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30 dating

Would like
to meet…
Single in Brussels? Tired of
trawling through the same old
dating websites? Done with
speed-dating, match-making
and lonely hearts columns?
Emma Beddington checks out
the best alternatives for finding
love and romance in Brussels

ull disclosure: I am woefully
unqualified to write about
this topic. I don’t have much
luck with men, and even less
with the kind of spontaneous
encounters I was supposed to be investigat-
ing here. First, I’m too shy to do the asking
myself, and second, it’s vanishingly rare for
anyone to man up and actually approach
me. Worst of all, on the very rare occasions
someone does ask me out spontaneously,
without exception, they either turn out to
be a lunatic or about 15 years old. The last
time I got a compliment from a man on
the streets of Brussels, it was followed with
the devastating caveat: “But I’m probably
only saying that because I’ve just got out of
Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, and a
city like Brussels must be full of nice places
to meet a potential partner. It’s a city with
something – and someone – for everyone…
isn’t it? With some degree of trepidation, I
went to find out.

Delhaize Molière
569 Chaussée de Waterloo
Who goes there: According to my
sources, high-ranking Eurocrats, and the
staff and residents of the embassies and ele-
gant townhouses on Avenues Molière and

Why? To stock up on Ferrero Rocher, pre- pensioners might qualify as cougars? mildly offended, told me he didn’t work
sumably, for the ambassadorial receptions. Marks out of ten: 4/10. The only person there and pointed me in the direction of
My pick-up experience: I had high who spoke to me was the cashier, as I bought the information counter. Ouch.
hopes of Delhaize Molière. I have heard my economy bag of satsumas. I’m going back What’s the competition? I didn’t
this place spoken of in hushed tones as a to Colruyt next time. spot any female shoppers, but more than
Shangri-la of Euro-beauty; the best place Also try: The bacchanal that is Place half the staff were women. That green
in town to snare yourself a high-ranking du Luxembourg on a Thursday night; the and yellow fleece they have to wear
Eurocrat. Marvellous. My bank would be Eurostar ‘Carte Blanche’ lounge. doesn’t do them any favours, though.
delighted if I found myself one of those, as Marks out of ten: 5/10. DIY is a
would my children who are forever point- serious business. The only hooking up
edly mentioning to me which of their Brico around here involves lengths of cabling.
friends’ fathers are ‘riche’. I also really want branches across Brussels Also try: Gamma, your local hard-
to be invited to an ambassadorial reception. Who goes there? I like to think of Brico ware shop.
So I put my best dress on and headed down regulars as the kind of men who know their
to Delhaize with optimism in my heart and way around a fuse box, who don’t blanch at
ready meals for one in my basket. the mention of a blocked toilet, and who Roskam Bar
My first impressions were disappointing. can knock up a fully functioning boiler out 9 Rue de Flandre
The store looks just like any other Delhaize of a pile of twigs and a teaspoon, MacGyver Who goes there? I was promised
and nothing like the louche cocktail lounge style. Real Men. hipster boys. You know, the ones with

All photos
by natalie hill

I had been led to believe awaited me: same Why? I’m a bit hazy on this. To buy DIY ironic glasses, 1980s hair and jeans so
dismal lighting, same bewildering layout, equipment? Tools? Man Stuff. skinny they make their legs look like
same phalanx of slow moving elderly My pick-up experience: I was given twigs.
ladies blocking access to the meat aisle. to understand that men like to help girls Why? To eke out a beer over a couple
Nevertheless, I persisted, trailing the only with DIY problems, so I browsed the aisles of hours of chat (hipster boys never have
likely candidate I could identify – well, he of my local Brico on Chaussée de Charleroi any money), to listen to the DJ sets at
was under 60 and wearing a nice coat – trying to look charmingly out of my depth. weekends, and because it’s in a great
around the store until he picked up a packet Nothing. Even when I picked up and bran- location in the perennially hip Rue de
of nappies and five jars of baby food. Oh dished a wrench (or possibly a spanner), Flandre.
well. with a big red and yellow sticker on the front My pick-up experience: First,
What’s the competition? Limited. I reading ‘Try me!’ I didn’t get a flicker of a it was so dark it was hard to make out
spotted the occasional nanny plus baby-in- response. Finally, in desperation, I chose the whether there was anyone there at all.
buggy pairing, but otherwise the average nearest piece of forbidding electrical kit and When my eyes finally adjusted to the
age for customers of both sexes was a solid asked a man who was looking at the dizzying gloom, there were indeed a couple of
65. Possibly some of the sprightlier lady selection of lightbulbs what it did. He looked tables of skinny boys scattered across

