UPDATE: Closed permanently…
For years, Monk has been a reference point in the nightlife of Brussels centre, especially for the Dutch speaking community of the city. Live music, great beers and booze, plenty of space and a huge bar counter. In 2012, it all ended, and for a year, the curtains were closed. It did reopen eventually, however, and with new owners and a slightly tweaked concept — adding spaghetti to the mix — the bar managed to lure many of the old customers back, and a lot of new ones as well.
Café Monk has quite some history to it — and I’m not even referring to the foundations of the medieval Sint-Katelijne gate in the beer cellar. Confusingly, above the main window you can nowadays read the name A la Couronne. The name was (re)discovered during renovations, after stripping away layers of paint, but it is not quite clear when it was used.
When I moved to the centre of Brussels in the nineties however, the café was already called Le Zinneke, although I don’t really remember it, because then, it never even caught my eye.
After Le Zinneke went out of business, in 2002, jazz loving furniture designer Yves De Vresse discovered a wooden interior from the 2o’s hidden behind the drywalls by, and he seized the opportunity to open something great here. Monk — named after the American jazz musician Thelonious Monk — was opened, and quickly became a great succes.
Without getting in too much detail, things went downhill fast after Yves left his creation in the hands of his former business partner, and Monk was declared bankrupt in 2012.
A year later it reopened in its current form. It was still named Monk, still had mostly the same interior, but with the new owners there were some changes as well. Most importantly, there was a lot more attention for food. That wasn’t very surprising, since the new owners also own resto Henri, a short walk away, and restaurant Hungaria, in Leuven.
One end of the bar counter is now converted in a little butcher shop, complete with white tiles and all, from where the cheeses, cured meats and pâtés are served. If you don’t know what to have, just ask for E beke van alles, a little bit of everything.
The most important addition to Monk however, is the spaghetti ‘buffet’. During lunchtime and in the evening you can choose one of four different varieties of spaghetti, one of those a monthly changing special. The latest special for instance, served during the Euro Cup football championship, was the Bolo-Balls spaghetti, with meatballs filled with mozzarella. And even though I don’t care about football at all, I did like these balls! You can always choose which cheese you’d like on your spaghetti — Orval, Emmental or Parmesan — and if you want it spicy or not. And if it’s still not spicy enough, the homemade chili-oil will fix that for you…
It might be interesting to keep in mind that the tills, but also the drinks offering of the bar and buffet are completely separate. This means the choices of beer to have with your spaghetti are quite limited compared to what you can have on the other side of the door…
The ten beer pumps are fitted with little chalkboards as pump clips, giving the impression that all of them will change regularly. That is not completely true, since the majority seems to have been pouring the same beers for a couple of years already. It doesn’t mean the beers are any less interesting: where else can you find a La Trappe Quadrupel on draught? Just give it a little time to warm up, to fully appreciate it…
Monk is one of those places lucky enough to be able to serve personalized bottles of De la Senne‘s Zinnebir. It was also one of the first bars to be serving BBP‘s Delta — and they still do — but for both breweries, it seems Monk just sticks to the headliners.
The specials or beers of the month can be quite, well, special, but also quite expensive.
There’s quite a selection of liquors as well, but the attention seems to have shifted from single malt whiskies, to — admittedly more trendy — gins. Still a couple of decent single malts on the shelves, though.
It’s good to see Monk has returned to its former glory, and we can only welcome the addition of proper ‘bites’!
- 10 beers on draught, one of them La Trappe Quadrupel
- Bottles small and big
- Some ‘very specials’ on the chalkboard around the corner…
- A larger than usual selection of cheeses and cured meats. Ask for “E beke van alles”…
- Spaghetti in different flavours and sizes
Sint-Katelijnestraat 42 Rue Sainte-Catherine
+32 2 511 75 11
What have people been drinking here recently?
- Samuel Van Beneden is drinking a Kriek at Monk
- Braulio Rosero Quilumba is drinking a Zuur at Monk
- Olivier Creten is drinking a Zinnebir at Monk
- Niels Boghmans is drinking a Moinette Blonde at Monk
- B G is drinking a Cristal XTRA at Monk
- Zineb is drinking a Grand Cru at Monk
- Kristof Vosters is drinking a Grosse Bertha at Monk
- Zineb is drinking a Grosse Bertha at Monk
- Enrico Colombi is drinking an OMER. Traditional Blond at Monk
- Enrico Colombi is drinking a Grand Cru at Monk