Last week I was invited celebrate Belgium's National Day at a new pop-up bar in Glasgow's Merchant City by Belgian brewer Heverlee. For two weeks, Heverlee @ Tontine Lane has been impressing visitors with quality food and drink including an almost endless supply of belgiums national dish - moule frites.
The pop-up bar is situated within an old loading bay behind Glasgow's Trongate and High Street with the entrance to the bar on Bell Street. Heverlee @ Tontine Lane is only running until Sunday 2nd August so if you're about the city centre over the weekend, pop in to the pop-up and sample a little piece of Belgium.
Our evening turned out to be more than just beer and moule frite as Heverlee had sent their Master Brewer, Joris Brams, over to talk us through the beers that we would be drinking as well as some of the unique brewing styles that are used. In addition to this, they had also flown over one of Belgium top chefs who would be serving up a six course tasting menu to myself and the other invited VIP's.
Wim Dejoghne, head chef at Het Land Aan de Overkant in Leuven, is regarded as one of belgiums most exciting young chefs who is always pushing the boundaries of taste and texture.
All of the courses that were served across the evening were fantastic with the Americain Preparé starter being one of my favourite courses. The steak tartare was seasoned perfectly, perhaps overshadowed a little by the strongly flavoured tarragon mayonnaise, but when combined with the black olive crumble and imaginative radish 'snow', it resulted in a tasty forkful of food.
Another standout dish was the Solle Buere Noisette. Soft, well cooked sole in a hazelnut butter was topped with mushrooms and a lemon and hazelnut crumb. The initial flavours were not dissimilar to lemon meringue pie but once the lemon flavour disappeared, the sole came into its own and worked well with the Buerre Noisette.
Over the course of the evening Chef served up a few other strange flavour combos but they all seemed to work on differing levels for me and my fellow diners.
Each of our courses were served with a matching beer, including two of Heverlee's own brews. What I liked about this part of the evening was that Joris and Heverlee didn't try to force their own beers down our throats, (I'm not sure anyone would have minded), but instead Wim and Joris served up beers from Belgium that they felt would work best with each of the courses. In fact, the Stouterik Brussels Stout only arrived thanks to DHL making a late afternoon delivery!
I'm generally not a stout drinker but I did enjoy the chocolate-y notes in the Stouterik. The two Heverlee beers that we were served were both easy drinking with their newly launched Witte was my favourite on the night. We were also given a few Geuze, beers that are brewed in the Lambic style. This type of beer,unique to Belgium, is made using wild yeasts resulting in a sharp, musty, sour tasting beer which wasn't to everyone's taste. It's safe to safe that most of the group struggled to properly appreciate these beers and whilst they weren't 'session' beers, they did actually work well with their corresponding food courses.
If this celebration of the food and drink of Flanders wasn't enough, we were told towards the end of the evening that there was a prize of a trip to Belgium, which had been hidden in plain sight by the staff earlier.
Well wouldn't you know it ...... I found the hidden prize (a cunningly disguised beermat) and as we speak, I am working with the good people at Visit Flanders to make sure that myself and Nicola get the most from our impending trip to Leuven and Brussels.
So overall, not a bad way to spend a Tuesday evening!
As stated earlier, the pop-up is running until this Sunday and I'll be doing my best to get back in to Heverlee @ Tontine Lane - well, I do need to start practicing my Dutch. (Dutch in Belgium, that just sounds like a lot of waffles)