Food markets are a popular tourist attraction. From New York to London to Barcelona, every metropolis now has one. Since November 2019, Brussels is the proud owner of Wolf, a food market that values sustainability, respect for the soul of the place, and connecting local entrepreneurs, inhabitants of Brussels, and visitors. It is a food market that joins us in travelling to tomorrow.
A piece of nature and history in the heart of Brussels
Wolf becoming the face of Brussels’ food market scene was written in the stars. It is in fact an ode to the meaning of the place where the establishment is located. Legend has it that, sometime in the 18th century, wolves from the Sonian Forest came here to hang out and have a drink. That’s why the street was also given the name ‘Wolvengracht’ [Wolf Moat]. “The concept of Wolf, our name, and our philosophy: everything here revolves around the principle ‘La nature reprend la ville’ [Nature takes over the city]. We are strongly committed to bringing nature back to the heart of the city, in every possible way. And by linking the story behind the street’s name to our philosophy, it wasn’t difficult to come up with a suitable name for our new food market,” says Sebastiaan Van de Voorde, business developer at Group Haelterman and co-developer of Wolf.
After the passage of the wild wolves more than 200 years ago, the place got into the hands of the ‘geldwolven’ [Money wolves – Dutch for gold-diggers]. The iconic art deco building near the Grand Place in the heart of Brussels used to belong to the ASLK [the General Savings and Annuity Fund]. Because of Wolf, the former counter hall was thus given a new purpose without losing sight of the soul of the place. Thus, as many dismantled elements of the original building as possible were used to shape Wolf. Think parts of different counters and old desks or upholstery that are now part of the light fixtures. In addition, each restaurant is hosted at a counter from the former bank in order to preserve the richness of the building.
Fascinating encounters around culinary experiences
Wolf welcomes all kinds of people looking for culinary experiences and interesting encounters. Here you can taste the authenticity and passion of the craftsmen and entrepreneurs who are driven to work with honest, responsible, and exciting products. The unique setting and relaxed atmosphere provide space for strong personal and human connections.
In addition to the many small restaurants, the food market also has its own organic marketplace, a microbrewery, and even a chocolaterie. Wolf’s own organic marketplace was named ‘The Food Hub’ and is based on the cooperation with Belgian and European farmers. With their range of organic products, they want to develop a complete social, ecological, and economically sustainable food chain. The microbrewery is headed by master brewer Vincent Dujardin, ex-brewer of La Manufacture Urbaine in Charleroi. He brews the beers on site, after which they are led directly to the barrels above the central bar. Finally, the food market also houses bio-chocolaterie ‘Belvas’. Here, you have Thierry Noessen at the helm, a man passionate about cocoa and considered one of the pioneers of 100% organic chocolate. They all enjoy sharing their story with the visitors of the food market.
Connecting people from Brussels with visitors and each other
Balance, respect, and sustainability are the main philosophies of Wolf. Not only in terms of the repurposing of the building and the interior with repurposed materials, but also in the way food and people are treated. “Restaurant La Table du Marché [The Table Market], for example, prepares dishes using ingredients from the organic marketplace. These are often products that do not entirely meet our expectations in terms of aesthetics, but do not lose any of their flavour. In other places, these products would end up in the bin, but here we get to work with them”, says Sebastiaan. In addition, the local microbrewery and chocolaterie ensure that Wolf saves on transport and insist that the restaurants do not use plastic or disposable materials. Fun fact: trot, the residual product after the beer brewing process, is used to make biscuits.
“With Wolf, we want to focus on the local aspect. For example, all our restaurants are real Brussels restaurants all characterized by a unique approach. We are strongly committed to enthuse the locals. Whether they are doing business here, coming to work, or simply eat, many of them are proud to be inhabitants of Brussels. But of course, a food market in a big city is also a tourist attraction in itself, so we welcome many tourists every day. The uniqueness of our concept is that we connect the inhabitants of Brussels with local entrepreneurs and visitors from Belgium and abroad. It’s all about the one thing that so easily connects people, namely delicious local food,” concludes Sebastiaan.
Text (Dutch): Carline Roggeman