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REVIEW: Café Belge

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When Café Belge opened at the Ritz-Carton in DIFC back in 2014, a crowd of photographers gathered around the red carpet shouting, bulbs flashing and arms waving. They were there, as it turned out, for effect rather than to take pictures for any front pages, but it set the scene as to what was to be found inside. Although the fanfare with which it opened has died down a bit, its reputation has been established: this is a high-class venue for high-quality food.

We arrived on a Wednesday evening in June – not exactly high season – yet it was still very lively. There were people propped up at the bar and, in the restaurant area, plenty of couples sharing intimate, candlelit meals. The dark wood and brass art deco furnishings, perked up with quirky advertising posters, are a throwback to Brussels of the 1920s, giving it a retro feel. This is a place for sophisticated tastes.

This summer, though, much of the excitement is focused on the terrace. People eating dinner and working their way through the drinks list had their eyes pointed directly at the massive projector screen showing the European Football Championships. According to our waiter, it’s one of the largest screens in Dubai – and we didn’t doubt him, its dimensions were absolutely prodigious.

Of course, this isn’t a sports bar. The atmosphere was more refined enthusiasm than raucous eruptions. Rather like Belgium’s football team, Café Belge offers plenty for the discerning fan to enjoy.

Away from the screen, the selection of starters is broad and, much like every course, is deliciously Belgian. Think smoked salmon waffles or asparagus served with a poached egg. If you’re hungry, we recommend splitting a pot of moules (AED160) to start. Served in your choice of sauce, along with fries and Belgian mayonnaise, it’s a filling but oh-so-moreish start to the meal. We opted for a half portion with the curry cream sauce, which gave the mussels a smooth salty flavour and an accompanying kick. Cliché alert – it was our man of the match.

Even with a half portion, the prospect of a main course was a challenge. We opted for the beef carbonnade – Flemish-style beef stew (AED120). It was very rich, but the mark of a good stew is a well-seasoned sauce and meat that falls apart with your fork. This ticked both boxes. Other dishes sampled included the sirloin steak with roasted vegetables and béarnaise sauce (AED185). Cooked medium, the meat was juicy with just the right amount of pink.

We finished off with a crème brulée (AED50) with vanilla, walnut sable cookies. Sweet and creamy with a torched sugar top, it’s another that’s ideal for sharing. We’ll definitely be back for the grand finalé… even if it won’t feature Belgium.

Where: Ritz-Carlton DIFC
Contact: +9714 372 2323

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