The smell of coffee coming from a cafe in the morning is enough to wake your senses. The sound of the grinders, the gurgle of the steam warming the milk for a cappuccino, the espresso drizzling into the small coffee cup. You are next in line, you hear the barista banging the used coffee into the drawer and you know your coffee is next.
Malta might not have the same coffee culture as Italy but there are many places where you can get a perfect espresso. For some, the coffee ritual is as important as the tea ceremony in Asia.
So you can imagine the shock when on arriving in Brussels nine years ago there was barely a place where you could savour a decent coffee. A few Italian shops here and there made a decent espresso and cappuccino but in most places it used to be incredibly difficult to order a coffee without regretting it.
Things have now changed, very much for the better and this has nothing to do with the venture into Belgium of Starbucks.
Order an espresso now and you are very likely to get a small coffee. Nine years ago this was not a given. In many places, an espresso would be the equivalent of an ‘American’ coffee by Italian standards.
Maybe it is the advent of Nespresso which has made huge inroads everywhere, or else because coffee culture is everywhere, but now, having a decent coffee in Belgium is no longer like searching for Siddharta.
Cafe de la Presse on the far end of Avenue Louise close to the Bois de la Cambre epitomises this revival of the coffee culture. This is the perfect place to stop for a coffee. It is always full with people, has a quirky but attractive interior design and you can have a decent espresso or cappuccino. I particularly like the industrial feel to the place.
You can sit on one of the sofas in the front end of the cafe, or else head to one of the tables at the back. If the weather is nice, you can also sit on the terrace.
It is still not there when it comes to the perfect espresso but it’s close enough and the smell of the coffee in the morning or afternoon is very welcoming. For those who do not know Cafe de la Presse, they might have come across the new Cafe du Sablon which has the same concept.
You can choose from a selection of homemade cakes with your tea or coffee. They also have excellent bagels or salads as well as a selection of fresh juices. You can also find the cupcakes from Lilicup here.
The Cafe de la Presse buzzes with activity. It’s a great place for people watching, to sit down with a great book or magazine or even to take your laptop and work from there.
At Cafe de la Presse and Cafe du Sablon, you can also find a relatively new Belgian beer Volga with a stunning label designed by renowned illustrator John Contino. Volga beer is not only very good but also has a very interesting marketing story. To get it noticed, the creators of the beer helped those who stocked it to have sun on their terrace even when this was geographically impossible. I leave you to find out how. It’s part of the fun.
Cafe de la Presse is also very popular for brunch on Sunday morning. I have not tried it so cannot vouch for it but it is meant to be good.
Cafe de la Presse is open every day from Monday to Friday from 7.30am to 8pm. On the weekends it opens at 8.30am.