Laurent Gerbaud: The Chocolate Treasure of Brussels

Brussels is a city renowned for its chocolate, but even so, the creations of Laurent Gerbaud stand out. Their flavors are exquisite, their quality is impeccable and the presentation is beautiful. The boutique on Rue Ravenstein, located close to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts–another one of the city’s treasures–is a place I return often to taste chocolates or linger over a glass of wine.

In my recent FT Magazine article, Laurent Gerbaud, I talk about this enigmatic confectioner and his craft. The range of flavors is seasonal–fig and apricot in the summer and yuzu in the winter. One of my favorite discoveries has been milk chocolate with salt and green cumin, a combination that seems unexpected and tastes addictive.

The boutique itself is a destination–charming and serene.

When I’m finally ready to step back into the real world, I leave with a couple of chocolate bars or perhaps a Mondrian set, a box divided into squares and rectangles reminiscent of the Dutch painter’s compositions. Gerbaud’s is edible art at its best. The flavors range from delicate to intense, but the experience is invariably of pure delight. To continue reading, please click here.

 

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23 Comments

  • Klaas: Good Lord, that looks amazing! I am a great fan of Chocolatier Mary (near the Sablon), but I feel I will be ‘infidel’ next time I visit Brussels….are you in Ghent sometimes? Should you visit, Joost Arijs’ chocolates are among the best I ever tasted. He does one with lavender that’s amazing 😉 July 15, 2019 at 7:32am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much. I’ll definitely try it the next time I’m in Ghent. I go there often, either to enjoy the ambiance or to take my visitors. I prefer it to Bruges or Antwerp, although of course, it’s a tough comparison, since I like all of them! July 15, 2019 at 11:50am Reply

  • Xhm: Wow. A post straight to my heart 🙂
    Years ago I wore BPAL creations (Black Phoenix alchemy lab). They had a few scents that smelled exactly like chocolate: Vice and Candy Butcher.
    Are there any perfumes you recommend that are chocolatey without being overly sweet? July 15, 2019 at 10:00am Reply

    • Victoria: Arquiste’s Anima Dulcis is the one. So is Chanel Coromandel and Serge Lutens Borneo 1834. July 15, 2019 at 11:48am Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hello Victoria,

    It’s been so many years since my trip to Brussels but chocolate was a daily ritual and particularly for the Belgians. I was in overload laden with treats when returning to the states. Fond memories!
    Is Wittamer the patisserie still in business? July 15, 2019 at 10:57am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, it’s definitely is. Sablon is one of my favorite places in the city. July 15, 2019 at 11:47am Reply

  • Nancy A.: Wow, glad to hear about Wittamer. It was the dead of winter in Brussels with grey skies and snowflakes falling straight out of a Dickens novel. I wanted a birthday cake which I purchased with the assumption that in my broken French that my cake would be “sans crème” so I could pack it for travel. Well….non. We didn’t eat the cake in the hotel and we were held up at the airport consuming other sweets due to the snow falling outside. Once aboard I never requested refrigeration for the cake. I chose to fully enjoy this beautiful cake once we arrived home. Finally, indulgence or so I thought. No birthday candles, just some bubbly to accompany awaiting to sink into the cake except it was SPOILED! I can laugh now and I believe I did then as well but I never did get to delight in the confection of Wittamer. Yup, it had cream! July 15, 2019 at 12:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: Even if the cake got ruined, what a memorable story!

      I don’t think you can find a cake without cream around here. 🙂 July 16, 2019 at 8:13am Reply

  • OnWingsofSaffron: I always loved to go to Passion Chocolat, also Grand Sablon (Rue Bodenbroeck). Nothing OTT or excentric just super quality bonbons or pralines. Especially the fresh cream Manons! My Belgian colleagues all bought there claiming them to be superior to all the other fancy chocolatiers. July 15, 2019 at 1:18pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, they’re excellent, and I say this as someone who is not a fan of candies or ganaches.
      The reason I prefer Gerbaud is that he does an excellent base chocolate with additions of fruit or nuts. He’s the only chocolatier who can convince me to eat milk chocolate. (His is delightfully salty and savory). July 16, 2019 at 8:12am Reply

  • Karen A: Yummmmmm!!! Looks amazing! July 16, 2019 at 7:49am Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, he makes amazing things. July 16, 2019 at 8:09am Reply

      • Karen A: Realized my comment was not the most sophisticated of reactions but wow, so so gorgeous! July 16, 2019 at 8:18am Reply

        • Victoria: I love such reactions! July 16, 2019 at 11:06am Reply

  • Mel: Any recommendations for chocolatiers here in the States? Preferably with online ordering? July 16, 2019 at 11:52pm Reply

    • Victoria: Not living in the US, I don’t have any recommendations, but I found this list and it looks good:
      https://www.foodandwine.com/slideshows/best-chocolate-us July 17, 2019 at 5:30am Reply

      • Mel: This is the list I’ve been waiting for! Thank you! July 21, 2019 at 10:39am Reply

    • Victoria: Pierre Marcolini used to have a shop in NYC, but it might have closed down. If not, his chocolates are heavenly. July 17, 2019 at 5:31am Reply

  • Muriel: Passion Chocolat was one of my favorites when it was still owned by Claire Macq. I was never alone in her little store not far from collège St-Michel, the decorations on the ribbon bows were fantastic! My husband and I called the parlines “t’en veux une autre” a bit like the “s’mores” as we couldn’t stop once the box was open 😁 Nowadays, I find them good, but no longer exceptional. I sure need to stop by at Gerbaud!! And by the way, Victoria, have you already been in that perfume store, almost on the Sablon called “Les nouveaux comptoirs olfactifs”? I once went there, especially to check it out, and it was “closed for 5 minutes”… no body ever showed up and I left half an hour later… July 17, 2019 at 12:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: I had the same experience with it. Every time I walk past, it’s closed. Strange! July 18, 2019 at 7:58am Reply

  • Carla: Thank you for bringing me back to my three month stay in Brussels, now so long ago. I didn’t know this particular chocolatier, but staying in the Sablon area, I had plenty of others to visit. Here in our humble Midwest town we have a local chocolatier just a five minute walk away in the “Village” and it is a real pleasure and indulgence to visit and try new combinations. (And their hot chocolate is always appreciated come the long winter.) July 17, 2019 at 12:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: My favorite is passing by the chocolate shop and smelling the scent of cacao or hot chocolate.
      And yes, Sablon is a jewel box. July 18, 2019 at 7:59am Reply

  • Aurora: I’ve especially enjoyed this post as the UK is not exactly famous for its chocolate. These two: Charbonnel et Walker and Hotel Chocolat have several shops in London and I find them quite good, but of course it doesn’t compare to the Mondrian box you describe. July 20, 2019 at 2:07pm Reply

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