Bel­gian Beer Cafe 13 Stan­ley Street In The Colombo car park, Sy­den­ham

The Press - Zest - - Beer & Wine -

The imag­i­na­tively ti­tled Bel­gian Beer Cafe once held prime po­si­tion in Christchurch’s city cen­tre. There it was all those years back, perched happily on the banks of the Avon, serv­ing Bel­gian beer, mus­sels, steaks and frites. I was fond of the old place. It was warm, tossed in char­ac­ter, boldly cos­mopoli­tan, yet, at the same time, some­what homely. We all know what hap­pened next. More than two years on, the Bel­gian Beer Cafe is back, re­booted like a tired old Hol­ly­wood fran­chise, ea­ger to once again take cen­tre stage and prove that its charms be­long in the brave new world. So, will it bring in the crowds?

Well, in the new Christchurch, the Bel­gian Beer Cafe doesn’t sit proudly over the world’s slow­est mov­ing river. No, it’s al­most hid­den away in a car park be­hind a mall in Sy­den­ham.

It’s a lit­tle trick­ier to find and the view isn’t as al­lur­ing. More park­ing though. So, while it may not be as grandiose as the orig­i­nal, it’s still charm­ing, and even more im­por­tantly, still rather unique in Christchurch (even if it is a fran­chise).

The guts of the pre­vi­ous bar – the rich dark wooden ta­bles and chairs, the mem­o­ra­bilia, the stuff with for­eign words (Flem­ish? Wal­loon?) writ­ten on it – has all been saved, given a good pol­ish, and put back out in the world. To­gether, it makes the bar feel per­ma­nent and proper.

Soon af­ter tak­ing my seat, I was greeted by a delightful Euro­pean waitress, ea­ger to ex­plain the vast range of beers from the most re­mote reaches of deep­est, dark­est Bel­gium.

And even on a week night, it was re­as­sur­ingly busy. Across the way, blokes with no-non­sense hair­cuts and jack­ets fussed over pints, as mid­dleaged and el­derly cou­ples hud­dled close, hatch­ing plans over Hoe­gar­den.

The week­ends, one of the staff later told me, were much busier. Then, he said, it was all about ‘‘get­ting the beer go­ing’’, with live en­ter­tain­ment on Satur­days and Sun­days.

I started with a glass of Kriek ($8.80) – a beer that some­how com­bines the taste of cher­ries, al­co­hol, and not feel­ing like less of a man.

Onto the food. The bar of­fers up half a kilo­gram of mus­sels along with frites ($12.50) for those types who ac­tu­ally en­joy mus­sels. Stay­ing away from slimy seafood, I plumped for Bit­ter­ballen ($15.50), bizarrely soft, deep fried meat­balls, with frites served in a very dap­per cone. En­joy­able yes, but I was slightly dis­ap­pointed they’d run out of goat’s cheese and tomato con­fit.

Food done. Back to the beer. Next up was a bot­tle of Sloe­ber (Joker) for the princely sum of $14.50. While not as dra­matic as the Kriek, it was a great deal bet­ter than stum­bling home stressed af­ter work to find only a six-month-old warm light beer in the pantry. But for $14.50, there’s bet­ter beer on the menu. That’s pretty much a given, as there’s seem­ingly a mil­lion drinks on this menu.

The star here is the beer. Be warned, it isn’t cheap and they’re strong enough to knock you over.

The Bel­gian Beer Cafe has more than the most ex­otic beer menu in town. Again, it’s warm, invit­ing and strik­ing. It’s a su­perb reimag­in­ing of an old clas­sic; a suc­cess­ful re­boot. Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am-late Sun, 10am-late How much: Mus­sels, $12.50/half kilo, $23.50/1kg, $47/2kg Mains: $17-$33

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