In this unassuming building on Harrington Street, lies a favourite haunt amongst my friends and I. A place where the love of Bavarian-esque food and copious amounts of beer are always satisfied. Ok geographically Belgium is not Bavaria but I digress.
There are currently 3 locations of Belgian Beer Café: Cammeray, Balmain and my usual haunt, Heritage at The Rocks where it has witnessed many birthdays, farewells and initiations of non-local visitors.
The Heritage greets you warmly with its mahogany-stained solid oak, vintage beer posters and bevelled mirrors. It was designed to emulate a classic Belgian bistro, and the mostly vintage interior pieces were imported from Belgium.
It is a large, warehouse-type space and on any given night, is usually filled with a raucous cheer of many revellers, as the beers flow thick and fast and the food brings on many satisfied groans. However, oddly it was quiet tonight, which was fine by us as for once we could actually have a conversation without shouting.
The beer menu is always a winner with the avid drinker contingent with over 40 varieties of Belgium and German beers at last count as well as 5 Aussie favourites for the Belgian pooper amongst us.
I much prefer Belgian beers and Stella Artois is the beer du jour with its own designated gong every time one is sold (usually followed by an affable cheer from the patrons). My favourite is the Floris Apple Single Malt beer (7.90) but alas it wasn’t available tonight! Mr S. chooses to settle with Floris Passionfruit beer instead (I know what you’re thinking but the taste is worth the emasculation, he feels).
For the less Bavarian inclined, there are also lamb shanks, steak, cannelloni, vol au vents, beef stew, meatballs and seafood. Yep, variety is the spice of the Belgian Beer Café life.
If you need any more proof of my love of this place, I just need to recall to you a prior visit when one main dish of a Mussel hot pot wasn’t enough and I went ahead and ordered my second main of Belgian sausages, mash and sauerkraut – much to the amusement of friends. But that’s the Belgian Beer dilemma, you want to eat everything else on the menu but somehow you just can’t escape those steaming mussel pots!
The weekend saw another celebration with the usual friends as well as old friends from overseas. Photos had to be snapped quickly, as with 7 ravenous people, patience is short-lived when they are forced to sit and watch their meals from the sidelines!
Mr S. orders his favourite Belgian veal, pork and pistachio sausages served with potato mash and his culinary weakness, sauerkraut (23.90). I don’t have a particular fondness for fermented cabbage but when devoured with a sizeable glob of creamy mash and the sausages…it is literally a Belgian party in my mouth!
As a great lover of shellfish, the arrival of the distinctive black pots is equivalent to the Second Coming. And then there’s the opening of the lids and the escape of the first waft of steam with the ensuing smell of the mussel broth. Beethoven’s Hallelujah! should be the soundtrack for such a moment.
The Siam (red curry, Thai basil and coconut cream) is my staple and a favourite amongst this crowd. Tonight however I chose the Provencale Mussels – a broth of tomato, herb and garlic.
Lady E and Mrs D both went with the familiar and ordered the Blue Cheese Mussel Pots.
Other varieties are the Tintin au Congo (coconut cream, lemongrass and chilli), White Wine, Poulette (white wine, bacon, vegetables and a dash of cream), Marinière and Hoegaarden (25.90). There is also A l’Escargot: mussels in a half shell grilled with garlic butter (22.90).
Most of the Mussel Hot Pots are 24.90 each but for 28.90 you’ll also get one glass of house wine, Hoegaarden or a Stella Artois. All mussel pots are served with chips and Belgian mayonnaise.
When we order the mussels, we spend a good 5-10 minutes removing every mussel from its shell and plopping them back in the steaming broth so that all I have left is a glorious soup swimming with many plump mussels. The anticipation is a tease and scalded fingertips usually result but it’s worth it when I finally grab a spoon and sip and chew. The mussels are always fresh and the soup is so flavoursome it leaves me craving for more even when my belly has had enough. If your stomach can handle more, I recommend ordering a side of bread as that broth is too good to waste.
Mr S. just cannot leave this place without a dessert (13.50 each). Belgian Chocolate Mousse is a crowd pleaser, but lets not forget the Crème Brulee, scented with Kriek cherry beer and served with vanilla bean ice cream, which I promptly ordered.
The cherry beer flavour is to be found in the syrup that accompanies the dessert and not in the actual brulee as I first thought (well if there was I couldn’t taste it). But the crème brulee was smooth and the toffee shell, thick and satisfying.
Miss M tried to refuse dessert but everything changed with the mention of brandy snaps in the Coupe Wepion (3 scoops of vanilla bean ice cream, strawberries, hot Belgian chocolate sauce, whipped cream and brandy snaps).
I was a little disappointed with the brandy snaps as I felt there should’ve have been more of a golden syrup flavour. The strawberry sauce was nice and tart and perfectly cut through the icecream and the bittersweet chocolate sauce.
Other desserts for your pleasure include the Belgian Chocolate Fondant, Cheese Platter (18.50) and Belgian Waffles served with Callebaut warm chocolate sauce, mixed berry coulis and vanilla bean ice cream.
As usual we all left groaning and clutching our stomachs but it doesn’t matter because there really is no better combination than good friends, flowing beer and good food.
Bookings are highly recommended (by phone or fax only).
Open 7 days from 12pm. Closed on public holidays. A surcharge of $4.00 per person applies on Sundays ($3 in Balmain).
Heritage Belgian Beer Cafe
135 Harrington Street
The Rocks NSW 2000.
Located in the old St. Patrick School Hall, just behind Grosvenor Place.
Telephone: (02) 9241 1775
Fax: (02) 9241 1875
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Epoque Belgian Beer Cafe
429 Miller Street
Cammeray NSW 2062
In the middle of Cammeray shopping centre, with a free 150-space car park at the back.
Telephone: (02) 9954 3811
Fax: (02) 9954 0401
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Balmain Belgian Beer Cafe
82 Darling Street
Balmain East NSW 2041
About 150 metres up the hill from the Balmain East ferry wharf.
Telephone: (02) 9810 1663
Fax: (02) 9818 2705
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