Last Friday night saw us heading down to Saint Gilles for the first of my birthday parties at Café Maison du Peuple. I am having two birthday parties this year because a) I want to, and b) my actual birthday falls on a Wednesday, which is widely recognised as the suckiest of all birthday days.
Café Maison du Peuple is on the Parvis de Saint Gilles, home to a fantastic Sunday market, a pretty church, and much of Brussels burgeoning hipster population. It’s in the building which replaced the original Maison du Peuple, Victor Horta’s largest and, some would say, most impressive work. It was demolished in 1965, as the mayor, Lucien Cooremans, embarked on a spree of Brusselisation, destroying many historic buildings to make way for unsightly modern tower blocks. Even a protest by 700 architects couldn’t sway Cooremans, and we are now left with a building so nondescript I couldn’t tell you the first thing about the exterior.
Once you get inside, the café looks much more promising. Exposed brickwork, wooden tables and glass feature heavily in the design. They also have a nice terrace out the front where you can while away the hours quite happily in the summer months. They serve food until 10pm, which is just what you need to soak up the alcohol.
We were a big group, and managed to annex tables throughout the night, eventually creating something big enough that we could all sit together fairly comfortably. Some planning on my part could have resolved this situation, but I barely managed to put together a Facebook invitation, anything more struck me as overkill.
At 10pm, DJ Grounchoo hit the decks for his Balkan Party. This turned out to be a fusion of dance beats and Balkan folk, all administered by three guys with moustaches in military dress uniforms. It was incredible. Cue energetic dancing for hours, a lot of clapping, a drunken trek home and the perfect way to begin the birthday celebrations.