UK Restaurant and Hotel Reviews

London Hotels
Family Restaurants
Press Contact

Adam Kingl goes Mad for Moules at Belgo Centraal

I had heard good comments about the Belgo chain of moule-slurping, ale-guzzling good fun. I finally committed myself (took my vows, if you will) to attend this shrine to shellfish and Belgian monastic beers. The atmosphere in Belgo's mother house, Belgo Centraal, is anything but solemn. Crowds of increasingly inebriated, young professionals chatted in the underground and cavernous dining rooms. One descends into the restaurant via an anachronistic, industrial freight lift. Once in the catacombs, one immediately sees that this is not your average eatery. Waiters bustle about in monk's habits, as if to lend a bit more consecration to the sacred liquers of the cask and sea. The only indicator that our server was perhaps not a misplaced Mendicant was his electronic key-card dangling from his pauper's rope belt. Apparently, not even Trappists can withstand the pressures of technology.

As our group settled into our tight table arrangement, a Franciscan offered a complimentary Schnapps stick - literally a long plank lined with indentations to hold shot glasses of flavored genevers. As we sipped these spirits, we meditated upon Belgo's holy-of-holys - the drinks menu. There are 101 beers listed, about fifteen Belgian spirits (or genevers), twenty wines, and two champagnes. I don't think anyone comes here for the champagne. And who are we to doubt the good judgement of His chosen brewers? We moved from Schnapps to beer. Luckily, a quick order of rye bread and butter prevented the drinks from levelling us all before dinner. Without a doubt, this wide selection of liquid blessings (a psalm to all beverages potent and slightly malty) are assembled as the highlight of the diner's experience, along with the much-touted mussels.

Our starters were, across the board, visually attractive but less exciting to the palate. The best of the bunch, creamy mussel soup, would have been superlative if our friar had brought a spoon with which to eat it before it chilled. The Salade Liegeoise was dominated by haricots vert and chopped, boiled egg. Perhaps this isn't the Belgian way, but I think the chef lost some prime opportunities to excite the dishes by not providing contrasts. If the egg had been soft-poached, there would be a unique texture and temperature to compliment the tomatoes, bacon, and new potatoes in this salad. The marinated chicken salad was also satisfactory but did not thrill.

I appreciated the Asparagus Hollandaise; its well-balanced sauce was a nice treat after I encountered a string of cheap, faux hollandaise at several restaurants. My preference is for asparagus to be quite firm, but these spears were steamed slightly too long, though still fresh and edible. Crab cakes were a major disappointment. I may be geographically and culinarily displaced with my San Francisco sensibilities, but I still think that a crab cake should be composed mostly of crab rather than crab-scented breadcrumbs. These cakes committed the additional sin of being mushy, fried at too low a temperature so that the oil permeated the food. Ten Hail Marys for that one, Belgo.

Main courses picked up the momentum lost by the first dishes. My wild boar sausages mixed savoury meat with sweet fruit flavour. Game sausages generally suffer from dryness, and these weren't quite the exception but tasty nonetheless. They rested on a pile of stoemp, which is a blend of mashed potatoes and vegetables. I ordered a side of red cabbage stewed with apples and raspberry beer, which sent me reminiscing of my favourite sweet and sour cabbage from my family's Polish kitchen. These bold flavours and scents overpowered my neighbours, but such a pungent mixture certainly cut the oils of my dish.

The vegetarian in our group raved about the ragout of creamy, wild mushrooms stewed in Orval beer and lying in a buttery, puff pastry case. Equally delicious was a salmon fillet on leek-potato mash with roasted garlic. The accompanying curry oil was unnecessary, as this dish was especially rich. A Beef Carbonnade left the opposite impression of the starters. This stew, coated in a brown, beer-scented sauce, did not strike the eye. But the tender meat, apples, and plums were wolfed down enthusiastically by my dining partner. The only sin of the main courses, and maybe only a venal one, belonged to the Entrecote, a rump steak that arrived well-done instead of medium.

You're probably asking yourself, "What about the moules?" Yes, we sampled those as well. I must admit that I am not a big moule admirer, but these came close to converting me. I sampled the Mussel Pot Moutarde with mustard and cream. The mussels here obviously come fresh off the boat, and their sauces are well-planned. Their simplicity showcases the subtle essence of the shellfish. The other moule pot at our table enitted wafts of Provence with tomatoes, herbs, and garlic. Both kettles arrived with huge bowls of hot, delicious frites. I still don't understand how mayonnaise became an acceptable condiment for chips, but everyone seemed to enjoy it. As a professional, I must acknowledge even misguided pleasure when I see it....

None of us really had room for dessert, but how often does one dine in a group large enough to sample the entire pudding cart? Not to mention that some of us were more than a little schnockered and would have heartily agreed to a moose omelette, were it offered. We tried three homemade ice creams: decadently rich dark chocolate melting under a hot chocolate drizzle; pistachio with chantilly cream; and honeycomb, macadamia, cognac, and raisin (a tongue-tingling marriage of the classic rum-raisin and the Hawaiian islands). The mandatory Belgian waffle with vanilla ice cream disappeared before I even saw a piece of it. A pretty Crepe Flamande, Belgo's popular coupling of apples and prunes, was garnished with melted chocolate pulled through a white chocolate puddle. The final flavour of the night was a Tart A L'Orange consisting of a layer of orange segments over a cream base with a light filo crust. We all agreed that it tasted like an upscale Creamsicle.

If you are a moule maniac, you must visit a Belgo near you. If you're indifferent to these dark ocean critters, go in a group and enjoy the wide selection of ales, the raucous atmosphere, and definitely save room for dessert. Prices are reasonable (about £20 for three courses) with better deals during lunch and a child's menu. I don't understand the 15% suggested gratuity included in the bill, however. Don't these clerics take a vow of poverty?

Adam Kingl - March 2000

Belgo Centraal - 50 Earlham Street, London, WC2
Tel: 020 7813 2233
Open 12-11:30 Mon-Sat, 12-10:30 Sun

Other Belgo Restaurants:

  • Belgo Noord - 72 Chalk Farm Road, London, NW1.
    Tel: 020 7267 0718
  • Belgo Zuid - 124 Ladbroke Grove, London, W10.
    Tel: 020 8982 8400
  • Bierodrome - 173-174 Upper Street, London, N1.
    Tel: 020 7226 5835

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010

Your comments please!

Email us your suggestions, reviews, comments.

We very much want to hear your comments on restaurants you have visited, wines you have tried. Maybe you disagree with us, or perhaps you want to recommend a place we haven't yet covered. Email us at with all your suggestions, reviews, comments.

Back to Dine Online Home Page

Copyright © 2007 MidasCode Ltd

Views or opinions expressed by authors are not necessarily those of the publishers, Midascode Ltd.
While every care is taken in compiling this publication, the publishers cannot assume responsibility for any effects arising therefrom.

MidasCode Ltd
5 & 6 The Azure Suites, Churchill Court, 112 The Street, Rustington, W Sussex BN16 3DA
Tel: 01903 779538 International: +44 1903 779538 - Fax: 01903 856683 – Mobile: 07860 899235 – International +44 7860 899235

Want your Restaurant Reviewed? Send requests to

Registerd Office: Highland House, Mayflower Close, Chandlersford, Eastleigh, Hampshire, SO53 4AR - Company No 05916096

Grape Seed Extract | Collecting Debt | Food Gadgets