Belgo Centraal is the flagship venue of London’s growing Belgo franchise. It’s hard to be nice about them. I’ve no moral objection to bringing fine, world-class Belgian beer to London, I merely dismay at their execution and style.
With two of their five outlets within 100m of Covent Garden, it is fair to say they are playing the numbers game, which couldn’t be much further from how their imports are imbibed in their motherland: bars in Belgium are chthonic caves of tranquility; walls adorned with both relevant and inexplicable memorabilia; inviting isolated corners and alcoves; ‘gezellig’ ambience created by wooden panelling, insufficient lights and a bearded beer guru behind the bar. Belgo is a large, cold industrial space- in particular the Bierodrome, which is a hollow, soulless metallic shell.
There are roughly 60 beers which superficially sounds impressive. However, SEVEN of these are different Floris fruit flavoured beers; this strikes me as odd, as they also take delivery from Achel and Rochefort, yet only stock one variety of each. Compare this to an average bar anywhere in Belgium and you wonder if Belgo has made the list because of location rather than quality.
Bleak, uncomfortable, industrial, soulless.
With Rochefort 10, Kwak and Straffe Hendrik, the beer list is remarkable for London. In Brussels, Brugge or Amsterdam, this is typical.
Maybe it is the best in town, though that’s not a compliment to Belgo, but an indictment of London.