32 dating

the near empty bar, deep in conversation I watched one woman casually do 2,000 sit
among themselves. The atmosphere didn’t ups like it was a stroll in the park. Ok, maybe
feel remotely flirtatious, but perhaps it warms it was 200. A lot, anyway.
up a bit later in the evening. I beat a discour- Marks out of ten: 9.5/10. The guys were
aged retreat. charming, flirtatious, and incredibly mus-
What’s the competition: The girls I cular. What’s not to like? As my cage fight-
could make out though the Stygian gloom ing trainer, Alexandre, said: “Where else
were in the same mould as the boys: skinny, can you be in intimate physical contact with
jolie-laide, with challenging glasses. Also, a man within minutes of meeting him?”
crucially, at least ten years younger than me. Quite. I’ve docked half a point because I
Marks out of ten: 3/10, but I think it was in so much pain the day after my train-
was my own fault, for being too old and bor- ing session that I couldn’t sneeze without
ingly dressed. whimpering.
Try also: Café Central (14 Borgval) or the Also try: Nemo 33 in Drogenbos, the
bar at Botanique (236 Rue Royale). deepest diving pool in Europe, or the
RocHouse climbing gym in Ixelles.
99 Rue Reimond Stijns, Molenbeek Ethnic Bar Lounge
Who goes there? 277 Avenue Louise
Martial arts enthusiasts, Jean-Claude Van Who goes there? Slightly predatory
Damme wannabes, men who can bench individuals of both sexes, office parties,
press five times their body weight…and no, I eternal optimists.
don’t know what ‘bench press’ means. Shocx Why? Well. I don’t think it’s for the
is a vast martial arts gym in Molenbeek generic Euro-techno, or the watery
with 3,000m2 of, well, fighting stuff. A drinks, or the interior decor, which goes
boxing ring, a cage for mixed martial arts heavy on synthetic animal prints.
and any number of other alarming pieces My pick-up experience: My
of equipment, including sledgehammers, friend K insisted I come along with her
giant coils of rope and tractor tyres. Most to Ethnic after yet another night out
importantly for my purposes, there are in the company of a gang of boys
men everywhere. Men in kimonos,
men in very short shorts, men who
could break the Delhaize Eurocrats
into a thousand tiny pieces without Even the
breaking a sweat. Phew.
Why? To get even fitter. To bond
whilst hitting each other. Hard.
briefest eye
Actually, the atmosphere was surpris-
ingly friendly and unthreatening, even contact with any
for a sporting disaster like me.
My pick-up experience: Barely
half an hour after I arrived, my legs were of the patrons
wrapped around the implausibly muscu-
lar thighs of my charming coach Uriel as
he assisted me with some stretches, which
seemed to be
pretty much trumps anything I’ve ever
done in a gym. It only got better after that,
when I was allowed to try cage fighting; who only have eyes for each other. “Anyone
interpreted as
learning how to fell a man using only my can pull there,” she assured me, not entirely
knees, kneel on his chest and punch him in flatteringly. “No, really. Literally anyone.” an invitation to
the face repeatedly. Amazing. I felt she was labouring the point slightly-
What’s the competition? There were
very few women on the evening I visited, but
but agreed to come along anyway, purely for
research purposes, of course. exchange DNA
the ones that were there were terrifyingly fit. And she wasn’t wrong. Within 10 seconds

of arrival we had had our first offer of a drink,

and even the briefest eye contact with any of Gay pick-up spots beyond Rue du Marché au Charbon:
the patrons seemed to be interpreted as an
invitation to exchange DNA. Quite frankly, i If you are looking i If you are
I was scared, and when K cruelly abandoned for a Eurocrat, looking for a
me to go to the bathroom, my terror redou- check out: the foodie, check
bled. By the time she got back, a very short “Mickey Mouse” out: perpetual
gentleman had sexy danced me into a corner bar (so-called for favourite Belga
from which I was trying, vainly, to escape. the former bright, Queen, the Fish
What’s the competition: The competi- mouse-shaped Bar at the Mer du
tion is lively to say the least. There are plenty seating) in the Nord fish shop in
of girls, and the outfits tend towards spandex European Parliament, Sainte-Catherine for
and cleavage. Dancing on tables seems to be or the canteen in the half a dozen oysters and
Berlaymont building. some people watching or the
de rigueur at a certain point in the evening.
chichi deli-restaurant Gaudron
Marks out of ten: 8/10. Effective, cer- i If you are looking for a home on Place Brugmann.
tainly, though some question marks over body, check out: Ikea Anderlecht and the

quality. trip along Metro line 1 to Ceria to get there. i If you are looking for an
Try also: Les Jeux d’Hiver.  intellectual, check out: Filigranes in
i If you are looking for an outdoorsy the European quarter, or the labyrinthine
type, check out: the tree-lined pathways of
restaurant and book shop complex Cook &
the Parc Royal.
Book, in Woluwe.

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