I was lucky enough to be invited to a media lunch at the new Balmain Belgian Beer Cafe. Recently opened by the guys that began the Belgian Beer Cafe boom outside of Europe (they have a store in Cammaray and one in The Rocks), there is finally a location that suits those in the inner west! Their third branch is located down at the end of Balmain where parking is free and reasonably plentiful, so I can now gleefully partake in their speciality of excellently cooked fresh Australian mussels by the kilo.
As it was a media briefing, I got to try some sample plates with a number of dishes on each. The first one had Grilled Barramundi Fillet ($26.50) topped with a lovely tomato and olive salsa; there's also a sample of the Pan fried Tiger Prawns ($18.80) which were also a nice dish.
The Vegetarian Monk’s Tart ($15.50) and the Home-made Duck Pâté ($16.00) are both excellent - I was really impressed with the vegetatarian dish in particular, rich with eggs, spices and cooked with Leffe Blonde. I would go back with a vegetarian quite happily convinced that they would enjoy this dish - there was also one or two other vegetarian choices but it is mainly for meat/seafood eaters.
Of course the hero of the meal is the mussels. They come in at least eight styles - I won’t profess to having tried them all but the Hoegaarden Mussels ($24.90) are great, particularly with a matching Hoegaarden White Beer. I also tried the Mussels Provencale ($24.90) cooked with garlic, tomato and herbs. All pots of mussels come with chips and mayonnaise, as is the Belgian tradition, so expect a full meal.
But they were not done with us... next course showed off the Belgian Meatballs ($23.50) made with roasted lamb and oregano; and the Twice-Baked Crispy Pork Belly ($26.50) which were both good. Both feel a little winter to me, so I will keep this place in mind for a big hearty winter meal when the weather turns further.
The refit of the old Commercial Hotel with authentically imported Belgian fittings is beautiful and sensitive to the area with little change to the facade. It meets the needs of the area too with a great beer garden; and they take their beer very seriously here. Check out their elaborate pouring method! I tried a number of beers, liking (as a non-beer drinker) the Hoegaarden White Draught and the Duvel the best.
They like their chocolate as well - the Belgian Chocolate Mousse ($12.50) is a sure crowd-pleaser, but I preferred the Belgian Waffle ($12.50). That's probably just because I love waffles though.
Balmain Belgian Beer Cafe
82 Darling Street, Balmain East
Ph: (02) 9810 1663