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Bon Journal

Royal rip-off

On the way to the famous Grand Place, you have to go through the equally infamous Rue de Boulanger. Seafood restaurants, starting with Italian and ending with French, line the narrow street. It is the biggest tourist trap - but also one which Brussels is famous for.

The best looking waiter of each restaurant stand outside to say hello and tempt you to eat there. They are all equally expensive and average - but it's hard to tell which is the least bad until you sit down.

I got tired trying to discern what was value for money. On an empty stomach, everything looks good. So my dinner partner and I went back to the first restaurant: Saint Laurent. The waiter was nice to us. And I was too hungry to try to understand the menu, which was in French and Flemish. Another tourist trap: everything looks more exotic in a foreign language.

After what seemed like an eternity, the beers arrived. Another eternity later, the food arrived. It took one wrong tasting raw clam to wake me up. I became suspicious that the fruit de mer wasn't as fresh as it should be. The raw mussels almost made me puke. By then, I was convinced that I might die of food poisoning and lost my appetite immediately. Meanwhile my friend continued to eat his grilled seafood without hesitation. I left the plate full and my stomach empty.

When the bill arrived, I couldn't be bothered to question why it was so astronomical. I didn't complain like some American friends of mine would have under these circumstances. I just wanted to get away as soon as possible. Of course, being in Belgian francs, the arithmetic was slightly elusive. Afterwards, I realised that I had spent more than one hundred dollars on raw seafood that wasn't fresh enough to eat. But thank goodness, I did not get food poisoning.

6 November 2001 Tuesday

Make sure you ask for the price before you choose. I paid BEF 2,600 for a fruit de mer ! And the bill was more than BEF 5,000 total at Saint Laurent
Rue des Bouchers 51000