#15 – Belgium – The Dovetail, Clerkenwell

After four months in the international wilderness, EatFIFA finally made its return with a memorable Belgian excursion.

Tucked away cosily in the heart of Clerkenwell, the Dovetail usually spills its thirsty patrons into Jerusalem Passage of a weekday evening. We slalomed through the suits to our table at the back, passing the impressive (and reassuringly Belgian) display of Tintin cover art on the way, and took our seats on the charming (if slightly uncomfortable) church-style pews. Eyes turned to the encyclopaedic beer menu, and its formidable array of school-night ABV percentages. Steering himself somewhere in between the heavyweight Trappist beers and the wackier fruit beer selection, your correspondent settled on a sour, acidic Gueuze. The tastebuds screamed out amid the pub hubbub for some salt and carbohydrates to go with it, and food was quickly ordered from the small (but perfectly formed) menu.

Out came the rich stew of beef carbonnade, the colourful, seafood smorgasbord of Waterzooi Van Vis and several helpings of the Belgian staple of moules frites (in the classic marinière sauce). We removed the helmet-shaped cloches to reveal the encouragingly plump mussels, and got stuck in. Having managed to serve up perfectly steamed mussels, the small detail of fries should have been a formality. Grumbles of discontent at the thickness of the fries threatened to derail Belgium’s EatFIFA chances, but later research revealed that Belgian fries do not typically share the slimline characteristic of their French cousins after all. Apologies to the Dovetail for our grumbles of discontent.

Beer glasses began to dominate the table, despite the best efforts of the crowd-weaving staff, and attention turned to the famous scorecards. After re-educating some of our contingent about the basics of percentages, the scores were, indeed, on the doors:

Food: 65.9

Drink: 84.7

Service: 74.4

Atmosphere: 75.7

Value For Money: 73

SCORE: 74.7

A touch of confirmation bias for the booze, perhaps, but the well-priced beer selection is excellent and our choices didn’t disappoint. Beer and chatter outshone the food quite comfortably, and the bill was unexpectedly merciful at the end. It all felt like a more upmarket, refined version of EatGermany, and the Dovetail (inside and out) is highly recommended for a box-ticking midweek catch-up.

Belgium slides into fifth place in the EatFIFA rankings, just behind Russia. Official confirmation pending, our next stop is the United States of America – all suggestions very welcome…



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