In my quest of helping you discover the Flemish side of Brussels, I’m out to meet with the owner of eatery Het Warm Water. As I turn the corner of Rue Blaes, into Rue des Renards, I can see a group of people standing at the end of it, on top of the hill. Looking for number 25, I’m slowly approaching the mass of people when I realise they belong to a film crew shooting a French movie. Spotted: the red-headed actress who received love letters Amélie Poulain wrote to her in Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain. Not exactly what you’d expect to find in a Brussels neighbourhood like Marolles. After some moments of astonishment, curiosity and observation, I walk into Het Warm Water. The door was already open.
Brussels history reviving
“God it’s small in here,” I immediately think as I walk in. On my left side, there’s a group of Belgian tourists. They are listening carefully to the guide who apparently led them through De Marollen and took them to Het Warm Water to end what appeared to have been a successful tour with a happy stomach. From the staff I learn that I have to wait a little while for the boss to arrive and they spontaneously offer me a drink. I take a seat at a big dining room table and I have a good look around the restaurant. References to hot water can be seen all over the place: teakettles, an old coffee machine in one corner and an old machine to heat bath water in the other. Against the orange-yellow walls are framed pictures and sketches in black and white that show what life in Marolles used to be like decades ago. And that was exactly what Lieve Polet, owner of the eatery, wanted to do with the place. “The whole idea is engrafted on the history of Brussels,” she later tells me.
The name of the eatery – God forbid if you dare call it a restaurant – refers to the poverty of Marolles in the old days. Grocery stores then sold ‘hot water’. Since a lot of families often could not afford to pay for gas nor coals, house wives used to buy the hot water for their cup(s) of coffee at the grocery’s. In other words, a typical phenomenon from Marolles of the past served as a source of inspiration for the name of the eatery in Marolles today.
Also, on the menu are some typical dishes from Brussels, as well as some vegetarian dishes. But breakfasts are their speciality. “The most creative breakfasts in Brussels,” I read on the eatery’s leaflet. “I’m a real fan of breakfast,” Lieve tells me. And above all that, everything is home-made.
How it all started
The charming eatery already exists for 17 years now. “Ever since the 18th of December 1993”, Lieve tells me at once, as if the date was printed in her memory. She calls herself Flemish, but she speaks both Dutch and French fluently and she consciously wants to keep her eatery bilingual. Also, she has always lived in and around Brussels. After having been an inhabitant of both Saint-Josse-ten-Noode and Neder-Over-Heembeek, she is currently living in Schaerbeek. In Marolles she’d never want to live though. “Too noisy and you cannot go outside. Not many houses have a garden.” Still, she started her eatery there. Why? After nineteen years of social-cultural work and two years of carreer interruption, Lieve quit her job. In Germany she got inspired and decided to open her very own breakfast bar in Brussels. Unfortunately, “Brussels was not ready yet for having breakfast out. That way, the breakfast bar became an eatery.” In a search of a suitable location, she got inspired by Brussels history and Marolles became an obvious choice.
More than just an eatery
But next to great food and drinks, there is so much more to experience in Het Warm Water. Every Thursday there’s the ‘Cabaret in t Brussels met ‘t Crejateef Complot’, a cabaret in Brussels dialect. Also, Stoemp, the free barconcerts that were organized for the very first time last year, have found themselves a suitable location in the eatery. The Flemish band Yevgueni, for example, played there last year. Children on the other hand, can let themselves go in ‘Het Peperkoekenhuisje’, ‘The Gingerbread House’ in English. It’s the eatery’s own playroom. No wonder the eatery got an ‘Eetiket’, a label for eateries that are suitable for children, ascribed by de Week van de Smaak and Faro, the Flemish centre for cultural inheritance.
Suggestion: on Sundays, there's a flea market on the Place du jeu de balle. Maybe that would make a fun opporunity for you to discover Marolles? And while you're there, don't hesitate to pass by eatery Het Warm Water. A warm welcome will be awaiting you in Rue des renards, number 25. For more information, you can always take a look at the eatery’s website.