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Since Belgium and sunshine seem to be in a state of no interaction this summer, I was thrilled to be under a deep blue Portuguese sky for my holidays. Five consecutive days of sunshine, it almost felt like a miracle. I was even more happy when I found out that Portuguese cuisine is as good as the average guide book is telling you. Bairro Alto, Lisbon’s most famous restaurant area, hosts a great deal of cosy restaurants which serve grilled fish and meat of good quality for a decent price.

SUL is located in the Rua do Norte, in the center of Bairro Alto. Both the interior and the menu of this restaurant are traditional, yet with a contemporary touch to it. I especially liked their goat cheese salad, which was different from the many (MANY) other goat cheese salads I had before, mainly because of the great quality dried ham which was replacing the commonly used bacon. Their starter with ricotta and eggplant is also tasty, but not recommended if you want to fully enjoy your main course, because the portion of ricotta is huge and rather heavy on your stomach.

For the main course, the stone grill is an absolute must if you’re into meat. Served with a great tomato salsa (which will be in the cooky-paste section soon) and butter potatoes this plate is an explosion of calories, but the walk back to your hotel in Lisbon – the city built on 7 hills, will make up for a lot. Fans of fish will not be disappointed by the cod risotto, which is worthy enough to compete with Italian risotto.

I’m sure there was also a dessert menu, but unfortunately I was already out of the running before that order could be placed.

Sul,  Rua do Norte 13, Bairro Alto, Lisboa

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Another burger place in town. Usually I don’t like chic clean interiors too much, but in this case the owners kept enough cosiness in the place to feel at ease.

The menu lists burgers, salads and eggs, all in true NY style, although I couldn’t really say because I’ve never been to the actual Big Apple. It’s been on my to-do list way too long now. I tried the lamb burger with rocket, sundried tomatoes and mint yoghurt, my boyfriend had a chicken-avocado burger. All burgers come with a fresh veggie salad and home made fries. My burger was good. As in really really good. Portion wise I must say that I could have dealt with a bit more than what I had on my plate. But this makes a good excuse for ordering dessert, which I didn’t do this time. Makes a good excuse to go back, you see. At the same time you don’t want to go there too often, unless your weekday dining budget is calculated with some margin – a visit will cost you about € 20-25 for main dish and glass of wine.

The service was friendly and very smooth, although we went on a Wednesday, which is the night when all restaurants around Chatelaine are stuffed with hungry folks. I’m definitely tempted to go back and try one of the salads.

P.H.A.T., Rue Américaine 22, 1050 Ixelles.

Out of all movies which I have seen as a child, Alice in Wonderland is one of the few that still intrigues me. The rabbit always in a hurry, the hookah smoking caterpillar, the mad hatter and of course the horrifying queen of harts, all highly peculiar characters which stick to the mind of everyone who saw the movie. When shopping in Rotterdam over the weekend, I came across the cutest little tea room – Ten to Three Bakery. The entire shop breathes Alice in Wonderland’s atmosphere. The “Mat Hatter’s Tea Parties” which are the highlight of the menu of course help a lot.

Ten to Three Bakery is offering a selection – not very wide but surely a well considered mix of flavours – of classic and special cupcakes and other bakery goodies. The recently hyped Whoopie Pie is also on the menu. I tried a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting and lemon cupcake with lemon frosting. The frosting is ridiculously sweet, you have to be a big fan of sugar, but it’s a perfect match with some lady-like afternoon tea. For those who usually have difficulties of making a choice, do not worry because all cupcakes come in mini shape, which is the perfect excuse to order two. Or three. Or more.

Ten to Three Bakery, Aert van Nesstraat 24, 3012 CA Rotterdam

Although many people will think of New York when asked about the origin of bagels, the actual roots of this fine peace of bread lies in Eastern Europe. Legend has that a Jewish baker in Austria created the bagel to honor the Polish king who saved the country from a Turkish invasion. It were the Jewish immigrants arriving in North America who launched the Big Apple’s famous bagel industry early 20th century.

Brussels has its own little bagel-heaven called Au pays des merveilles. It’s a small shop located nearby the fashionable Antoine Dansaert street, owned by Alice Romaniuk. The menu is -seriously- never ending, so making up your mind on what to order is a challenge.  The shop interior is almost as sweet as the brownie which is smiling at you as you walk into the shop.

I tried the Bagel Discovery, which allows you to choose 3 different bagels from the menu. They come to you in mini version, but even the small sized ones are stuffed with a huge amount of ingredients inside. I had goat cheese+pesto+sundried tomatoes+rucola, warm chicken breast+guacamole+cream cheese+lemon and finally italian ham+sundried tomaties+cream cheese+rucola. Yes, that all came on one plate and yes, I did finish it all. I gathered all my courage and even ordered a brownie and do-it-yourself chocolate milk for dessert.

A little fait-divers, APDM invites an artist every first Saturday of the month for an art exhibition. Cause the eyes need to be fed as well.

Au pays des merveilles, Avenue Jean Volders 42, 1060 St-Gilles.