Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Bagel Wonderland

As part of my professional life, I work part-time for the International Jewish Center (IJC) where I get to answer all kinds of fun questions. By far my favorite was an email that came in a couple of years ago: "Hi, I just moved to town and I'm looking for a place where I can buy a good bagel." To those of you out there who hearken from New York, Montreal, or other important points in the world of bagel geography, I can already hear the resoundingly sarcastic "Good luck!"

So it was certainly an exciting moment when I discovered that PilPel (a shop/restaurant which has already been reviewed on this blog) carries frozen H&H bagels. New Yorkers, eat your heart out. But recently, I heard about Au Pays des Merveilles ("Wonderland", as in, "Alice in"), a little bagel restaurant/coffee shop in St Gilles. Whereas most Belgians seem to think that a bagel is just a roll with a hole in the middle, APDM at least gets the bagel concept a little more accurately, if not exactly up to North American standards.

I felt obligated to go with the classic: cream cheese and lox. A bit of criticism here: for one, APDM actually has a section on their menu called "classics" - and cream cheese and lox does not make the cut. More to the point, don't get your hopes up for lox; smoked salmon was all that was on offer, although I've come to expect that in this bagelly-hopeless country. (For those who don't know, lox is not smoked and has a salt content high enough to harden your arteries just by looking at it.) I was happy to see that they were generous with the "schmear" (i.e. cream cheese), and the service gets two thumbs up for friendliness.

APDM's bagels come in from Amsterdam, and I'm glad they make the trip. These certainly beat the other "bagels" on offer around town (perhaps with the exception of those frozen H&H beauties, but the fresher the better so I'm about 50/50 on this one). Also the tea, coffee, and hot chocolate selection makes this place a surefire destination for a Sunday brunch. Clearly other people agree, since the small and adorably decorated seating area was full up by 11:30am last Sunday morning, and there was no shortage of people lined up for takeout.

The bagel conundrum remains, but give APDM a try.

Au Pays des Merveilles
42 avenue Jean Volders
1060 Saint-Gilles
Tel. 0488 476 826
Open 7/7! Mon-Fri from 9h-18h; Sat-Sun from 10h-19h

1 comment:

Alison said...

I just discovered this place a few months ago as well to my delight! You can also get wonderful home-made but frozen bagels (if you have a car or are willing to take a looong bus ride) at the British Store Stonemanor, in my old neighbourhood of Everberg.