“Eat more fish” is the motto of Bia Mara. “Good luck with that”, was my first thought, when in 2013, I first walked past the now famous chippie. And foreigners from a soggy chip country selling chips to Belgians?
I’m not a fish eater at all: in most restaurants I usually just skip the seafood section of the menu. But after the first time I tried the Classic at the lively fish and chips shop on the Marché aux Poulets, I was hooked — pun intended. Because of Bia Mara, I’ve eaten more fish in the last three years, than in the preceding thirty years!
The fish and chips at Bia Mara — seafood in Irish Gaelic — are nothing like the fish and chips you might have eaten in the UK. Simon and Barry made their own version of the classic dish, using herbs and spices from all over the world and Japanese tempura or panko for the fish, making it more crispy than usual. The chips are more like potato wedges than ‘normal’ chips, and nicely seasoned with seaweed salt. If you really want vinegar, just ask for the spray.
Not only does their version of ‘fast food’ taste great, it’s sustainable as well, since they’re very particular in their choice of fish, and only use fish that isn’t being overﬁshed. This green philosophy continues in the use of biodegradable cutlery made from corn starch.
On the menu are six different options for fish and chips: two made with tempura, four with panko. Each is served with a sauce that should go particularly well with that fish and the spices used in the crust, but they’ll happily substitute it with another, if you prefer another combination. The species of fish depends on what was available on the fish market that morning, so you’ll have to check the blackboard to see what you’re actually eating.
For those who really prefer not to have the fish — hard to imagine, if even I choose fish every time there — there are two versions of panko chicken, and arancini’s for vegetarians.
And then there usually is a special: both fish and sauce are inspired by a nation’s cuisine and spices. There’ve been dozens of different specials already, and some very tasty creations among them. I fondly remember the Argentinian Special (herbs & black pepper crusted fish with Chimichurri Sauce) and Japanese Special (orange, Schezuan pepper & sesame crusted fish with a ginger & wasabi sauce). The Ethiopian Special I equally loved, made it to the standard menu to my delight, so apparently it wasn’t just one of my favourites…
The fish might have been spot on from day one, the beer selection has come a long way since they started with some foreign lagers — Carlsberg I think it was — and Leffe… Brasserie de la Senne is now leading the beer menu with Zinnebir — it even has a special fish themed Bia Mara label — and Jambe de Bois. Furthermore, there’s usually a beer of the month, which can be either Belgian or foreign. To name a few of the foreign specials they’ve served so far: Snake Dog IPA and Doggie Style by Flying Dog Brewery, Dirty Stop Out and a Cwtch by Tiny Rebel Brewing Co, ReAle Extra by Birra del Borgo, Gamma Ray and Neck Oil by Beavertown.
And for us beer lovers, there’s still a special surprise on it’s way!
Don’t expect to be seated quickly on a Friday or Saturday evening: the place is popular, very popular, and even with the terrace out, there could be people waiting in the street for their turn to dig in. You could always go to their other fish and chips restaurants: Bia Mara Antwerp, Hook Camden and Hook Brixton, but I doubt they will be any less popular…
- Bottles of Zinnebir and Jambe de Bois
- A special beer of the month, often foreign
- About seven different variations of delicious ‘new style’ fish and chips
- Chicken and arancini if you really don’t eat fish
Kiekenmarkt 41 Rue du Marché aux Poulets
+32 2 502 00 61
What have people been drinking here recently?
- Daan Hogewind is drinking a Zinnebir at Bia Mara
- Kevin is drinking a Jambe-de-Bois at Bia Mara
- Santi MDLVIA is drinking a Zinnebir - Edition Spéciale Bia Mara at Bia Mara
- Andrea Bjelogrlic is drinking a Taupe at Bia Mara
- Yücel İskender is drinking a Klaklak at Bia Mara
- Demian Caponi is drinking a Taupe at Bia Mara
- Robert Bunton is drinking a Taupe at Bia Mara
- Jose de la Barrera is drinking a Vedett Extra Ordinary IPA at Bia Mara
- Jose de la Barrera is drinking a Jambe-de-Bois at Bia Mara
- varun_kedia_7602 is drinking a Stouterik at Bia Mara