Leuven Belgian Beer Cafe

Knowing my current penchant towards waffles, when trying a delicious cider here on a Friday night, outside under the heater, my colleague suggested we come back for waffles on my last day – boss’s shout! And so we did. I came with high expectations.I’m not sure how long Leuven Belgian Beer Cafe in Wellington has been around, however it’s definitely one of our icon cafes. It seems to attract the rugby crowd on their way to the stadium, as well as the corporates for breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks or special functions.  I’ve been here only a few times in the past in my pre-blogging days and it’s just not a place I think about visiting.

It’s very European within a beautiful, historic building with dark, wooden décor with a cosy, friendly, bustly vibe. The service is very efficient, although sometimes it can be a little overbearing.  We’re not Americans. Kiwis don’t like to be rushed and we can’t glance at a 10 page menu and know what we want in two seconds! Like Europeans, we take our time to peruse the menu, chat and then decide.

As the waiter was hovering, we put our coffee orders in which came super fast. My long black (Caffe L’affare) was strong and almost a short black, so I had to ask for hot water. The boys were happy with their flat whites and lattes. No coconut milk or almond milk here, only soy.

Speaking of menu, I was so overwhelmed and got a little lost trying to find the breakfast menu which is located right at the back of the foodie bible. It’s jam-packed with a huge list of Belgian beers (Stella Artois being a top choice), wines with a huge mix of divine sounding Belgian and French dishes.  Many dishes have a recommended beer match which is perfect, and cuts to the chase.

I can safely summarise the menu, by saying they have a wide range of seafood (predominantly mussels 50 ways) and some interesting, traditional, mouth-watering Belgian food.

My ex boss/friend is one of those peeps who’s anti foodie pics, so I tried to snap as many in advance without him noticing and took a few more, out of rebellion. Three of us chose the banana waffles with bacon and our other colleague chose the eggs bene. The presentation of both dishes took me by surprise. Firstly our waffles were chopped up into pieces and sat on top of sliced banana and green grapes with this gorgeous dab of crème fraiche.  There was a wee jug of maple syrup on the side. Mike’s egg bene looked like an open Croque Monsieur with baked hollandaise sauce on the toast, egg on one slice and a cooked piece of salmon on the other. It was different but looked gorgeous and way more presentable than ours. I really liked my waffles, however they didn’t hit it out of the ballpark totally for me on these.

I like the vibe here and took hubby there recently on a Sunday after our big 14.4km walk!  We sat at a wee table by the entrance. There was only one other couple an dour waitress was new. Then suddenly, boom about 12 more patrons entered.

We’ve always talked fondly about trying the signature dish; moules and pommes frites and that’s exactly what we had. Well what hubby had with a mustard, blue cheese sauce off the lunch menu.  I had to do a taste test and chips and mussel were delicious. You need to make sure you stir the huge pot though as all the sauce naturally sits at the bottom of the pot. I opted for the fish cakes with poached eggs, hollandaise (on the side request) on grilled lemon. It wasn’t really what I expected as my fish cakes were deep fried croquettes and the lemon wasn’t grilled. But it was very nice. I saved choosing the Croque Madame for another time and also have my eye on the lamb fillet salad.

Monday to Friday they have a $9 weekly waffle/potato cake breakfast special. Hence why it was so busy I guess. Breakfast begins at 7am to 11am and extends hours on the weekend.  There are a zillion other dishes to try and they all sound amazing. Portions are a great size too and dishes well priced. Lunch dishes are a little more pricey. I eyed up a sticky date slice with caramel sauce and icecream on the dessert menu and a triple chocolate brownie. These could be fun to try and share of course as a treat.

I’ve been to Brussels once, many moons ago but only have a vague memory of the clock building, not the food. My next visit will be to Brugge, a place I’ve so wanted to visit. It’s not a direct route, however that makes me all the more determined to visit.

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