Belgium and chocolate: it’s a never-ending love story. Most tourists visiting Belgium don’t really know what the country has to offer (except for Bruges maybe) but they are well aware of its culinary specialties. Beer, chocolate and waffles. Although that vision may be a little narrow – come on, all Belgians would be massive if we were to survive on a diet of those three things – it certainly says a lot about the fame of Belgian chocolate. Being Belgian myself, I dare say that nowhere in the world you will be able to find chocolate that is as rich in taste and as gooey as in Belgium. And no, I’m not willing to talk about it.
But even in a chocolate paradise like Belgium, there still are differences in quality and taste. Not every praline or bar is created equally. Some are better for fancy occasions while others are just the ideal comfort food on gloomy winter evenings. And that’s okay. If you were looking for the best places to buy your next box of fancy chocolates though, restaurant guide Gault & Millau has made your life quite a lot easier. Every year, they choose the three best chocolatiers in Belgium: one in Flanders, one in Brussels and one in Wallonia. This year they even introduced a new category named ‘Discovery of the Year’. All in all, four addresses for you to choose from, just in time for the festive season.
1. Chocolatier of the year in Brussels: Laurent Gerbaud
Laurent Gerbaud has been a true chocolate institution in Brussels for quite some years now and not without reason. His chocolate consists out of at least 75% cacao and pairs well with wine and that other Belgian specialty, beer. You cannot miss this place when visiting Brussels!
2. Chocolatier of the year in Flanders: Olivier Willems (Ostend)
From the capital, we go all the way to the coast to Olivier Willems’ store in Ostend. His creations are a true pleasure for the eyes and the flavors, well, they’re something else too. Whether you are looking for chocolates filled with beer, gin, honey or cardamom: you’ll find everything your heart could ever long for over here.
3. Chocolatier of the year in Wallonia: Benoit Nihant (Awans)
Benoit Nihant describes his own creations as ‘Haute Couture Chocolate’ and we can see why. This chocolatier went looking for the best cocoa all over the world, which he eventually found in South-America. He roasts and grinds his own beans, which he then turns into the most mouthwatering chocolates. What do you think of Le Coeur Samba, a praline filled with caramel, passion fruit and samba tea?
4. Discovery of the year: Goût Fou (Zele)
Even though Niels Segers and Justine Lanoo just started Goût Fou this year, they already made a very good impression on Gault & Millau’s jury. They manage to give a modern touch at classics like the melo cake and a couple of tartelettes, which they turn into snack bars. Not your average chocolatier!