Although Belgium does not produce the ingredients for the chocolate, it has a few century-long tradition of making one of the finest chocolates in the world. And what would be a better place to explore all this tasty luxury than the Galeries Royales in Brussels? Below you will find a full list of the best chocolate you can find there.
This Gallery is a glazed shopping arcade, similar to the famous Galeria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, but actually built earlier. It consists of two segments, called Galerie du Roi and Galerie de la Reine, so the Gallery of the King and the Queen. There is also a smaller side passage, called Galerie du Prince. You might also hear it called the Passage Saint-Hubert – this is the common name for the whole ensemble.
At the moment it is exactly in this Gallery you can find some of the best Belgian chocolate shops and cafes. Here is a little list of what I think are the absolute must-tries.
Corné Port-Royal was born in Brussels in 1932, when a young confectioner Maurice Corne decided to try a new venture and opened a chocolate shop. It was a great success from the start and the word about delicious chocolate spread round. The fame of Corné Port-Royal reached even the famous French actor Maurice Chevalier, who frequented the shop.
You can taste the chocolate of Corné Port-Royal all around Belgium and even in France, but the best place to experience it would be the Galerie de la Reine.
Signature item: It is of course the famous ‘Manon Sucre’, created by Maurice Corne himself in 1935. It is still produced in the same way. It is a praline balancing a perfect combination of cream and crisp.
This is one of my favourite stories, because it combines awesome things: chocolate, love, travels and socialism. The to-be founder of this brand Leonidas Kestekides was a Greek born in Anatolia. When he was 18, he emigrated to the USA and became a confectioner. He later travelled to Belgium for the 1910 World Fair and 1. the Belgians fell in love with his sweets 2. Leonidas fell in love with Joanna Teerlinck and married her. Together (and later also with the help of Leonidas’ family from Greece) they open a shop, which becomes a big success. And what about the socialism? Well, the chocolate during that time was only for the rich. Leonidas revolutionised the process of selling the chocolate straight from the shop window and made it much cheaper than anyone before. The family run company continues to expand until now.
At the moment you can find Leonidas in some 50 countries in the world. But of course Belgium is where it all started.
Signature item: Leonidas is called the king of pralines. But if pralines is not your type, there is so much more to chose from, including (but not limiting to) truffles, ice-cream, marzipan, candied fruit, spreads and even hot drinks.
One of the younger chocolate success stories. Pierre Marcolini was born in Italian family living in Belgium and wanted to be a chocolatier since his childhood. Maison Pierre Marcolini is known for working directly with the producers of chocolate beans all over the world. The main emphasis is on the top quality ingredients and therefore amazing taste.
Signature item: Try the macrons and the eclairs. They are freshly made and only available in some of the stores.
La Belgique Gourmande
Not strictly a chocolate shop, but more of a little treasure box within the Galerie. In addition to the best Belgian chocolates, here you will also find waffles, Speculoos biscuits and over 250 of Belgian artisan beers.
Signature item: As this shop really has everything, it is hard to chose. Maybe try going there for the things you did not get in the other ones?
Oh, here is another funny story. It begins not with the founder, but with his grandfather, who had a pharmacy in the same Galerie de la Reine. He used to cover his medicines in a layer of chocolate, so they would taste better. I wish they still would practise that now! Anyway, in 1912 his grandson Jean Neuhaus replaced the medicine inside with the cream, and so the first praline was born. Neuhaus’ wife designed a special fancy box for the chocolates and called it ‘ballotin’. This has started the tradition of bringing small chocolates as a gift.
Since then it has pretty much one big success. Neuhaus currently has many shops all over the world and is also the official chocolate supplier to the Belgian royal family. But if you have a chance, try it at the Galerie, where the old pharmacy used to be.
Signature item: The chocolates named ‘Astid’, ‘Caprice’ and ‘Tentation’ were created between 1930s and 1950s. They are still very successful and made according to the traditional recipe.
Have you noticed that so far all the chocolatiers were men? Well, not all, there were some women too. Mary Delluc, the founder of Mary was probably the most famous one. This entrepreneur opened a tea room in the very centre of Brussels in 1919. She served her chocolates and kept notes of which were liked by most of the customers. Mary re-created and re-invented her recipes in the same shop’s basement in her chocolate laboratory.
Signature item: Visit Mary’s to try her famous langues de chat (cat tongues). You can find them in milk, white and dark chocolate.