The beers will knock your socks off, however, the food is a bit hit and miss.Our rating:
We have a soft spot in our hearts for the Belgian Beer Café, it’s certainly not the birthplace of pubreview but it’s where the site spent the majority of it’s ‘childhood’. Long nights were spent in this place, at just about every table in the pub, conjuring up ideas for what the site was going to look like and how it’s going to work (we’re still figuring that last one out so bare with us for the first few months). It’s hard to take the emotion out of the review, especially since the food can be a bit hit and miss at the Belgian and unfortunately this night was a miss.
We went down to The Belgian Beer Cafe for an early Tuesday evening dinner and a beer or three after a long day at work, one thing to note is that they don’t have aircon (or if they do it doesn’t work very well), so if it’s a sweltering day, it might be better to go a bit later when it’s cooled down a bit. Thankfully the day we reviewed it wasn’t too bad and it would’ve been great to sit in the beer garden but it was reserved for a work function, so we decided to grab a seat inside at one of the many tables we had probably sat at during our early days. You can’t help but notice the Bavarian themed fit out on the inside, from the old Stella signs, to aged ceramic Bavarian Steins on old wooden shelves through out the inside. It does quite a good job of making you think you’re sitting in a beer hall somewhere in the southern part of Germany, but the longer you look around the more you notice that it could do with a decent renovation. There is quite a fine line between being rustic/vintage and dingey and there are certain parts of the pub that are on opposite sides of the line. There is an alfresco area outside which is about 40cm from the road which can be quite annoying when you only catch half your friend’s sentence because some bogan in his V8 thought it’d be a good idea to let it rip down Murray St.
Another great thing about the Belgian Beer Café is the care they take in pouring you a beer. The bar staff must be trained quite intensively and it’s almost as though they are preparing you a beer not just pouring it. Washing the glass, chilling it with a burst of cold water, pouring it at exactly the right angle (45 degrees), removing the excess head and then a final rinse of the glass for good measure. The only thing I don’t like is that they have changed the Stella glasses to your boring garden variety pub pint glasses. They used to have these beautiful gold rimmed, logo embossed Stella glasses. We were quite hungry so we ordered our food fairly quickly, the service was great, staff were really friendly and efficient. Even though we were sitting in the bar area they still allowed us to order from the full (restaurant) menu, which is the way it should be. So many pubs these days have some sort of invisible force field around the bar area which prohibits non-bar food i.e. food from the restaurant menu, from entering. I still cannot understand why some places do this, it’s prepared in the same kitchen and just because you chose to sat in a different are does not make you some sort of second class citizen. Any way, I’m glad the Belgian has some sense about them in this regard but this is unfortunately as good as the review gets, because when the food came out things took a turn for the worse.
The food came out in just under 30 minutes which is pretty average considering there weren’t that many people in the bar, but maybe catering for the function had something to do with it. I ordered their famous Mariniere (garlic and white wine) Mussels. I have ordered these many times in the past and 50% of the time they are amazing, 45% of the time they are average and 5% of the time they are bad. As soon as I removed the lit from the pot I knew these were going to be in one of the latter categories. Normally you are met with a face full of steam when you remove the lid indicating they are still hot and have come straight from the kitchen. This time there was barely a puff of steam when I opened the lid. The mussels on the top were room temperature at best and as I worked my way down they did get slightly warmer but not enough to turn my opinion around. They were all cooked though and there was only one unopened mussel in the whole pot. To make it even worse the chips on the side were cold too. The sauce was still as tasty as ever but the whole dish was marred by the lack of heat. My friend ordered the steak sandwich, which was also cold (even more so than the mussels as there was no sauce attempting to keep it warm). The steak sandwich on Turkish bread was well below average, the bread was dry and tough, presumably from being toasted and left sitting around for a while. No surprises that the chips were cold too. It’s pretty disappointing that we were there on an off day, because when the mussels are done right they are amazing!
If you‘ve come here chasing a nice glass of semillon sauvignon blanc, you have come to the wrong place. As the name suggests there are plenty of great Belgian beers on offer as well as other beers from around Europe. There are five main tap beers; Stella Artois, Hoegaarden, Leffe Blonde, Leffe Brune, Bellevue Kriek as well as over 50 different bottled varieties . Be prepared to fork over a substantial amount of cash if you are not ordering a Stella, but you get what you pay for , the same cannot be said for the food, it’s overpriced especially as there is quite a good chance it may under deliver.
The mid-week crowd is mostly made up of inner city workers in their suits but the weekends tend to attract quite a diverse crowd. Overall I think that if you’re chasing a quality beer or you’re looking to experience something a bit different to a pint of Carlton Draught, you can’t go pass the Belgian Beer Café. However if you’re looking for a good pub meal, it might be worth looking around or crossing your fingers and hope you get there on one of their good nights.
Day: Neat Casual
Night: Smart Casual