A warm welcome at Leuven

Last updated 17:25 02/11/2012

Welcoming: Leuven beer bar sticks to what it does it does best.

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It's been more than a year since I've stepped through the doors of Leuven in Featherson St, but little has changed.

REVIEW: The Belgian beer bar sticks to what it does well, having been in operation for about 12 years.

Steeped in heavy wood paneling, and in a refurbished 1907 building, it would seem at home on the streets of the European town it's named for, and is perfectly cosy on the wet and wild Saturday night when I head there for a meal.

Despite it being only 6pm, it's filling quickly. The driving rain and wind mean the outdoor area is off limits.

Once settled, the water and menus are delivered swiftly and my company has arrived.

While two of us enjoy wine from an adequate selection, sampling beers from the extensive two-page menu is left to the male in our group.

Having recognised a number from his travels in Europe he opts for two he hasn't tried and thoroughly enjoys both - including the La Chouffe ($13.80), which has a "recommended" stamp next to it.

We are torn over whether the light meals (about $17) or the mains will best satisfy our hunger. Our waitress provides a full run through of the menu - another tick for service that is friendly and helpful.

Leuven is famous for its mussels, so we split a pot steamed in Dijon mustard and blue cheese cream ($19.90) to start. It's accompanied by a cone of crunchy golden fries.

The mussels are perfectly cooked, and the broth is very moreish.

When our meals arrive, the generous helpings remind me of Sunday dinners on a winter's night.

My "waterzooi" ($33.90) features an array of seafood, all cooked perfectly. Marketed as fish, mussels, scallops and tiger prawns with braised fennel and vegetables, it comes in a tasty vegetable broth which I wasn't convinced married well with the seafood.

Across the table, roast lamb rump on pumpkin and potato gratin served with red currant gravy ($27.50), and Island Bay venison sausages with stoemp, baby onions and fruits of the forest sauce ($19.90) were devoured. Clean plates spoke volumes, with only small factors - lamb slightly overdone, and sausages that could have been crispier - drawing any adverse comment.

With its warm welcome and generous portions, I'm sure I'll venture to Leuven next time I need to escape the Wellington weather.

Three mains, a shared starter and drinks: $158.50.

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- The Wellingtonian


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