Moules & frites. That classic Franco-Belgian dish that reminds me of holidays is a firm favourite in my little world. Unfortunately, it’s not something I see very often in the Midlands, so when Belgo opened in Nottingham, I couldn’t wait to get in there and try their signature dish.
An established brand in London, Belgo Nottingham is their first location outside the capital, and despite being open only a matter of weeks, it’s already proving extremely popular.
The interior is industrial, but not hipster, the atmosphere is relaxed and casual, but the real showpiece is the bar, stocking over 52 different bottles beers, many of them Belgian and hard to find anywhere else.
Stupidly, I went for dinner straight from work so I could only sample one of the beers as I was driving. I decided to go for a low percentage fruit beer, Lindemans Cassis, which was sweet and tart at the same time. I loved the glass it came in too. One of the things Belgo prides itself on is its glasswear – each beer has its own glass, so you get the best flavour from your drink.
The menu is impressive, with starters, sides, classic casual dining dishes like burgers and steaks, as well as a multitude of flavours for their mussels.
My friend and I are unashamdely greedy, and seeing as we couldn’t decide between 3 of the starters – calamari, lobster bisque and duck croquettas – we ordered them all to share.
We didn’t wait long for them to arrive, which was good as I was starving! I started off trying the calamari, which was well cooked, sweet and tender with a crisp batter. The batter was a little plain, so it really benefitted from the garlic and herb mayo on the side.
The lobster bisque was creamy and silky smooth. I did find it tasted more of butter than of lobster, but was still lovely.
The duck croquettas were the best of the 3 starters. The thin breaded coating gave them great crunch, with soft potato and tender duck hidden inside. They were very rich, so the accompanying pickled radishes and chutney went really well to provide contrast to the richness. I would definitely get these again.
For the main course, I couldn’t come to a place famous for mussels and not have them, so my friend and I ordered the Thai mussels with chili, lemongrass, lime leaves, garlic and coriander, and garlic & herb mussels with butter, sage, thyme and rosemary.
The mussel portions were gigantic! Served with either bread or double cooked frites, one pot would have been enough for the two of us, especially after starters, but we gave them a good shot!
The mussels in both pots were cooked to perfection, soft and succulent, grit free and not a broken shell in sight. Belgo only serve fresh mussels that have never been frozen, and I think you could taste the difference.
The garlic & herb mussels were adorned with sprigs of fresh herbs and chunks of garlic, while the Thai mussels had finely chopped pieces of chili, coriander, garlic and lemongrass scattered throughout.
Out of the two, the Thai mussels were my favourite. The flavour of the broth seemed to have permeated every bit of the mussel meat, so you could taste the flavour with every bite. There was a good amount of heat too, just enough to give it a kick without reaching for the water jug.
The double cooked frites were a nice crunchy contrast to the soft mussels, and the bread was the ideal vehicle for mopping up all the delicious juices.
Belgo Nottingham received some bad press shortly after it opened, namely because they ran out of mussels one night, but with seafood this good in the centre of the city, I’m not surprised demand is so high. They have assured me that they’ve got the numbers right now, but I’d recommend booking your table anyway, as the place was heaving by the time we left and is fully booked most weekends.
I’ll certainly be going back to sample more of their Belgian beers and work my way through the mussel menu!
I was invited to review by Belgo, so my food and drinks were complimentary, many thanks to Dan, Amber and the team. All opinions are, as always, my own, and I was under no obligation to give a positive review, I just really enjoyed the mussels.