Belgian Café

European chain serves up traditional Belgian food and drink Discuss this article

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The Belgian Café is a concept originally created in 1998 by Anheuser-Busch InBev. Proclaiming to be an embassy of Belgian beverages, bar food and culture, the popularity of the Belgian Café is evidenced by the fact there are over 60 branches scattered across the globe. They claim the secret to their success lies in four essentially simple ingredients: a great range of drinks, good food, excellent service and unique ambiance. It’s ‘opening time’ at The InterContinental, and we hope they can recreate this recipe for success in Doha.

Sporadic laughter and cheerful banter greet you before you reach the entrance to the Belgian Café. Quite surprising, as its mid week when we venture inside, but the Café is teeming with a crowd intent on sampling not only the huge range of beers on offer, but the quite extensive menu of Belgian culinary delights. Decked out in the style of a traditional pub, a huge bar dominates the venue, at which numerous patrons rest on tall bar stools sipping cool beer from decorative glasses sporting brand names. Beer is important to the Belgian Café, and they claim that glassware accentuates the flavour, aroma and appearance, and is just the first step in serving the ideal Belgian tipple.

Dark wood tables are co-ordinated with panelled walls and matching chairs with traditional red or green leather seats. Lighting is suitably subdued and old black and white photos dress the walls at frequent intervals between large metal signs advertising various drinks. Busy chefs can be briefly glimpsed in the open kitchen through the mass of mussel pots piled high across the opening. It’s an authentic design that creates a unique welcoming ambience and promotes a sense of warmth, often lacking in hotel bars.

Although we are provided with menus, each table also sports a miniature version listing the extensive beverages available, plus a lengthy explanation of the colour, strength and origins of each drink. Leaving my partner perusing the various merits of each, my interest turns towards the bill of fare. Entrees are distinctly fish orientated, however tomato soup with meatballs or white asparagus ‘flamande’ appeal for those not tempted by fruits of the sea. Main courses list such favourites as fish and chips, and steak tartare, but also more traditional dishes, including Flemish beef stew or braised rabbit.

There are bar snacks for those not wanting to over indulge, and of course those famous mussels. In fact, mussels in every which way you could imagine; breadcrumbs, garlic and tomato sauce, mornay, mariniere, provencale and many more delicious and inspiring concoctions will leave you reeling in indecision over your order. Likewise, selecting your drink may take longer than normal with such a selection on offer, indeed you could even skip the Belgian cuisine and just order a sampling platter of beverage.

The shrimps served with herbs and garlic butter proves an excellent choice to kick off proceedings. Presentation is basic but does nothing to deflect from the tasty moist shrimps, pan fried to perfection in an array of diced herbs and garlic, and accompanied by a crisp green salad. Stuffed tomato with North Sea shrimps also hits the right note. An abundance of tiny, juicy shrimps spill from a ripe tomato laced with a creamy thousand island sauce. It’s simple but delicious cuisine.

Belgians boast that their food is cooked with French expertise and German generosity. Given the huge black mussel pot placed before us for our main course, this rings true. As we remove the lid, heady aromas of white wine and garlic escape, prompting us to immediately dip into the moist depths and pluck out a pristinely plump dripping nugget of flesh still resting in the juices of its shell. The taste is light, meaty yet tender, and the ethereal ocean flavour is enhanced by the stronger flavours of the hot garlic and wine broth. This tasty pot is served with traditional crisp chunky fries tucked in a paper cone with an accompanying bowl of creamy, moreish mayonnaise. The only disappointment is the lack of warm crusty bread to soak up the flavoursome broth. This is no frills pub grub at its best.

The additional main selection of fish gratinated with cheese doesn’t live up to the superb mussel pot. The lukewarm squares of fish are somewhat dry, with only a minimal sprinkling of cheese. It’s served with a side salad and I’m compelled to order an additional set of those amazing chunky fries to assuage my disappointment in the dish.

From a small selection of desserts, the Belgian chocolate mousse is begging to be sampled, and we can’t resist the pancakes. The mousse is divine, light and airy yet rich and chocolaty, and I find myself scraping every last morsel from the bottom of the cocktail glass. The two warm pancakes are served with segments of sweet soft caramelised apple and a scoop of rich smooth creamy ice cream, and are equally on par with the delicious mousse.

Hotels in Qatar are filled with bars, however there is a definite gap in the market in terms of pubs where you can enjoy a vast array of beers and sample some delicious pub-style fare. The Belgian Café delivers on all fronts and may well prove to be one of the most popular haunts in Doha. We will definitely be back.

The bill (for two)
1x Shrimps
QR55
1x Stuffed tomato QR85
1x Oostends vispan QR70
1x Mussels in white wine QR118
1x Belgian fries QR25
1x Chocolate mousse QR35
1x Pancake apple QR40
1x Rose Anj QR45
2x Leffe Black small QR56
1x Evian large QR25
Total (incl charges) QR554

By Time Out Doha staff
Time Out Doha,

Time Out reviews restaurants anonymously and pays for meals. Of course, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or independence of user reviews.

Details

  • Location: InterContinental Doha, West Bay, Doha
  • Tel: 4484 4954
  • Travel: Onaiza Street

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