It’s that time of year again when the hordes make their way to Munich, clad in lederhosen, to eat sausages the length of an arm and drink beers bigger than a small child, at Oktoberfest. We couldn’t make it to Germany, but we could hop on the tube to Belgo Soho, the latest addition to the Belgian restaurant group’s family, to try out their special Oktoberfest menu. Ever willing to put 100% into a job, we took it upon ourselves to try some of the traditional Belgian dishes on offer, alongside the German specials, to bring you a well-rounded view of the whole menu – no need to thank us.
On a cold Tuesday night, the restaurant was surprisingly busy, with not one table going spare. The walls covered with vintage beer adverts, and the chefs bustling away in the part-open kitchen, the upper floor of the restaurant has a real buzz about it like only a Soho restaurant can. Downstairs you’ll find the ‘caves’; bookable booths for large parties, set into arches packed with photographs and warm lighting – a rather impressive venue for a group dinner.
Being a Belgian restaurant, the beers are an important part of the whole experience, as is apparent from the 52 available to order! Fear not, the staff are really well trained to help you whittle the choice down to something you will enjoy, and deliciously different fruit beers are perfect for beginners or those less fond of the traditional pint. With the help of our waiter, we chose a passion fruit beer and a stein (that’s 2 pints!) of the dark lager, Vedett.
Letting these refreshing beers slip down, we waited for our starters from the traditional Belgian a la carte menu – beer cheese croquettes, and king prawns. The prawns were presented with heads on, so you’ll need an expert prawn peeler with you! They were juicy, sweet and flavoursome, and served with a brilliant spicy garlic butter. The kick from the fresh chilli was just enough to cut through the richness of the butter, but not blow your head off.
Three cheese croquettes were served on a wooden skewer, and oozed with stringy cheese when cut. The cheese was a gentle flavour, not too rich or overpowering, and an accompanying chutney gave a little warming spice to each mouthful.
For our mains we ordered the highly recommended lobster, and one of the Oktoberfest set menus. We wolfed down the bratwurst that came out in its shiny pretzel bun; the sausage was packed with flavour, juicy, and very true to a genuine German bratwurst. We were delighted that it came with traditional sauerkraut, and tried all the sauces available to accompany the Bratwurst. The mustard was our favourite – beware of the spicy ketchup, it really is spicy! The dish was accompanied by chips, served piping hot, fresh from the fryer.
The whole lobster came to the table holding a lemon wedge in its claw (which my slightly childish sense of humour appreciated). Smothered in garlic butter, and served again with freshly cooked fries, we used all our special lobster cutlery and implements to dig out every last morsel of delicious meat.
The Belgian theme continues into the ‘build-your-own dessert’ menu, with a choice of traditional waffle or crepe. After a big main course, we decided to share the ‘lighter’ option, of a crepe, filled with cream and vanilla pod ice cream, and drizzled with dark chocolate sauce. Ok, perhaps the fruit salad would have been a lighter option. But we didn’t regret it! The creamy sugar hit and soft, thin crepe was actually just what we needed to round off the meal. The salted caramel ice cream is a staff favourite, so make sure you pack that into your crepe or onto your waffle too.
As we were readying ourselves to leave, we were told we couldn’t possibly go to Belgo without trying some of the schnapps. Our arms (rather easily) twisted, we tried 3 flavours, served on an infamous Belgo shot plank. Vanilla was smooth and sweet, cherry was sharper and a vivid red, and finally passion fruit was a burst of fruity flavour. We also have inside info that the chocolate flavour is a good one, but on a Tuesday night we decided 3 shots each was probably enough already…
If you go along to Belgo to get yourself a piece of the Oktoberfest action, make sure you don’t miss out on the traditional Belgian goods that they’re so famous for. You need to try a beer to really bring the Belgian atmosphere to life, and you really should probably try some of the schnapps. The incredibly friendly and helpful staff would be more than happy to help you pick your flavours.
Belgo – Soho
29-31 Old Compton Street, London, W1D 5JR