Whilst London chimney pots flicker past the window, the beautifully cobbled streets of Belgium and chic avenues of Paris usually feature in my daydreams as I make that decision again whether to do the right thing or give in to the devil cheekily whispering in my ear. The chocolatiers of Bruges are only 3 hours away, a hop skip and a jump. I could be wandering along the winding alleyways of Brussels, piping hot waffle clutched in my hand enjoying the cheeky street art. I could even be enjoying a bowlful of moules frites and a chilled beer as the sun sets over our starched table cloth and gingerbread turrets.
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Belgo but my (very many) opinions are only ever my own, and I would never recommend anywhere that I wouldn't happily revisit.
Or, I could be tempted by an enticing email to forego the trans-country journey to pop in on the launch of Belgo's new Soho branch. I know which one the office (and the old bank balance) prefers...
With the above in mind, they gathered a group of us foodie bloggers around an enormous table, welcomed our weary bones in with a selection of coconuts brimming with coconut beer, champagne beer, gluten-free beer and piquant pickles (marinated with dill and mustard seeds) for snacking on. (Alas, cosy basements aren't the most conducive settings for blog photos... I swear it had nothing to do with the beverages in hand.)
The evening was a taster matching their favourite dishes with a selection of their 50+ range of (you guessed it) Belgian beers. We were treated to a feast; freshly steamed mussels (rope grown sustainably in the Shetland Islands) lobster split from claw to delicious claw laden with beautiful herbs and crudite boards with beautiful slivers of proscuitto whilst vegetarian camembert oozed with character.
They even accommodated the small faction of us gluten intolerant lot (represented by my good self and the lovely Loriley) adapting recipes such as the kimchee mussels to a lemon and thyme basted pot, a crudite board of our own, slipping a slice of salmon before us and a refreshing fruit salad replete with tasty basil sorbet.
Their chefs and beer expert also explained which dishes we couldn't try this time - the chilli & lime rotisserie chicken, the camembert, omitting the lobster butter which contains a gluten-inclusive flavouring and waffles made with beer (for lightness) decorated with icing sugar, fresh berries and white chocolate ice cream. Speaking with the team, they're working on dining options for dietary intolerances and ensuring their staff are educated with the options available. Did I mention though that we had two different gluten free beers though?
The sheer love of belgian beer from their sommelier was infectious; he took the group through his favourite matches...
In Napoleon’s time Pauwel Kwak was a brewer and owner of the ‘De Hoorn’ inn in Dendermonde. Travellers would often stop at an inn for refreshment, however the coachmen were required to stay with the coach and horses. Standard handled mugs were impractical for gloved coachmen sitting high up, so one enterprising innkeeper, Pauwel Kwak, had a special glass created for his beer. Its the eye-catching round bottomed shape enabled it to be hung on the coach and be easily held in a thick glove.
The decor is fun & eclectic; tables on the ground floor thrummed with conversation whilst we checked out the downstairs caverns perfect for parties of friends to natter on happily.
Oh, and forget American milk cartons, I could just let the boss know I'm AWOL to Belgium via the medium of personalised beer vessels... #bloglife rules.
The moral of the story is that instead of the fairytale streets of bohemia, you'll find me near the buzzing Old Compton Street branch of Belgo sipping ice cold lager, and digging one last moule from the pot. For now.