The African quarter. I have always liked its colourness and vibe. It’s lively and authentic. When my Sudanese friend visited me to Brussels a few years ago and I took him there, he exclaimed: “This is like Africa here”. If he says so, it must be the case.
And indeed strolling around one crosses streets with cafes and small restaurants run by African people and having mostly black clientele. Rhythmic music is coming from inside. Then one would see hairdressers’ where again both African people work or have their hair being done.
But Matonge has a lot more to offer. There is a great selection of Thai, Indian and Vietnamise restaurants around. Many of them do not rely on elegance and style but are casual and relaxed in their own way, providing authentic experience.
The obvious highlight of Matonge is Place Saint Boniface with the St Boniface church and the multitude of cafes and restaurants situated all around the little square with L’Ultime Atom being the most popular among them for already at least a decade. I must admit that even though I like it, I find it way too noisy in the evening which makes maintaining a conversation a tiring exercise.
Not so obvious but truly wonderful is the STAM café (Rue Boure 1). I lived next door and have been its regular visitor ever since. Its multangular shape already makes it unique. Both in warm and cold weather one can sit outside enjoying the buzz of the crossroad (and there is something Italian about it) in the former case and the electrical heaters in the latter. The good musical selection, the varied drink and tapas offer and the friendliness of the staff make it a place where I am always happy to return.
In the other corner of Rue Boure is the L’Athenee café. It is usually full till late night. In sunny days they put tables on the tiny square behind the church and people sit or hang around.
Another wonderful spot in Matonge is the Vendome cinema. It a complete opposite of the nearby UGC Toison D’or Cinema. With its elegance and style it has kept the tradition of the old cinema. Most of the new films are shown there and one can have a really cozy experience.
Once I found at my end of Rue Longue Vie a potted olive tree. Seeing it every single day on my way out to the city and back I felt as if I was passing by the three of life. And on the sunny mornings its leaves were shining. Around Christmas they put some little decoration on it and turned it into an unusual Christmas tree. And the last time I was around, it was covered with a plastic bag to survive the cold.
Every now and then I return there and pass by it. My tree of life in the heart of Matonge. In Rue Longue Vie.