that I asked myself a few weeks after we shifted into our holiday home two summers ago, knowing full well that we would not be in France for the majority of the renovation we knew we would need to find a main contractor that we could trust but with my background in hotel development advisory, the already well thought through scope of work to be done and a document of mood images that took me three months to compile we could have gone either way.  So what made us decide to engage a professional to help us through the design phase of the renovation? Are you wondering the same right now for your place?  Well here are some things to consider:

  1. Location – are you in the same town as the work ? are you able to meet suppliers, contractors, other consultants on site or do you need support to do this?  We are based in Dubai and our home is in the Savoie, France so we definitely needed to find a solution for access into the home.
  2. Product Knowledge – Do you know what is doable and/or available in your area ? There were a lot of things that we wanted to do in the house that had inspiration from what we knew was possible in Dubai and/or New Zealand (where we are from originally) and because we had a lifestyle in mind we really needed support to source particular products or solutions that got us to the experience we wanted even if the exact product was not possible.
  3. Technical knowledge – this was a given for us.  We needed someone to help us with the approval processes that the works needed to go through along with a strong knowledge of local legislation that impacted things like electrical works.  What we did find interesting was the two layers of approvals that we had to have – one from our local Mairie (town hall) and one from the Architecte de Bâtiments (who provide a role similar to the UK Historic Places Trust).  Knowing what these two organisations require/like speeds up that process and meant a quick renovation was possible.
  4. Access to other professionals – as we removed a number of structural elements of the house we knew that we would need the advice of a structural engineer.  Professionals tend to have a network of other consultants that they work with, people who they trust and understand the type of work they do.
  5. Design Talent – even though I had done a lot of homework into what we wanted to achieve in each space of the home and we were able to share moodboards (ie powerpoint documents of inspiration photos) that communicated these clearly I still wanted to be pushed stylistically, and have a local perspective injected into the design (ie we didn’t want a home that had lost its French heritage).
  6. Pulling it all together – the renovation ended up being a full gut and rebuild inside rather than just the facelift we had considered doing at the beginning of this journey.  This meant that every trade involved in building a new house were going to be coming through our home as well.  To do this effectively we needed to be able to give our main contractor a clear set of plans that was easy for the contractors to follow (ie in French using clear technical language) so we got accurate pricing and build.

So when we weighed up all of the above it was an easy decision to look for the support of an Interior Architect that was based close to the house.  How did we find the right one? Word of Mouth!!! We wanted someone who understood our aesthetic, knew how to design for a family and spoke English.  A year on and the work is almost complete – the snag list is diminishing and the house has started to feel like home.

My top three picks at Index Dubai 2018

INDEX Dubai started back in 1990 and is one of the key events in the calendar to stay abreast of what is happening in the interior procurement world.  This year the team behind INDEX decided to include a September show into their schedule and I wanted to share my top three picks:

Number 1  – Stephanie Design – Firstly Stephanie Ng is fantastic, she loves what she does, she loves the products she makes and every collection has a story.  From the aunties at Kuala Lumpur that now do her knitting to the automotive interior company that does her leather work.  I have to say I am racking my brain where I can have them in my home and I recommend that you check them out by clicking here.

Number 2 – Maison du Monde and Crate & Barrel – I have to confess I am a big MDM fan as we have  store ten minutes from our French home so it is very much my go to for bits and pieces.  Both brands are great homewares and residential furniture stores in the UAE and by the sounds bigger and better ones are coming which means more of the ranges being available here, just look at their ranges – MDM and C&B.

Number 3 – Art Painting Lab – representing a number of artists APL collaborate with interior designers and architects to bring original art to the region.  Their website says that they are “a happy team of artists, graffiti artists, painters, visual artists and happy people who come together to curate, create and inspire” Sounds like a great way to be to me.  Click here for more information.

Dining at Atmosphères – amazing food and views!

