Last week, I promised you news. Big-deal, exciting, “I’m-dying-to-shout-about-this” news (I’m actually surprised that I managed to keep everything to myself for so long!). And now, the time to share has come. Do you remember my job hunt? The hectic, draining, at times tragicomic job hunt I’ve been dealing with in the past five months? It’s over. Completed. Done.
This time next week, I’ll be stepping into a new, fairly unknown role; one I’ve been wanting to try out for a long time. It will be an interesting change of direction, and hopefully, an improvement to my quality of life too (can you believe that my new commute will be a twenty-minute walk?). The timing is perfect, as my last day at the place I called my office for the past two and a half years is…today.
You’ve heard me bitch about the pains of working in a middle-of-nowhere industrial estate more than once, and I meant everything I said. I never liked South Wimbledon; I never even pretended I did. There is, however, one thing I’ll miss about it: the leafy Merton Abbey Mills estate, with its parade of little independent restaurants, ranging from Thai to Caribbean. My colleagues and I visited them countless times, gathering for group lunches on Fridays; now I can’t help but wonder how I’ll treat myself at the end of busy weeks in my new job. I can’t wait to discover West London’s eateries – although I suspect that I’ll never find a creperie as good as the Belgian Brasserie.
Like most restaurants in Merton Abbey Mills, the Belgian Brasserie is a small, unassuming shack. The kind of shack that looks unfit to survive the next thunderstorm, and yet manages to make it through, every single time. Once you walk in, its character becomes apparent: the Brasserie’s warm and cosy atmosphere, and its shabby chic interiors, are no doubt a part of its appeal. Tables are deliciously mismatched; the chairs are dainty as you’d expect from a fairytale home. The ceiling lamp, made with tablespoons and coffee cups, is the best touch of makeshift elegance, worthy of a stylish upcycling Pinterest board. The first thing to strike visitors, though, is the smell: a divine, intense smell of crepe batter that instantly transports you to Brittany’s small seaside villages (or to the streets or Bruxelles. Or the market stalls of Paris. Anything but South Wimbledon will do).
The crepes on the savoury menu are an interesting fusion between the classic French-inspired batter and a choice of unusual fillings, more akin to English breakfasts than to continental lunches. You can have each dish made as a crepe, waffle or bagel, and gluten-free, lactose-free and low fat options are also available. I recommend that you go in hungry, and order a double savoury crepe, or a bagel and a sweet crepe; either option will cost between £7 and £10 (excluding drinks). If you’re a light eater, or have a lower budget, go for a single crepe or bagel, excellent in both taste and value for money.
My colleagues are die-hard fans of the five-bean chilli, cheddar, sour cream and baby spinach crepes, while my go-to filling, the favourite I never betrayed, is smoked salmon, cream cheese, lemon and spinach. I love how the combination of three delicate flavours and a sprinkle of lemon juice results in a glorious, distinctive taste. This is the best crepe I ever had; one I see myself try to recreate at home, only to realise that no love can be as perfect and pure as the first.
As for the dessert menu, I have tried and enjoyed the classic belgian chocolate crepe, and felt tempted by almost everything else on the list. The alcoholic crepes, advertised as “specials” since my very first visit, are my forbidden dream. The mere existence of sweet fillings with Cointreau, Amaretto and Bailey’s is conclusive proof that crepe heaven exists; I’ve always wanted to try them, but with the prospect of four more hours of work ahead, that was never an option!
Much as I hate saying it, the service is the Belgian Brasserie’s only weak spot. Every single staff member I met is absolutely lovely – but the word “single” is key here. Very often, there’s only one person cooking and serving food, and the four hobs in the kitchen are hardly enough to meet demand at busy times. On good days, you can expect to wait a reasonable 15 – 20 minutes; on less glorious days, you may have to allow up to 45 minutes – not ideal if you’re on the clock. Speaking with the owner, I learnt that they’re doing their best to improve; spotting two people behind the counter, or getting your crepes within fifteen minutes, is more of a reality now than ever before. So don’t let speed (or the lack of it) put you off: once the food lands on your table, you’ll find that it’s worth every single second of your wait.
As the time for the last handshakes and well-wishes approaches, it’s time to say goodbye to my favourite lunch break spot, too. Farewell, Belgian Brasserie, and thanks for two and a half years of delights. I will miss you sorely, and won’t forget you easily. Actually, scrap that – I’ll never forget you. I’ll most likely find myself craving your smoked salmon crepes once a day, every day. They’re delicious like that.
The Belgian Brasserie
Pavilions 1 & 2
London, SW19 2RD
(nearest tube stations: South Wimbledon, Colliers Wood)
Open 12 – 5pm on Wednesday to Friday, 10.30am – 5.30pm Saturday and Sunday, 11 – 4pm on Bank Holidays
0208 540 2500