In 1968 our father and grandfather Albert Niels (1917-1978) took over le Café de la Justice. He also purchased the building.
The Grand Sablon was not like it is today. Back then it was an insignificant square situated between up and downtown Brussels and a dwelling place for numerous artists. Hergé had his studio on the square. René Magritte and Paul Delvaux were frequent visitors. The artists of the movement COBRA held their meetings at 30 rue de la Paille.
Albert Niels then began renovation works with the collaboration of the designer Christophe Gevers.
They had a penchant for noble materials: massive oak, leather, steel, copper, brass, Belgian bluestone.
They turned the restaurant Au Vieux Saint Martin into a place that appeared in the forefront of trends in the late sixties. Today the interior decoration remains virtually similar.
Lots of works of various artists hanged on the walls in the restaurant.
In november 1968 the restaurant opened its doors, and from the first moment on, it proved successful, and its turnover grew steadily.
The only vestige remaining from Le Café de la Justice was the cult-painting “Toi jeune homme ne te désespère point” which was a portrait of the French writer Lautréamont (1846-1890).
Albert Niels was a great art collector, and in 1965 during an auction he found a sculpture of Saint Martin dating from XVI century, and he decided to name his restaurant after this Patron Saint of the poor.
In 1988 massive transformation works were carried out by his sons Albert-Jean and Philippe over a period of five weeks. This involved digging out a basement to install the lavatories, a brand new kitchen was also fitted with a pioneering ventilation system, a vast banquet hall was created on the first floor of the restaurant. These works created a 30 % increase of space for tables in the restaurant.
Redecorating works are undertaken regularly to maintain and embellish what has been done over the last fifty years.