We do it at night
There are different reasons why people wake up early in the morning (or in the middle of the night if you like). Some rush to take an early morning flight, some to meet deadline at work, some to study for an exam. But why somebody would voluntarily wake up at 4 am?
Mabru - the morning wholesale market for professionals has existed in Brussels for over a century. Originally, it took place in Grand Place and surrounding streets, but in 70s it moved to Laeken. It is known for its quality products and an excellent choice of fruits and vegetables from Belgium and abroad. For me, a guided tour in Mabru was an excellent reason to set my alarm clock a bit earlier than usual…
If you're an early bird
My friend and I headed to the Mabru market at around 4 am. The only two things that were keeping me awake was a cup of coffee swiftly drunk before and a promise that I would see some food magic later on. Brussels was as quiet as it can be at that time of the night, trams not working, few cars on the street, no passers-by, a bit of fog and rain and that's it. Without any traffic jam we reached our destination quite quickly. Our guide was waiting for us in front of the market gate, next to the petrol station. From that perspective Mabru market looked to me like a fortress - cars driving in and driving out, passing a checkpoint in front of the gate. All that commotion seemed coordinated and organised thoroughly. As it was freezing cold, after a quick welcome we entered Mabru…
Spoon in a wonderland
It was surprising to see such a place buzzing with activity in the heart of sleeping Brussels. If not for the surrounding darkness, you could easily imagine it was morning or afternoon. On one side, hundreds of people buying, selling, negotiating, tasting, choosing, vaunting their merchandise - on the other cars, lorries, fork lifts, boxes and packages - everything rushing to supply Brussels' restaurants before lunch time.
Marbu is divided into 5 huge covered halls with 250 stands and 1400 people working there every night. Working hours are impressive, the market opens at around midnight and the most of the stalls close at around 8 in the morning, however, some merchants are occupied even until noon. If somebody longs for a coffee or a warm meal during the 'lunch break', Marbu has three cafes and a restaurant - everything you need to spend a regular working day.
Known as a supermarket for professionals, Mabru has a huge offer of vegetables, fruits, meat, charcuterie, poultry, game, fish and shellfish, cheese, wines and anything else a food lover could imagine to cook an amazing dish. Everything there is incredibly fresh with amazing colours and flavours. It's one of the best places in Brussels to make new culinary discoveries. We were riveted by trumpets of death - dark, almost black mushrooms that look rather unattractive, but, as we were told, have a very good flavour. I've already found a mouthwatering Polish recipe for pierogi (Polish dumplings) stuffed with the trumpets of death. (Sounds a bit like a dish for your mothers-in-law :p)
After an exciting morning walk our guide offered us tasty breakfast with crispy croissant, fresh orange juice and delicious jams. Erwin, although busy with the regular activities of the market, found a bit of time to chat with us. Graduated from economy, shortly after finishing his studies he realised he wouldn't like to work in a big corporation, so he has devoted all his life to high quality food. Erwin's true love are mushrooms, he travelled a lot sharing his passion all around the world: San Francisco, Istanbul and Paris. But his real dream is to live in Italy, preferably next to Lake Garda. Eh… who wouldn't like to live there?
We even didn't notice when it was 7 am - time to leave the market and come back to the real world. It was an incredible adventure. I only wished there was a retail market like this. I wouldn't mind waking up so early from time to time.