BIA MARA

I love Brussels (most of the time) and I also adore its amazing range of comfort food. The word ‘stoemp’ even sounds stick-to-the-ribs carborific. Sometimes though, I CRAVE the comfort food I associate with home.

I come from a small village in the north of Ireland right next to the Belfast Lough.

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I really miss living next to the sea. This is our mini harbour.

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It has some amazing wee fish and chip shops and restaurants. If you’re ever in Belfast make the detour and stop by in the seaside ‘Dirty Duck’ pub. You won’t regret it!

So I was verrrry excited to hear that a new Irish fish and chip shop (Bia Mara is Irish for seafood) had opened up in the centre of town. Granted, the street isn’t the fanciest in Brussels; Bia Mara rubs shoulders with the infamous Irish pub/club/pit of doom Celtica but the location is fantastically central and the food is so bloody worth it.

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I’ve now been five or six times and have tried something new every time.

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The chips are, according to a fellow Irish ex-pat, the best he’s ever had, and we don’t muck around when it comes to our potatoes. You’d also have to have a pretty big set of cojones to come from Ireland and try to sell CHIPS to the BELGIANS. Luckily, they’ve pulled it off!

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The menu changes weekly and, if I’m not mistaken, daily. Selling out of dishes is not unusual as everything is bought in fresh every day (and this shiz is good).

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The premise is simple: each fish dish comes with a piece of fish (no shit!) in a batter or breadcrumb (there are usually four or five different flavours/variations to choose from), accompanied by sauces chosen to complement the flavours of the fish (my favourite it is garlic truffle sauce – I would probably drink it if no one was watching) and of course the WONDERFUL chunky chips.

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It’s basically a major drool-a-thon.

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The different batters are incredible. So far I’ve tried; the Guinness +black squid ink tempura which is worth getting for the colour of the batter alone, lemon and basil tempura, salmon with a curry panko breadcrumb crust and a Jamaican jerk Pollock with a calypso sauce. None have disappointed. There are a couple of chicken/veggie dishes on the menu too if you don’t like fish (!?) but haven’t tried any myself.

This place is great; GO!

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