I was lucky to review Belgo Nottingham last week (see review here). Whilst there, I caught up with Dan Murphy, general manager at Belgo Nottingham. Here is what he had to say about his favourite dish, craft beer and the new menu. Bon Appétit!
Why choose Nottingham as a spot for the first non-London opening? What do you think Belgo’s has brought to Nottingham’s dining scene?
Belgo has bought a totally different feel and dining experience and something that Nottingham has not seen before. Belgo has a 25 year history, being one of the first bar & restaurants to bring craft beer into the UK. We chose Nottingham as it has a fantastic food and drink scene and we feel that Nottingham would embrace a unique and fun brand. It is the perfect testing ground to roll Belgo out into other cosmopolitan cities too.
How do you want diners to feel when they’re tucking into Belgo’s delicious dishes?
We want our customers to feel relaxed and engaged. Belgo is a fun place to enjoy and savour any one of our 62 craft Belgium beers which are matched perfectly with mussels, rotisserie chicken, grills, or a selection of Belgium classic dishes such as carbonnade.
We want our customers to feel transported into the beer halls of Brussels, which are sociable hangouts for everyone to enjoy. Belgo is the ultimate casual bar and dining experience, with a twist!
What can Belgo fans expect from the brand this year? Any exciting menu changes you can tell us about?
We have a new spring summer menu launching in April where you can expect more traditional Belgian dishes and fresh fish. We also have BIG but top secret plans for our 25th anniversary. Yep, Belgo has been around for 25 years and we plan on inviting everyone to celebrate with us, so watch this space…
What is your favourite dish on the menu? What are the bestsellers?
My favourite dish on the menu is the Thai mussels. It is a great dish with a unique flavour and so moreish! Our bestselling dish is the newest addition to the menu which we launched in November. Our homemade secret recipe of liege meatballs… delicious!
As GM, chances are that you’re passionate about food. What would be your choice of desert island ingredients?
I would take a big bag of our Scottish mussels from the Shetland islands, our Thai sauce, and some fresh crusty bread. And can I take a barrel of Zot Blonde with me too? Of course I would take the entire Belgo playlist, pumping out a mixture of pop and rock recognisable classics.
How long does it take to plan a menu, from concept and testing, through to making it on the menu? We are constantly developing our menu.
We have a 12-month plan and we take a good 5 or 6 months from concept to launch. It’s a never-ending process of taste and trial… tough job!
I’m seeing a resurgence in craft beer (even Olly Smith, a traditional wine connoisseur from Saturday Kitchen is stepping into the beer arena with this ‘Olly’s Ale Trail’ on the Travel Channel). Belgo’s offering of over 62 Belgian bieres is very impressive, and investment in its diverse biere range is great to see. How ahead of its time do you think the brand is, continuing to build on its inventive reputation, whilst other brands are just playing catch-up?
We are always trying to be ahead of the game. Thankfully the craft beer market is hugely popular, but we want to continue to lead that market. With the vast range of Belgium beers available, it provides so much opportunity for us to stay different and introduce new lines.
We are looking to innovate all the time, and currently throwing around ideas for mini kegs (perfect party piece), beer flights and to launch beer masterclasses in 2017. When we first opened in 1992 we were offering tasting sessions, open kitchens and sharing tables. When we started selling craft ales, people were stuck on old ales.
We introduced craft beer to the UK! Now people have vast knowledge of what they like. However it’s only a positive thing for us that people have this craving and that others are following us…
Which Belgo’s beers can you recommend? Are there any particular dishes from the menu that go particularly well with the recommended beers?
My favourite beer is the Zot Blonde. It’s a strong beer without being overpowering. This beer works best with a simple moules pot.
We have our own brewed beer, Belgo Pils or Belgo Wit which both work very well with our fresh cod and samphire dish. We have a beer for everyone, even gluten free and non-alcoholic and I challenge anyone not to find a beer they enjoy within our range, even those non-beer drinkers (if such people do exist ha-ha)!
What advice you give to a total beer novice, who wants to try and educate themselves about beer?
Grab a menu start at number 1 and work your way through the list. You will find one that you like I promise anyone that. Plus, you will have fun doing it… we want our beers to be savoured, enjoyed and discussed.
Our restaurant have beer sommeliers, experts on hand to find you the perfect beer. Like art, beer is individual and we are very proud to be such a big part of this craft beer movement. When I say part, I mean leading J
Thank you for your time Dan! For more information about Belgo Nottingham, or to make a reservation, hop onto website www.belgo.com now.