Now that we spend time in France each year we thought it was a good idea to expose the kids to as wide a range as possible of French food as possible.  That means anything from a croque monsieur to steak hache to something that does not really look like anything they have tried before.

This was one of those days when we wanted the kids to adventurous and try a truly delicious market menu from Atmospheres up above Bourget du Lac.  Only ten minutes from home I can’t believe it has taken us over a year to visit so I wanted to share our experience.

A very modern sleek dining room and terrace provides a simple and elegant setting for some amazing food.  With a private dining room to one end we had a perfect vantage point across the garden and view across Lac du Bourget back towards our place.  Also a good place to put a party of seven when three of them are 6 years and under.  It meant that the kids did not bother anyone and we could relax – which actually then meant that the kids were fantastic! funny how that happens.

The entrance had a collection of interesting and very instragrammable design vignettes whilst the main dining room was simple with greys and warm toned furniture.  So when we got to the private dining room we were a little more surprised by the bright mural on the wall.  I wouldn’t describe the design as cohesive throughout the establishment but I enjoyed the eclectic and layered nature of the way that the design had developed.  Everything was a conversation piece and the simplicity of the dining room really meant that the view and food shone through.

The team were friendly and quietly attentive.  The wine list was extensive, French and showcased wines from the Savoie and its neighbouring departments.  We had a sparkling wine from nearby Isere and a Savoyard red wine which were both delicious.

We went for the market menu which on the menu was three courses for us and two for the kids but of course it ended up being seven once all the little bits were added in.  Favourites were the confit tomato salad, the succulent duck on beans and the poached pear with pumpkin ice cream, but really everything was delicious.

Would I go back? 100% yes and I look forward to not waiting for another year before we visit again.  If we didn’t live so close I would have been tempted to stay in the boutique hotel above the restaurant as I could only imagine how amazing their breakfasts would be.  So if you are in the Savoie or nearby I highly recommend a detour to visit Atmosphères in the foothills above Bourget du Lac.

Atmospheres holds one Michelin star and the commentary in the 2018 Michelin Guide says that “The lake provides a sumptuous backdrop for this restaurant.  The chef builds on his classic foundations to make creative dishes with delicate flavours.  Attractive, paired-down and colourful rooms.”  For more information click here.


What does it take to be a good client?

I have lost count of the number of architects, engineers and designers that I have worked with over the last 20 years in my professional life but for the first time ever we have worked with an interior architect on a project for us.

I take my role in hotel development advisory seriously, I have a strong eye for detail and I am very conscious that we are often custodians of clients funds and how they are spent.  They lean on us for advice to make sure it is spent well, fairly and will deliver hotels or restaurants back to them which maximise their revenue stream.  The advantage of hotels is that very early in the timeline we build a guestroom and take time to get it right so that when the other 300+ of them are built the expectations are clear.  This leaves more time for the bespoke elements within the hotel.

Of course when you start to renovate or build your own home you become the client, you rely on others to spend you money wisely and there is such little repetition in the finishing that with every room you practically start from scratch.

I am not sure that I am the ideal client – I know the industry well, I have strong opinions that are based on reality and I can spot an error a mile off.  In saying that there is not much that can go wrong that I haven’t seen before so not much phases me (there is always an answer), I am great at finding solutions quickly, and I am really clear on our likes and dislikes.  The challenge, of course, is that we have been renovating our home and I am not the only client, there are five of us who we will spending a lot of time here and we all have to love it, as well as allowing the kids spaces to grow with them as well.

So how can we be good clients for our professional design teams? I think it boils down to clarity.  Start by giving them a clear brief that covers off the following:

  1. Scope of works – list out what work you do and don’t want addressed (add in why so they get a better understanding of your thinking).  If you have them, pass on a scrapbook or file of photos that you have seen that help describe the design direction you would like to see.  When we started this current project the scope of works was smaller.  We had added a caveat that as the layers of the house were peeled back (remembering our home is 100+ years old) and if something was discovered that would cause problems in the next five years we wanted the option to resolve it now.  Our contractor was very thorough and we did increase the scope but we have got a much more energy efficient home back so we were happy to do this.  The flip side was that we have about ten different door types in the house and six types of wooden flooring – we were quite clear that we didn’t want to change this as it told the story of the house and how it had grown and evolved, of course we then added our layer of this as well by picking a different style to the doors that we added to keep that story alive.
  2. Functionality – how do you want to live or work in the spaces.  Think about now, in five years time and ten years time especially if you have kids as their requirements of a space change rapidly.  A good example is my older girls bedrooms – they wanted to share a room and asked for birds on the ceiling.  We found a couple of great wallpapers that would have been perfect for this but I wondered how long it would take before they grew out of these so we painted the ceiling a subtle grey-blue, ordered fun bird decals online and they applied them to the ceiling.  The great thing for this is to change the design later I don’t need to call in tradespeople – we can remove the decals ourselves and repaint the ceiling if we want to.
  3. Budget & timeframe – if you have a maximum amount you can or want to spend share this as well.  If you need the works completed by a certain date include this eg we wanted to be back in the house for the summer holidays (and whilst the reality was it was not quite finished we could still use the house for summer). This information will help the designers decide on what products to show you – if they are out of your price range or can’t be delivered within your construction programme then you don’t want to fall in love with them. It will also help them set your expectations early ie if the scope is huge and the budget/timeframe small then you may need to choose priorities.  Better to do that early so you are not disappointed and so that the designer can focus their time on what really matters.  In the event that you are more clear on the scope and not on the budget ask the design team to prepare a budget estimate for you early on for you to agree to before getting too far through the design.

Now you don’t need to document all of the above in a 20 page brief like we do for hotels, this can be done in a conversation with your designers over a coffee – if you go for the latter make sure that your designer provides you back a written brief for you to amend/agree to so everyone starts at the same point.  In parallel to this it is important to understand the contractual obligations you and your designer will have to each other.  Have a clear idea of deliverables, timing and the resulting payments (make sure you have the funds to pay on time as well).  I also think it is very important to double check with the designer that after the brief is set that it is a project they are interested in working on – you will get a much better outcome if they are excited, engaged and committed to the timeframes.

During the design phase I believe the following is key:

  1. Clear and timely feedback – if you are asked to comment on mood boards, drawings etc then make sure you are honest.  If you don’t like something say so and also mention why (this makes it easier for the designer to come back to you with a different proposal); be quick in your responses (don’t lose the momentum and try to avoid creating rework for the designer due to late feedback).  Equally tell them if you love something as that will help the designer filter ideas more when they know they are getting you excited about the changes ahead.
  2. Be prepared to prioritise – projects that are successful get the right balance between quality, budget and timeframe.  I have never worked on a project when we have had to accept one of these has to give a little at some point.  In our case we could give the contractors more time to maintain quality and not incur costs for fast tracking work.
  3. Be available – things happen especially when renovating an old house.  Agree with the designer how you want to work with them – do you prefer they call you to talk through challenges; an email with photos perhaps; a schedule of visits ? we ended up with a combination of emails, visits and WhatsApp messaging ended up being invaluable.  I also preferred to get short emails as things happened rather than questions once a week.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list but they are solid foundations on which to build your professional relationship with your design team.  It will allow you to have honest conversations and will help everyone achieve their goals at the end.

Who to call on to add life into your interiors

Whilst pinterest is a rabbit hole of inspiration that you may or may not return from taking those ideas and turning them into reality can be a challenge.  Not only do we need the time to make it happen but having someone with a talented design eye help you do it can often mean the difference between like and love.

There are three great layers of support that you can call upon to bring those pinterest images to life in your own spaces.  The first being a friend who has a great eye, the second is an Interior Designer (called Interior Architect in some countries) and the third is an Interior Stylist.  When is it a good idea to reach out to each of these? My thoughts are:

  1. A friend who has a great eye – you definitely don’t have to be trained to have style.  If you have an idea of what you want and just want some advice on where to source particular things then asking a friend who has a similar aesthetic to you is a great way to go – they are likely to know all the shops that stock the types of things you are looking for.  Taking that one step further in this age of social media there are great groups in the likes of Facebook where you can share an image of what you are wanting and you will have the advice from possibly hundreds on where to find it.
  2. Interior Designer / Architect – these professionals are worth their weight in gold when you are looking to make extensive changes to the way your space is utilised or if you want to change the materials used throughout your home.  The skill of being able to visualise spaces and how they work in 3D is a talent that can not be fudged, combine that with the ability to deliver any aesthetic that a client requests makes for a comprehensive service.  Working with an interior designer is perfect for people who have just moved into a home and are starting from scratch in every room and for those who own their home and want to make changes to the way they live in a space.
  3. Interior Stylist –  engaging a stylist is like putting the icing on a cake.  If you are happy with the space you have, you like all the hard to replace materials but you need help to add colour, texture and decor to evolve the spaces into something that suits you.  Often stylists have a specific aesthetic and that is how you will find them – if you love something they have done before you are bound to love what they will do for you.  Working with a stylist is a great solution when you rent the home and can not do any permanent changes.

So whether you are wanting to make a tweak or major change to your home there is the right person out their to help you create a space you will love.

Feature walls – our last four homes and my top tips

Coming from a hotel design/development background the feature wall is a favourite amongst designers to add instant (and permanent) interest to a room.

I can remember choosing the interior for our first home almost 20 years ago.  The house was a modern brick and tile and we went for a deep aubergine on a niche wall in our dining area and a paprika red one in the lounge area.  They were painted and an easy way to add depth to the space when most of our furniture was hand me downs from family.  When we moved to our next house, a 100 year old villa, the previous owner had painted every room a different colour so we just updated a couple to our preferred colours but hadn’t got around to repainting the house before we moved to Dubai although the end of our kitchen/dining room was anchored with a fab dark blue.  Of course these homes were before digital cameras so photos are all stored back in New Zealand in a shed in Hakaru!

Once we were in Dubai our first home was an apartment on the 33rd floor with a stunning view of the Arabian Gulf so there was enough interest along one wall of the apartment that we did away with the idea of feature walls as the view was perfect and the light bounced around the light coloured interior which added to the feeling of volume.  Just before we started our family we moved into a duplex which in traditional Dubai style only had windows on the front and back of the house so we had a very long wall through our lounge and dining area that was begging to have some colour added to it – so a striking teal went up and wrapped into a quirky niche adjacent to it as well.  Everything else remained the original neutral but the teal wall has been a constant backdrop for our time in this home – parties, kids photos, you name it the teal is there.

Now we have the place in France and I can’t wait to show you where we have chosen to add colour, pattern and interest but until it is ready I thought I would share my top four tips for deciding what type of feature you want to create.

  1. Think about what wall you want to accent – so many people put it behind a bed or sofa as it looks amazing as you walk in the room (and is completely instagramable) but when you are in the room you very rarely see it – look at the way your room is orientated and what you will be looking across at when using it on an everyday basis and treat that aspect.
  2. Think about why you want to accent the wall – do you want to lighten the room; make it feel more cosy; have a lot to look at; create a backdrop for soemthing else……the purpose starts to point you in the right direction for what colour, texture, pattern.
  3. Think about how you want to accent the wall – whilst I have traditionally gone for paint (as it is the cheap and cheerful option) this time we are in a forever home so I have selected paint, tile, wallpaper, murals and art.  Don’t worry it is not everywhere but I am loving the choices
  4. And lastly ……. ask yourself do you need to accent that wall at all.  There are other ways of creating bold interest – paint out the ceiling; refinish a floor, add a bold curtain or paint every wall in a room the same colour rather than just one.  There are many ways to create interest.

Hope this helps and keep an eye out for what we have done in France along with inspiration from hotels I have been to that really mastered the idea of a feature wall.

Lighting up a little girls world

In the adventure of renovating a house by remote control one of the things I have had a lot of fun looking for online is wall lights for the girls rooms.  Here was my shortlist.

  1. Super cute bunny ears from Atelier Pierre
  2. Lightbox with super cute lettering from Maisons du Monde
  3. Opalescence from Cecile Chareyron
  4. AM.PM’s Fifi Box from La Redoute
  5. Ferm’s Living Cactus spotted at Amara Living
  6. Standout copper pineapple from Jasmine Living
  7. Haya wall light from La Redoute
  8. Seletti’s Hanging Monkey spotted at the Bowery Company
  9. Origami from Tedzukuri Atelier

What was I looking for in the wall lights? something that could take my littlest girl from 2 to 6 years old and another light that would be good for Miss 4 and 6 until they are about 10 years old.  Which ones did I end up picking? well watch this space as we put the rooms together and share the spoils of all our hard work.

Photo credits: the feature image is from Ekaterina Galera, the individual products are from the websites mentioned above.

The best balconies in Dubai

When I got the chance to visit the Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Dubai in Business Bay I jumped at it as I had been aware of the repositioning that the brand had been going through globally and I wanted to see how this was brought to life in Dubai.

I will fill you in on what I found around the hotel in other posts but I needed to share the guestrooms as they have the best balconies in Dubai !!! I checked out both the suites and guestrooms and they are gorgeous.

The guestrooms are spacious, with all the bits I love about hotels, the crisp white linen, light streaming in the windows and a place for everything and everything in its place.  The carefully curated furniture gave a feel of visiting a friend’s new home and the art was simple, camel focused and appropriate for Dubai with a really fun twist.  It plays along that fine line of being a business hotel and one for leisure and I would be quite chuffed for a stay for either reason.

Anyone who knows me knows that I like a wall between the bathroom and bedroom of any hotel room and the Renaissance ticks the box BUT for those of you who like to be able to sit in the bath and chat to the person in the next room the beautiful statement door rolls backs and gives you this too.  A long slim bathroom provides the feeling of spaciousness and the walk in wardrobe behind is a great touch meaning you could easily stay here for a couple of weeks and not feel like you are living out of a suitcase.

The suites were that next level of wow, but again beautiful in their simplicity and attention to detail.  I was a fan of the curved carpet – nice to see something that adds subtle interest to the floor whilst still defining the space.  The suites are perfect to relax in or to host a small group for dinner drinks or a meeting.  With their own butler entrances catering up here would be a snap for any event, and the views are amazing.  On the day we could see all the way down to the Marina and out to the Palm – just magic!!

And those bathrooms – elegant and generously large.

Now I have to talk about the balconies since that is where I started heading above.  The building itself was not originally designed as a hotel (I assure you that it is well designed now to be one) and once construction begins it is often quite difficult to adjust key structure so from what I can see the designer did something I have not seen yet in Dubai and created a terrace inside the guestroom for guests to relax in without having to go outside.  Lets face it if you are visiting Dubai in our summers very few people would dare venture out onto a terrace due to the heat and now they don’t have to – they get all the benefit of the view and loungey seating, to enjoy a sundowner from, whilst in their climate controlled room.  Fantastic !!!!  They are beautiful zoned with a modern take on Arabic metalwork and create a warm inviting space.

So my verdict on the Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Dubai is that it will be a great choice no matter if you are in Dubai for leisure, business or both.  More information can be found by clicking here and watch out for more posts that include some the stunning public areas and restaurants that I found when exploring the hotel.





Louise Sur Cour – a must stay in Brussels

Guesthouse by name, getaway by nature.  This four room guesthouse owned and hosted by the charming Dimitri Parimeros, who painstakingly restored every inch of the building over a five-year period, is a must stay if you are heading to Brussels.

From the street Louise Sur Cour looks like any other residence on the road but when you step through the over height doors it is something else.  You are greeted immediately by one of Dimitri’s own contemporary resin/fibre optic sculptures before entering into the main living room where you can enjoy a book in the sitting area and take breakfast in the large dining space.  As soon as we arrived Dimitri was kind enough to share with us a map of Brussels, pointing out allsorts of places that he thought we might find interesting along with a quick call to a great restaurant for dinner.  As he shows us to our room the story of the house unravels and so do the tales of the interesting pieces that are within it.

There is a stunning full size angel hanging from the ceiling above the dining table taken from a church that was being demolished – Dimitri also rescued a set of stairs from the same church and has used them to link the kitchen to his mezzanine office.

He shares with us clever design ideas that he has incorporated including creatively using salvaged fireplaces as bedheads and feature walls, an entryway arch as a shower surround, majestic full height doors on one of the stair landings that in reality has a shallow cupboard tucked behind but truly looks like it will open to another expansive section of the house.  Every piece, artwork and detail has a story and I could have listened to them for hours.

The guesthouse rooms are designed to take guests through the eras that the house has lived through and whilst we were in the art deco Van Huffel room we got to peek into two of the other three as well.  The attention to detail and thought of guest comfort was fabulous, and a treat to see.

Breakfasts were an amazing way to start the day – belgian crepes with sugar, viennoises, cold meats and cheese, fresh fruit salad and yoghurts, the offer of eggs and delicious (addictive) bread from a local baker with a dozen spreads on offer.  All served with great coffee and lovely chatter offering advice for the day, more tales of the house and dinner reservations being arranged.

Whilst Dimitri is quick to point out that Louise Sur Cour is a guesthouse rather than a hotel we wanted for nothing and the care and attention that Dimitri was fabulous.  We will definitely return to Louise Sur Cour again.  For more information to stay click here and to see some of my favourite things to do in Brussels check out my blog post.

A few days in Brussels – my favourite things to do

With tickets to U2’s last tour concert in Europe in our hot little hands we headed to Brussels for a four day summer break.  We had a fantastic time and I have picked out some of my favourite things to share with you:

Getting to Brussels

This will depend on where you are coming from but as we were coming from Lac du Bourget in France we decided to take the train.  About six hours from arriving at the station in Aix les Bains to getting to our guesthouse, with a one hour change-over in Paris meant that the afternoon of travel was very easy going – work was done, magazines were read, coffee sipped.  We booked through SNCF and travelled on the TGV and Thalys lines – both of which were great, although the latter had a really good meal service included as well.

Getting around Brussels

Walking, walking, walking – our feet were really all we needed.  We took all of five metro rides the whole four days we were there.

Things to do

When we arrived at our guesthouse the owner gave us a map of Brussels and then very quickly started squiggling and writing all over it – his top tops for a few days – a mix of touristy and off the beaten track.  My three favourites were

  • The Magritte Museum – laid out chronologically you start out at the top of the museum and work your way down through the levels bearing witness to how Magritte’s artistic style and focus developed across the years.  I can remember studying his art at school and loved being able to see these works in real life.
    Top tip: on Wednesday afternoons after 1pm entry is free.
  • Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert – this is tourist central but if you can block all the crowds from your mind and simply enjoy the architecture this is a really special place not to mention the buskers playing fab music just outside the main entry.
  • The World of Steve McCurry exhibition – held at the Brussels Stock Exchange his iconic photos were hung in this amazing space separated from each other only by voiles evoking a sense of mystery as you wandered amongst the 200 odd pieces.  Whilst this may not be on when you visit Brussels click here to see what current exhibitions are on.

