Noordzee – Mer Du Nord: Fresh seafood in Brussels, Belgium

One of the best places in Brussels for seFafood is at Noordzee - Mer Du Nord
One of the best places in Brussels for seafood is at Noordzee – Mer Du Nord

Noordzee – Mer Du Nord, located in Brussels, Belgium, is popular with locals and visitors for inexpensive, tapas-like seafood plates. The restaurant in the Sainte Catherine area of Brussels is only minutes by foot from the Grand Palace.

Many centuries ago, the city’s main fish market stood in the small square in front of the restaurant. And, the old fish canals survive to this day. Over the years, many excellent seafood restaurants have opened in this area. One of those restaurants is Noordzee – Mer Du Nord.

Open-air kitchen with seafood being grilled
Open-air kitchen with seafood being grilled

On my visit, I immediately noticed that Noordzee – Mer Du Nord was not your average eatery. The place reminded me of a street food stall with a grill attached to a fresh seafood market. I would best describe the place as a seafood bar.

Whether you are eating here or not, take a peak into the open-air kitchen. As smoke rises from the kitchen, watch the chefs prepare dishes, grill fish on the flattop grill, and fry croquettes.

While tourists frequent the restaurant, I felt it catered not to tourists but to food lovers. Many of the restaurant’s patrons were locals drinking glasses of wine, sharing small seafood plates, and enjoying life. I felt as if I was one of the locals.

Outdoor Seating Area at Noordzee – Mer Du Nord

Standing only high-top tables
Standing only high-top tables

Just across the street from the restaurant was a square where everyone was eating and drinking at standing-only high-top tables. The highlight of this square was Saint Catherine Church. Eating outdoors in the shadows of the church was the highlight of my visit. These are the experiences I hope for when I travel. Just watch out for birds trying to steal your food.

Noordzee – Mer du Nord Menu

The menu at Noordzee - Mer du Nord, Brussels, Belgium
The menu at Noordzee – Mer du Nord

When I arrived at Noordzee – Mer du Nord, they had about an hour left before closing for the day. Since I arrived so late, my options were limited as they sold out of many items on the menu.

The menu at Noordzee – Mer du Nord on my visit included Fish Soup (Vissoep Soupe de Poisson), Fried Fish (Kibbeling), Shrimp Croquettes (Garnaalkroketten Croquettes Aux Crevettes), and Grilled Shrimp (Scampi a la Plancha).

Estaminet Premium Pils beer
Estaminet Premium Pils beer

The menu also had an assortment of wines, beer, and soft drinks.

Most people were ordering shrimp croquettes, so that is what I ordered. In addition, I ordered the grilled shrimp and a Belgian Estaminet Premium Pils beer to wash everything down.

Sliced baguette
Sliced baguette

When I was ready to order, I placed my order with the cashier at the counter outside of the restaurant. The worker behind the counter helped answer any questions about the menu and gave me his recommendations.

After placing my order, I was handed a bowl with slices of bread. The basic French baguette, though served cold, was flaky and chewy on the inside.

When my food was ready, they called out my name. So, be sure to listen for your name. I then picked up my plates at the counter near the grill.

Shrimp Croquettes

The Shrimp Croquettes with tartar sauce, Noordzee - Mer du Nord, Brussels, Belgium
The Shrimp Croquettes with tartar sauce

One of the signature dishes of Noordzee – Mer Du Nord was their traditional Belgian Shrimp Croquettes. These croquettes came with a salad of mixed greens and tomato, tartar sauce, and a wedge of lemon. These croquettes used North Sea shrimp, which is also called brown shrimp. This small variety of shrimp, prized for its flavor, is rare on menus in the United States.

Each order came with two perfectly fried shrimp croquettes, known as garnaalkroketten in Dutch. The crunchy breading was perfect. The breading had a distinct smoky flavor from being fried in oil until extra crispy. It was rich but not greasy at all.

I was surprised by how creamy and moist the filling inside the croquettes was. It was like a paste with a distinct salty shrimp flavor. Also, I suspect they added potato to the paste. Also incorporated into the paste were bits of North Sea shrimp, adding much-needed texture and flavor. I enjoyed how the crunchy breading complemented the creamy paste. They worked well together.

I found the paste to be too rich for my liking. Luckily, a drizzle of lemon juice cut through this richness. Also complementing the richness was the simple tartar sauce and fresh green salad.

While I am glad I tried the shrimp croquettes, they were a little rich for my liking.

Grilled Shrimp (Scampi a la Plancha)

Grilled Shrimp (Scampi a la Plancha), Noordzee - Mer du Nord, Brussels, Belgium
Grilled Shrimp (Scampi a la Plancha)

I was in the mood for more shrimp, so I ordered the Scampi a la Plancha or Grilled Shrimp. As with the shrimp croquettes, each order came with mixed greens, tartar sauce, and a wedge of lemon.

Each plate came with a generous amount of plump, grilled shrimp. These shrimp were not only beautiful but tasted delicious. While a squeeze of lemon enhanced the shrimp’s flavor, it wasn’t even needed. The shrimp were great on their own.

Close up of the grilled shrimp
Close up of the grilled shrimp

Each tender piece of salty and sweet shrimp was lightly grilled, resulting in a smoky umami flavor. The well-seasoned shrimp was then tossed in a herb butter sauce of parsley and tarragon. The sauce was rich and tangy, enhancing the flavors without overpowering the natural flavors of the shrimp. At this point, I dipped the baguette into the sauce, soaking up all the flavors of the sauce and shrimp.

While I enjoyed the shrimp croquettes, I preferred this plate as I could taste and enjoy the grilled shrimp as they should be without being minced into a paste and then fried.

Service

As a first-time visitor to Noordzee – Mer du Nord, I was unsure exactly what or how to order, especially without an English menu. It was a little intimidating. Thankfully, the worker who was taking orders, who spoke perfect English, was friendly and patient and went out of his way to give me his recommendations. He let me know what was fresh and what I should order.

With the restaurant closing soon after my arrival, I expected the workers to be rushed and ready to go home. But this was not the case. Each worker was smiling and looked as if they were enjoying their job.

Conclusion

Noordzee – Mer Du Nord was my first meal in Brussels, and it might have been my most memorable meal in Belgium. I enjoy these types of restaurants—great food, great people, and nothing too fancy or pretentious.

While I enjoyed the shrimp croquettes, the grilled shrimp was delectable. The fresh tender shrimp, tossed in herb butter, was grilled to perfection. I highly recommend this dish.

I enjoyed everything about my visit, from the food to the service to the experience. With that said, this might not be the place for everyone. If you need to eat indoors, at a table, or with a seat, you should find another place to eat. On the other hand, if you enjoy eating fresh, inexpensive seafood while enjoying a glass of wine or beer in a European square while people-watching, you will enjoy your visit to Noordzee – Mer Du Nord.​

Pros

  • Fresh seafood
  • Eating in the square was a great experience
  • Friendly workers

Cons

  • Limited menu on my visit
  • On a cold or rainy day, outdoor seating not ideal

Hours

Tuesday-Saturday: 8:00AM-6:00PM
Sunday: 11:00AM-6:00PM
Monday: Closed

Address

Place Sainte-Catherine 50, 1000 Brussels, Belgium
GPS Coordinates: 50.850286,4.347709

Map



Last Updated on January 23, 2024

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