Belgian Café Novo
Time Out Says
On arrival we notice that the bar is busy, which is a good sign. Half a dozen screens are showing sport and a DJ is playing ’90s classics over the sound system which is creating a lively atmosphere, but we’re here to eat, so we wander through to a large outside terrace and find a table amongst other diners who have had the same idea as us.
The restaurant has signature ‘All you can eat’ evenings several days a week, including unlimited ribs on Mondays, unlimited mussels on Wednesdays and a Belgian brunch on Fridays, but we’re here on a Thursday night, so we take a menu and have a look at what else is on offer.
The menu is slightly different to other Belgian café menus we have seen, there is still a Belgian theme running through it including the signature mussels menu and the delicious fish and chips, but a grill menu replaces some of the more traditional entrée dishes.
We order the mixed hoppetizers and a portion of cheese croquets to start. We also order a portion of signature mussels with Roquefort sauce, and the mixed grill with a side order of stoemp (a Belgian dish of mashed potato, herbs and cabbage).
The hoppetizers are a generous portion for two. The chicken lollipops and cheese croquets (not part of the mixed hoppetizer dish) are the highlights – the chicken is well cooked and is glazed in a sticky sauce.
The platter also includes various meats and cheeses. On the whole, service is very good, there are plenty of waiters outside for the number of guests despite the restaurant being busy, but we are not given bread when we order. We can see bread baskets at every table around us, so we ask our waiter to bring us some to accompany the appetizers. The situation is quickly rectified, but we’re still a little disappointed that we had to ask.
Our mussels arrive steaming in a deep dish, we remove the lid and let the smell of gooey cheese waft over us. The moules are served with a portion of frites that are presented separately in a cone alongside a pot of mayo.
We attack the mound of mussels, and instantly know why this is the restaurant’s signature dish. The mussels are big, well-cooked and flavoursome in their own right, but the sauce elevates the dish even further. The Roquefort powers through, and we think we can taste a hint of garlic as well. We hoover through the generous portion in no time, and use the chips and some bread to mop up the remaining sauce.
We’re less excited by the mixed grill (which includes steak, a lamb chop, grilled chicken and a large grilled king prawn). The dish is a good size and the chicken and king prawn are very good, but the steak and lamb don’t wow. In hindsight, we should have ordered the chicken on its own, again with the side of stoemp which is superb.
Still wanting more, we order the Belgian apple crumble with vanilla ice cream and a Belgian waffle with chocolate sauce and banana for dessert. Ordering dessert in a bar is usually a terrible idea, but thankfully Belgian Café is the exception to this rule. Both desserts could sit beside any from the city’s top restaurants and not look or taste out of place. Our favourite is the waffle – if there’s one thing Belgian cuisine knows something about, its chocolate – but the hot, spicy crumble is also deserving of high praise.
We leave Belgian Café satisfied after a thoroughly pleasant meal. The outside seating terrace is one of the city’s most relaxing, and the mussels and desserts are some of our favourite dishes we’ve eaten for months.
The bill (for two)
Mixed hoppetizer Dhs90
Cheese croquets Dhs35
Mussels and chips Dhs165
Mixed grill Dhs150
Belgian waffle Dhs40
Apple crumble Dhs35
Total (excl. service) Dhs537
By Time Out Abu Dhabi staff | 16 Dec 2014
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