FOOD & DRINK/ Eating Out: Where to find a famous Belgian

THERE were not one but two celebs eating supper on tables near mine at Belgo last week. I got two celebs, a full belly, a couple of glasses of delicious ale, an incredibly small bill and loadsalarfs with the fancy-dress waiters - all in the space of one happy evening. What an amazing place.

If only everywhere could be like Belgo. If only Belgo could be everywhere. If only it wasn't in Camden I'd probably be there every night. But if you want to eat there at peak hours, book a table a few days in advance. The place has only been open 18 months, so it's still highly fashionable.

So. The celebs. He was called Doyle, I think. He was the detective with curly hair and high cheekbones in The Professionals. Doyle was the second most long-standing sex god of my late childhood. And there he was. Doyle. On the same side of the restaurant as I was, eating and laughing and joking and smoking just like me. Two human beings, both equal in the eyes of God, both in the same restaurant at the same time. And one of them was me and one of them was Doyle from The Professionals, bless him. I went to the toilet three times so I could get a better look. But he's changed (I'm sure it was him). He needs to put on a bit of weight, spend a few days in the sun, grow his hair. One of his companions wore a cravat and occasionally stood in the middle of the restaurant to show off. Actors. They should stay on the telly.

The other celebrity was sitting at the table next to me. 'I'm fascinated,' said her male companion in an upper-class voice, 'by the handshake game. Do you know it?' She didn't. It turned out that his great aunt, who had died in 1973 aged more than 100, had had a doctor who, when he was a boy, had watched Napoleon or Nelson or someone getting on to a boat. 'Gosh,' she said, 'just three generations.'

I don't know for sure that it was her, but she looked like the woman who reads the news on ITN when Trevor McDonald doesn't - someone I'd interviewed just a couple of months before. I hadn't been ferocious to her in the article, but neither had I been particularly kind. So I was a little embarrassed. We exchanged glances at one point and then both looked quickly away. But perhaps that was because she was polite or not interested.

Perhaps it was because I'd been staring. Whatever. If she wasn't Julia Somerville then she was definitely someone else, if you get my drift. One of that ilk. And she was definitely a celebrity.

Which brings us back to the restaurant and the second point. The full belly. Belgo serves Belgian food and fresh, warm Polish bread. At my table we both opted for set menus because they looked so cheap. Mine offered two courses and one beer for just pounds 10. The salade liegeoise was fairy-tale delicious; my mouth is watering as I remember it now. The new potatoes were totally fresh, perfectly sweet. The french beans melted, I do not exaggerate, in the mouth.

I was offered the choice of moules mariniere or moules provencale for the main course. They were fresh and plentiful. The soup (mariniere) was perfect. They were the best moules I've had in years and I eat them at least once a fortnight. For pounds 8.95 my friend ate tender and elegant steak with various vegetables and crispy chips. (The moules also came with chips. I don't know why, but I don't think they were necessary). He got no first course and he had to buy his beer separately, but he did get an excellent Belgian waffle with a hot chocolate sauce for pud. Everything we ate was simple, unpretentious, fresh and delicious. Even the beer was a treat. Belgo offers a choice of 32 imported Belgian ales, none of which, at around pounds 2.50 a glass, comes cheap. However, I recommend the dark brown, smooth, rich, sweet and strong Leffe beer. We drank several of them - and still our bill, including service and eight espressos, came to just pounds 33. When you consider the class of food and the cost of similarly fashionable restaurants, this is quite a bargain, I think.

Waiters dressed in monks' habits offered unintrusive and smiling service. They were a refreshingly ordinary-looking bunch. Talking to the staff at happening people's restaurants can sometimes be a bit of an ordeal. But there were no conceited would-be male models here; nobody looking bored and sickened as they scribbled down our order. Belgo is staffed by a handful of rotund and slightly distracted middle-aged men who mind their own business very efficiently and let you mind yours in turn.

The restaurant is in a basement. We had to drive past it several times before noticing that in place of the normal front window stands a large and uninviting slab of concrete engraved with the name 'Belgo'. Find the entrance then, eventually. Walk to the end of a purposefully sparse, wooden-floored, concrete- walled corridor and look down over the banister to get a bird's eye view of the space age kitchen. In front of the kitchen lies the restaurant; concrete stripes along the walls are decorated with neatly imprinted and nonsensical messages: 'SLAPJAW LAZEYBONES BASTARDSOUL TOMTURDY SOURCHOP GAG.'

Belgo is a little too brightly lit for my liking, and the room is noisy (for dinner time). So be patient; it takes a minute or two to adjust to the delightful spirit of the place.-

BELGO

72 Chalk Farm Road, London NW1 8AN. Tel: 071-267 0718. Open every day.

Lunch and dinner from pounds 10, depending on alcohol consumption. Set lunch menus at pounds 5 and pounds 10 Monday-Saturday. Partial menu change every week or so. Credit cards accepted

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

    They fled war in Syria...

    ...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
    From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

    Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

    Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
    Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

    Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

    Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
    From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

    Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

    From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
    Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

    Kelis interview

    The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea