Introducing the latest addition to the JLT dining and nightlife scene, Le Petit Belge. Based in the Pullman JLT in Cluster T this promises to be as big a hit as the likes of Nola and Cocktail Kitchen that have previously dominated the area since their opening around 18 months ago.
Upon entering you are immediately greeted by the buzzing thrum of chatter and music. I visited on a Wednesday, which is their “Ladies Day”, offering free-flowing wine and spirits from 12pm (yes, that’d be lunchtime) until 2am with 50% off their “Hoppetizers”, meaning the place was rammed to the rafters!
Let’s start with the venue… it has a very relaxed, Belgian cafe vibe with matching decor but with some more modern, industrial additions. There is large L-shaped bar to the left as you walk in with high stools and tables for those drinking and nibbling in a very pub-like, informal environment. The restaurant is separated from the bar by some iron and glass installations and features large banquette style booths, perfect for groups with some smaller tables dotted around the outside. I loved the tiled floors and large globe lights which cast a lovely, cosy light over the whole venue. There are a few random neon lights strategically placed on the walls along with some quirky artwork which gives Le Petit Belge a slightly funkier feel than you’d expect from a traditional Belgian cafe.
It’s obvious from the offset that Le Petit Belge takes a lot of pride in its beer offerings and has several Belgian beers on draught and in addition to numerous pages of bottled, craft beers to choose from. After a compulsory beer at the bar soaking up the atmosphere we decided to move to our table and get stuck into the main event, the food.
The menu has a lot of what you would typically expect from a Belgian restaurant, think moules, frites, croque monsieur etc. Upon recommendation we opted to try a couple of their “Hoppetizers”. The Forest Mushroom Croquettes with truffle and aged parmesan came on a gorgeous wooden board and were the perfect sharing nibblers. The truffle didn’t overpower the mushrooms and the parmesan was a great addition. Next we tried the Mini Hotdogs with a Belgian Twist topped with bacon and onion crumble. They came in a delicious brioche roll which was decidedly buttery and complimented the other flavours, but I think I missed the memo on what the Belgian twist was? Be warned these are a lot bigger than you expect. We finished our starters with the Belgian Abbey Cheese Croquettes which were hands down my favourite. They were perfectly crisp and loaded with deliciously gooey cheese and were contrasted nicely by the sweet, sticky pear syrup dip.
I’d seen the pictures of Le Petit Belge’s steak tartare on Instagram and being the colossel carnivore that I am, I couldn’t resist giving it a whirl. It came with a drool-worthy runny egg yolk on top (I love a yolk!), pickled condiments, a mixed salad and Belgian frites. The tartare itself was well seasoned and very tender. I would have loved some bread to go along with it, but with the huge portion of frites it probably wasn’t necessary. In addition to this we tried the 250g Australian grain fed beef tenderloin (not traditionally Belgian I know!) which came out percectly cooked and well flavoured. Le Petit Belge isn’t a steakhouse, so I wouldn’t put my neck on the line and say it was the best steak that’s passed my lips but is pretty good for the price and comes with a side salad, sauce and frites. Whilst we are on the subject of frites, I know the small country of Belgium is very proud of this traditional dish and whilst I have read some mixed reviews about the frites at Le Petit Belge, ours were deliciously crispy on the outside (I’m pretty certain they were double-fried as they should be!) and fluffy on the inside.
It is a very rare occasion that I skip desert but I think getting ahead of myself and ordering the three starters followed by the copious amounts of frites left me a tad on the full-side. Instead we opted for another glass of wine and a chat in the bar to help us digest. My apologies for not being able to guide you further on this but I will say that I spied the Belgian Chocolate Mousse going passed me to another table and it looked DIVINE!
Le Petit Belge is definitely going to provide some much-needed competition to the other bars and restaurants in JLT and is the perfect after work watering hole for those in the area. Its buzzing environment and well-priced food and drinks makes it somewhere more likely to become a “local” to a lot of people rather than a rare treat and I for one think that is definitely more of what Dubai needs. I really enjoyed my evening and am already looking forward to my next visit (most probably on a Wednesday). See you there!