Emmanuel Macron is a great man for the late-night beer when he comes to Brussels. Twice in the last six months he has been spotted relaxing with a beer in a local bar once his official duties have been discharged. October 2018 found him on Brussels’ Grand Place, sitting on a bench outside the Roy d’Espagne, glass of Hoegaarden in hand and accompanied by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel, and Belgium’s own Prime Minister, Charles Michel. It’s a pedestrian choice of venue, but presumably one dictated by security and proximity to the Amigo hotel – a preferred bolthole of visiting dignitaries.
Macron and co. are returning to Brussels this weekend for a special meeting of EU leaders, where they and UK Prime Minister Theresa May expect to finally sign off on the details of the UK’s departure from the EU after months of turbulent negotiations (presuming it still takes place – these things are never straightforward). Given Sunday’s summit is planned for the morning, a repeat of October’s late-night session is off the table, they should still have the afternoon free for a Brexit post-mortem over a beer or two. This time though, Macron, Michel and Merkel could be more adventurous than a tourist haunt like the Roy d’Espagne. Here are five alternatives in central Brussels for Europe’s leaders to hit for a post-summit session this weekend, depending on how the negotiations go.
If they want to stay Belgian, but do it better // Poechenellekelder
If the onus is on Belgian host Charles Michel to find a suitable place, he should ditch the Grand Place and head down the street and across the road from Manneken Pis to the Poechenellekelder. A classic Brussels estaminet, it oozes Belgian weirdness, from the name (which refers to a marionette – poechenellen – theatre in the cellar) to the interior – filled with retired wooden marionettes hanging from the walls. It’s as good a physical manifestation of the complexities of Belgium as any café in the city, full of cramped stairways linking rooms at odd angles with each other, spread across several uneven floors. At the very least, Macron will be able to upgrade his Hoegaarden to something better befitting his fancier tastes.
Rue du Chêne 5
If a toast the Irish border backstop is in order // O’Reilly’s
The question of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland – the only land border between the UK and the EU – has consumed the Brexit negotiations, more than once threatening to derail talks and sending the UK to a catastrophic no-deal exit. If a deal is signed off on Sunday, what better way to celebrate than to corral Leo Varadkar into joining for a drink at O’Reilly’s Irish pub, located across the street from the city’s old stock market? It’s the least-worst Irish pub in central Brussels, and Europe’s leaders could do worse than take turns at imitating Barack Obama by getting behind the bar and pouring their own pint of Guinness in honour of Ireland’s successful negotiating team.
Place de la Bourse 1
If they want to give Theresa May a send-off in familiar surroundings // Churchill’s
Officially, Brexit day is set for March 2019, but Sunday’s summit should formalise divorce proceedings. Reason enough to visit Churchill’s, Brussels’ sole surviving English pub (for the record, neither The Hairy Canary nor The Old Hack count). Much like enthusiasm for the UK’s membership of the EU, the popularity of “English pubs” in Brussels has nosedived from it’s post-war peak in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Churchill’s is a little worn around the edges, and while they may not serve tepid, dimpled mugs of hand-pulled cask ale but there are a couple of bottled ales on the menu. Macron could always invite Theresa May to join and regale them of tales of youth as a vicar’s daughter in the Home Counties, as they sup from a glass of London Pride.
Rue de l'Ecuyer 29
If Brexit negotiations drag on // À la Mort Subite
European summits are famed for their tendency to drag on much longer than anticipated or desired (see: crisis, Greek). Sunday morning’s meeting was originally scheduled as a box-ticking exercise, but issues have emerging that could scupper these best-laid plans. If a game of high-stakes political chicken does break out, pushing the summit into added time, where better for Macron’s posse to withdraw to than café À la Mort Subite, whose names translates as “Sudden Death”. It’s a fair description of the phase that Brexit negotiations are heading into if a no-deal departure of the UK is to be avoided. They are unlikely to want to linger here too long, as the surly waiting staff in their starched white shirts and black smocks are not known to be overly welcoming.
Rue Montagne-aux-Herbes Potagères 7
If they just need to drown their sorrows // Le Cercueil
If everything falls apart at the summit – the Brexit process has been full of last-minute calamities – and Europe’s leaders descend into a slough of despair, then Le Cercueil is probably the place best suited to their moods. Le Cercueil – The Coffin – is fashioned after the film The Exorcist, and the theme is all-pervasive: a black-painted entrance with skeletons in the window, drinks in skull-shaped ceramic mugs and served under ultraviolet neon lights, surrounded by the ephemera of death and decay. Open almost as long as the UK has been a member of the EU, Europe’s leaders could hide out and drown their sorrows over a Sperme du demon or Totenkopf cocktail, huddled around a coffin-shaped coffee table and cursing the Brits.
Rue des Harengs 10-12