One of the things I’ll miss about Sydney would be the views. As much as I adore living in Melbourne and am very much more of a Melbourne girl than I will ever be a Sydney girl, I can’t deny that Sydney simply has Melbourne beat when it comes to having an amazing view. From the Harbour Bridge to the Opera House, and anywhere along the many bays of Sydney Harbour, there’s no shortage of amazing places where you can sit and watch the day go by.
These views are heightened by festivals like the Vivid Sydney light festival which was held back in June. Iconic buildings are lit up by colourful light displays, and interesting light structures and sculptures are installed throughout the city. Sydney-siders turn out in force for the festival, and unsurprisingly, the restaurants around The Rocks area of Sydney struggle to keep up with demand with some of the more popular places maintaining queues for over an hour.
Next time you want to have a good meal in The Rocks but don’t want to battle the crowds, I suggest visiting the Heritage Belgian Beer Cafe. Located on the quiet Harrington Street behind the hustle and bustle of the main streets and alleyways of The Rocks, they specialise in imported European beers but also do a roaring trade in moules frites – pots of mussels served with Belgian fries.
We’re there on a Wednesday night during the Vivid light festival, for their Wednesday night special – $20 moules frites, down from their usual price of $30 per pot of mussels. We had made a booking so that we could be sure of getting a table during a peak night in the city for the festival, but there were also plenty of seats available directly at the bar and a few empty tables around as well, so you could very well simply walk-in and ask for a reservation.
Some drinks to start – I got a simple Diet Coke which caused our waiter to look at me in disbelief (Diet Coke in a beer cafe?!), but K alleviated his horror by ordering a Hoegaarden. My Diet Coke was disappointingly watery and was clearly a post-mix soft drink. K enjoyed his beer though, and I enjoyed teasing him about how he would have to drink enough alcohol for the both of us while we travel through Europe.
K ordered the moules frites in his favourite sauce – a creamy blue cheese sauce that has an aroma that you don’t actually smell when the pot is first brought to the table. It’s only as you begin to dig through the first layer of mussels that the strong scent of blue cheese really hits you. Personally, I absolutely adore blue cheese so I enjoyed picking out mussels from K’s pot to eat. However it can be a very strong smell, so unless you’re passionate about stinky cheese, I would recommend choosing a different style of moules frites.
If you want to order something a little plainer and crowd-pleasing, you could consider what I ordered – a “Provencale” pot with vegetables, garlic and capsicum. The flavours aren’t as strong with this pot as they are with the blue cheese – they’re a lot more subtle and a lot more like the kind of home-style cooking you would expect if you were having mussels at home. I enjoyed the slight sweetness of the sauce which came from the capsicum, and the mussels themselves were very fresh and plump – there wasn’t one old chewy mussel in the whole pot.
In an attempt to eat somewhat healthily, we ordered a side of beans to share. While they were well cooked with a fresh snap to them as you took a bite, the “health” part that we had originally been trying to aim for didn’t really come into the equation as the beans were served some very thick cut and delicious bacon strips. I also have to confess that I gave up any pretence at healthy eating once I started eating my chips as they were so good that I quickly scoffed down most of my serve of chips, and some of K’s as well.
We finished our meal with dessert to share – sinfully sweet Belgian waffles with a scoop of creamy vanilla ice-cream and a drizzle of lemon syrup. I loved the crisp exterior of the waffles, and the contrast with the soft doughy insides and the creamy ice-cream. It was a real contrast of textures, and a delicious combination of flavours.
You can’t beat the Belgian Beer Cafe for pure value. $20 mussel pots are hard to find these days, and super crunchy crispy chips to go with them is a real bonus. I’ll always be back to the Belgian Beer Cafe every time there’s a late night ‘event’ in the city and I want a hearty meal at a great price.