When I was younger, I spent many summer holidays wreaking havoc with a hoard of ragamuffin children, including my two cousins, in a small Polish town called Miloszewo.
One of these cousins was four years older than me, so when I hit the mature age of 13, we embarked on the 2 km walk to the village discotheque where we spent hours dancing awkwardly while spending our hard-earned allowance on a couple of rounds of beer. There was always a point in our night, when we just couldn’t dance any longer and instead of walking home, we followed the beckoning scent of fresh bread being made at the bakery that my aunt owned right next door. One of my favourite childhood memories is sitting in the back room, spreading butter on my loaf, which instantly melted as it came into contact with the fresh and warm bread, then topping off my masterpiece with homemade strawberry jam. Delicious.
15 years later and I lament the mouth-watered scents that I had become accustomed to so many years ago. In fact, in Belgium, they just don’t do bread right. The warm or fresh bread that is placed in the bread rack in Carrefour or Delhaize is probably re-heated or previously frozen. There are very few true bakers that still care on the legacy of a true artisanal baker.
Charli is one of those bakeries, located in the heart of St. Catherine, which pays respect to the art and tradition of bread making with tantalizingly delicious breads and pastries that are made form natural ingredients all from scratch and on location.
Owner, Charles Reboulet, opened Charli 6 years ago when he noticed that there were simply no good bakeries in Brussels that served fresh bread. He embarked on a mission to provide the very best products to his clientele, products such as fig and walnut sourdough, honey beer and pumpkinseed bread and a delectable assortment of pastries including everyone’s favorite: the croissant.
As I stepped into Charli, I was instantly transported to those long summer nights spent anxiously watching the bakers finish a batch of bread that was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside. It connected me to my past and it felt wonderful. The locale was chockfull of people and I ordered a coffee, locally sourced of course, while I watched the bakers do their think through the glass window. Charles Reboulet later told me that he did this on purpose. “Everyone constantly asked me if the bread is really made here” Charles says “so I decided to just show them.”
The café itself has 15 seats and it is so popular the Charli often sells around 1,200 loaves of bread daily which equals about 8 tones of flour used per month! But Charles doesn’t want to stop her; in May 2015 he plans to open Salty Charli, another café that will primarily focus on salty foods, like sandwiches, breakfast and tarts. My interest was particularly peaked when he mentioned that the new local will feature true Mexican tacos, full of taste and yet light all made at his restaurant (yes even the tortillas!).
Charli is a bakery that should not be missed for anyone who is not only sick of the Brussels frozen bread phenomenon but craves a buttery croissant fresh from the oven perfectly paired with a cup cappuccino. See you there?
Open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 AM to 7 PM
Open on Sundays from 8 AM to 1:30 PM
Rue Sainte-Catherine, 34. 1000 Bruxelles, Centre.