Shops to visit

  • Antique stores: Having just bought a new (but old) home and with grand plans of renovating it while keeping nods to its history evident we took to Rue Haute, Minimes and Blaes searching through Antique stores and the bric-a-brac market in Place du Jeu de Balle.  Whilst I didn’t rate the market at all, think more junk than treasures, the antique shops and design stores dotted along these two roads were great.  My three favourites were 125 Rue Blaes, Galeries de Minimes and Stefanick – all rabbit warrens of treasures.  Whilst the range was fantastic the prices were even better – significantly cheaper than buying similar items in France.
  • Design stores:
    New de Wolf Plus – everything you can imagine that a décor store needs with the choices a little off-centre which really appealed to me.
    K-Loan – industrial style furniture and accessories that were so well designed and made that this store is a must visit if that is the style you are looking for.
    Flying Tiger Copenhagen – one of my all time favourite cheap and cheerfuls, I shopped up a storm in the ten minutes I had before having to head to the train station.  Lots of little bits of housewares, fun things for the kids, basically you name it they have it.  Could have spent a lot more time here, and a lot more money – next time!

  • Housewares – I have fallen in love with the chain store Dille & Kamille.  A large selection of housewares, including my favourite enamel dinnerware in a load of colours, to spices, sweets and other useful ingredients.
  • Chocolates – you can not leave Brussels without visiting a chocolate shop.  Whilst I was not a fan of the hot chocolates around town I did enjoy the bite sized chocolates.  Most tourists buy their chocolates from one of the many stores at the Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert however I think the best place to go is Grand Sablon – all the iconic chocolatiers have stores here, their prices are the same, the tourist numbers are limited so service is quick and they have a little more time to spend with you to help you choose which beautiful box of treats to take home with you.  My favourite is Pierre Marcolini and with a shop on the ground floor and a chocolate bar on the top floor it is well worth a stop.

Places to eat

There are a few things that Belgium is famous for – the waffles, meat/cheese nibbles while having a drink, beer, pots of mussels and their frites.  Unfortunately I only had a waffle at the stadium ahead of U2 coming on stage (good but I am sure not the best example of this desert treat) but a yellow waffle truck did stalk me the whole time we were in Brussels, or perhaps it is safe to assume there are many of them around.  A few places we tried and really enjoyed were:

  • The Rugbyman 2 – a great fish restaurant located on Saint Catherine Place.  As with most European restaurants, there were a la carte options and house menus.  Opting for the latter we were not disappointed, I tried lobster for the first time and they did a fab crème brulee.
  • Berlin Fabrik – a perfect lunch stop, or place to catch up with friends over a beer.  We kept it simple with fries coated in cheese and bacon, with a plate of meat and cheese accompanied with a glass of local beer.  Delish, we wanted more but couldn’t squeeze anymore in.
  • JAt’ café – a very popular lunch spot for Brussel-ites with delicious bagels, cakes by the slice and yummiest salted caramel cupcakes I have ever had.  Quite a simple yet funky interior to boot.
  • MIM Café – sitting on the top floor of the Musical Instruments Museum this café has some of the best views in Brussels.  We stopped in just for a drink to plan our afternoon but the menu looked great and was kid friendly as well.
  • Arion Café – tucked in Louise this café was a hub of activity with locals passing through for a quick drink or meal.  Lots of delicious options that would be great for an early snack through to a large meal.  The on-the-house night-caps were appreciated as well.

If you know where you are heading in the evenings I would highly recommend booking in advance as at both The Rugbyman 2 and the Arion Café were turning people away.

Where to stay

We wanted a good location and something more suited to a few days away for two.  It didn’t take me long as I had never seen a 10 out of 10 rating for any property on one of the well known accommodation booking site.  Where did we stay ? click here to learn more about this great guesthouse.

Other options that look quite fun (and came recommended from Brussel based friends) were The Hotel and U2’s preferred place to stay, the Hotel Amigo.

The final verdict on Brussels

Loved it, plenty of things to do for a couple of days at an easy pace.  We will be back again very soon to do some serious furniture shopping – just need to complete the renovations first.