Eating in the dark
Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy dining in near complete darkness, but the photographer in me breaks a sigh every time I go into yet another underground cavern of sorts. It gets just that much trickier to get ‘the shot’.
I try nonetheless.
One part of me thinks that writing up on Belgo is superflous. As far as I know, most of you have experienced the Belgian franchise one way or the other, afterall, they are one of the prime agents popularising moules & frites. Thai green curry flavour for me (all the way) and mayonnaise with those frites please. If for some reason, you haven’t been, then there is no better time to try it than now, because Lobsterfest is back on the menu! Running all throughout June, it is Belgo’s ultimate celebration of the crusty creature, and how can one not be part of it, right?
My brother – who is positively lobstermad – joined me for this visit, and we were looking forward to tucking away gigantic monsters from the deep, and we weren’t afraid to get our mits dirty to do it.
He opted to start with the lobster bisque (£4.95) which was a little on the thin side for me. Generous tipples of cream, however I was looking more for body and richness rather than just dairy. Perhaps they didn’t distil enough juices to make the soup. Merely ordinary.
I steered clear of the lobster overdose and went for a more traditional offering of smooth chicken liver pate with beer & pear chutney and toasted brioche (£5.50). Yeah not bad, it was pretty smooth, the beer & pear chutney was delightful, abit of acid, a dose of citrus and dash of jamminess.
Not forgetting one of the highlights of the Belgo experience, is the sheer embarrassment of Belgian beer goodness. Anything from Whitbeer, to trappist, blondes, dark blondes, fruit beer, honey beer and so goes the list. A pint ain’t cheap (£4 to £5) but it is good.
I’m a lightweight, so I opted for a half pint (yes, I drink half pints…. sometimes.). Here’s some beer trivia: Mort Sobite (Sudden Death) is a beerhouse in Brussels that brews its own inhouse. Interestingly enough, I actually visited that beerhouse a few years ago while on holiday in Brussels. My knowledge of beer is murky at best, but I do recall having a sort of sour beer when I was there.
Whizzing through the menu, it all seems rather affordable. £8 for half a lobster, £17 for a whole. I am slightly perturbed with it being just 1lb. We grew up by the sea, so our impression of a proper lobsterfest is a little distorted and we are used to feasting on proper beasts, at least 1.5kgs of proper shell fish… 1lb? What is that, like 500grams? Hmm…
…. It wasn’t too bad when it eventually landed on our table. My brother ordered a whole lobster, it looked a muscular little fella. Brawny on the outside, but scrawny on the inside. Could the recession have spread to the oceans? Bad joke, my brother finished him off in under three minutes, lobster tail? More like lobster whiskers. Apart from size, it tasted a tad on the mushy side. It was nicely cooked and well garnished with a kind of pepper and cheese concoction (I couldn’t really tell), but it wasn’t as fleshy as I’d imagine it would be, it tasted dead as opposed to being fresh.
Maybe its just me, but the lobster was so tiny, it was almost like having a 2nd starter and left one feeling unfulfilled.
Going on the tip from Helen at Food Stories, I opted for the lobster salad. This tasted much better with a juicy salad that carried a tinge of natural sweetness from the lobster. Mwah. That’s the fresh zing I was looking for. The only thing missing from this, is a luxuriously warm and heavenly soft brioche-bun – buttered – to match the delightfully tasty creature from the deep. You thinking what I’m thinking? I’m thinking lobster roll.
I had to work with baguette that was fast becoming stale, and the butter was stonecold. Still, this was a joy; portions were measly, and for 2x£17, it didn’t feel like we had £34 worth of lobsters.
Um, a mini fail.
But lets not be under any illusions: Belgo is still a great place for all kinds of reasons, and it is still one of the better places to go to satisfy mussels cravings. The lobster feasting was not a total train wreck – it was still a whole lobster, afterall. The kitchen would have had to try very hard to make a mess of lobster. I was a little let down because I approached this visit thinking it was going to either be an overload, or a cheap trip. It was neither as our bill came to £60 for two, a tad expensive for minute portions.
Having said that, if you need to satisfy your shellfish cravings, I would suggest starting with half a pot of mussels (£5.95) and go with half a grilled lobster (£8.50) or the lobster salad (£16.95) and make sure you ask for heartily warm buttered bread to go with it.
The Gist of It.
Belgo Centraal Official Site
50 Earlham Street WC2H 9LJ
0207 813 2233
£30pp for two courses and a blonde
Verdict: You cant go too far wrong with lobster; portions left us wanting more. Belgo still as lively as ever, I would go for mussels and frites; and maybe the beer braised beef stew.
Ok over to you. Did you partake in the recent celebration of the beloved crustacean? What are you views on the Belgo franchise?