M: Why is the despair always so thick on Fridays, Emma?

E: I dunno. Because it’s supposed to feel joyful but it doesn’t? If I could be arsed I’d go and buy a cake. BUT I CAN’T

M: I want one of those Marcolini éclairs.

Eclair

E: I was thinking éclair too, but raspberry as they are closer.

M: Mouais. My feeling on éclairs is that they should be brown. Deliciously brown. Like our much beloved, much mourned cappuccino éclair.

E: On fait avec les moyens du bord.*

M: And I want that hit of salty caramel.

E: I hear you.

M: That soft creamy filling.

E: Damn you, stop making me think about it.

M: The crunch of the praline topping.

E: Bastarding Marcolini and his devil éclair.

M: And his wretched “tartine” spreadable salted caramel, with its siren song. It goes something like this:

Spreeeead me

Spreeeeead me on a hot crumpet

Tartine

E: Does Tartine have a voice like Jacques Brel? Or is it more… Axelle Red?

M: I do not know. I do not care. I am too busy stuffing it into my mouth with a spoon.

* We do what we can.

Where: Pierre Marcolini, Place du Grand Sablon in Brussels. Lots of other locations in Belgium and France, including inside the Eurostar terminal in Brussels, conveniently. Londoners, I believe you can buy Tartine at Verde & Co in Spitalfields.

Frites_Flagey_mayo

Fries. Frites. Frietjes. Call them what you will. They must be freshly cut from large, floury potatoes. Fried in lard until crispy and golden on the outside, and fluffy and scaldingly hot on the inside. Well seasoned with plenty of salt, and drowned in your favourite condiment. Mayo for the purists, ketchup for the infantile, sauce américaine for those with tastebuds ruined by decades of ready meals abuse and self-loathing.

Yes, this is them, above. The best fries in Brussels. I have been reliably informed of this by not one, but three separate independent native Belgian sources. Such is the power of Frit Flagey, in fact, that someone I have not spoken to since my early teens commented on these very frites on facebook:

Smakelijk!

Which more or less means tasty, I think.

You’ll find these frites at a fritkot on Place Flagey, the bleak expanse of concrete flanked on one side by Café Belga and the other by Brüsel, a welcoming bookshop filled with a vast and excellent selection of comic books. Frit Flagey is no happy trendy Shake Shack style affaire, oh no. No brushed steel or smiling assistants here. Be prepared to wait half an hour in the freezing cold and horizontal rain for your fries, for the old cranky unpleasant owner is slow. Meticulously, agonisingly slow.

Frites_Flagey_Shack

While you wait, admire the excellent illustration of a man holding a cone of fries with a man in it holding a cone of fries with…

Frites_Flagey_artwork

Oh Belgium. You surreal crazy little country you. It’s a good thing you know how to fry a potato.

Where: Frit Flagey, Place Flagey, Brussels

Tip: Don’t comment on the poor service unless you want to be shouted at. And stay away from the sauce américaine, you FOOL.