Le Balmoral, the retro-style milk bar at place brugman, looks just like having been beamed from the American 1950s to Brussels. It’s all there: The neon signs, the retro paraphernalia and the pastel colours. But instead of being welcomed by a smiling waitress on roller blades we were greeted by a young chap. Well, greeted might be overstating it, as he was unfriendly even by Brussels standards.
Although it was the middle of the afternoon and there were a couple of empty tables already, with a lot of other people nearly finished with their meals as well, he would not give us a table for having drinks only.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I fully understand that restaurants have to make their profits and that it’s more profitable to have people buying a full meal instead of just drinks. And I would not expect to get a drinks-only table in any restaurant at lunch or dinner rush-hour.
But in a milk bar, in the middle of the afternoon, with the rush hour cleary being over and lots of tables available already? Come on!
And, as always, it’s not just the message itself – it’s also about the tone. I guess if the waiter had been the tiniest bit friendly, we would have settled for a place at the bar & then switched to a table later. That’s what a decent waiter would have suggested, anyway. But a strict and unfriendly “sorry, tables for food only” was a first for me – even in Brussels.
Le Balmoral, Place Georges Brugmann, Brussels // www.lebalmoral.be