If you ever find yourself in Brussels on a cool, rainy day, seeking a cozy spot in which to curl up with your laptop or catch up with a friend over cafe au laits and cake, look no further than APDM (Au Pays Des Merveilles) in the hip, intercultural Saint-Gilles neighborhood.
Passing before the spacious open kitchen and prep space near the entrance, you arrive to the dining area, set in what was once the living room or entry hall of a bourgeoisie Belgian home, a classic interior with glossy smooth parquet floors, intricate mouldings on the walls, and elegant white French doors with brass handles. Dangling down from lofty high ceilings are industrial-style single-fixture light bulbs, a touch of hipster design. In the back you will find a precious open-air courtyard with wrought iron tables and chairs and exposed brick walls, all whitewashed with faded colors. Another hipster touch. And, well, they specialize in artisanal bagels….
Each of their decadent bagel sandwich creations comes with a side salad of mixed greens, tomato and cucumber, sprinkled with the fried onions. I chose one of their signatures, with cured and smoked ham, sundried tomatoes, thin slices of Parmesan, fresh basil and arugula on a creamy base of cream cheese and pesto. Sesame seed bagel, but I’m sure you can request whichever one you prefer. The sandwich was perfectly proportioned and delicious. The ham was packed with salty, smoky flavor and there was a generous amount of tomato to contribute a slippery, moist texture to each bite. The nutty, herby pesto blended nicely with the frothy cream cheese, the combination of the two offering a smooth binder for the other ingredients to lie on and stick too.
My friend got a poppy seed bagel, overflowing with large pieces of pungent Brie, some peppery leaves of arugula, thinly sliced apples, walnuts and honey drizzled over. The classic combination of stinky cheese with sticky sweet, floral honey and toasty nut worked fantastically here, although this sandwich was a tad messy to eat.
APDM also offers pancakes, eggs, yogurt and fruit parfaits and other brunch items, as well as a nice selection of sweet desserts. (I saw some pretty decent looking cupcakes and brownies in the pastry case.) But bagel sandwiches are their forte, and I’m sure if I lived around there I’d try each of their 20 signature combinations at least once over.