Why Chez Moeder Lambic Fontainas Wouldn't Work In Britain

I've never seen Brussels in the daylight. Indeed, all I have ever seen of the Belgian capital is a budget hotel at the end of a runway and the inside of two bars. One of them was the newer of the two Chez Moeder Lambic bars, the one at Fontainas. And I loved it.


After a long day going continental in Phil Lowry's blue beer-taxi. I was ready for a beer. A bite to eat. Scenery that didn't involve more flat, grey Belgian landscape. Some chilled music. Dropping of the mental gears. And Chez Moeder Lambic Fontainas delivered it all in spades.

Two rows of benches, plenty of light wood, a well-lit bar sparking with hanging glassware, forty-plus beer taps, serried ranks of refrigerators. An eclectic eighties power-rock compilation playing in the background. Attentive but not obsequious service.

It was getting late-ish, probably gone 10pm. It was a Monday night but the bar still attracted a laid-back crowd. Paper menus on the tables listed the draught beers on offer. Hand-pumped lambic. A delectable saison from Jandrain-Jandrenouille. The food platter was straight-forward and packed with flavour - salami, sticky cheese, properly salty butter, honest brown bread.

Sat chatting to Phil, I realised that this was the Brussels combo that I'd dreamed of; great beers and snack food in a friendly, relaxed bar where you could have a cogent conversation. But I also knew in my beery heart-of-hearts that this was a sad moment; I knew that I'm unlikely to get to this place more than once in a blue moon and that the Moeder Lambic approach could never, ever work in the UK.

The thought of wandering into a London bar, nevermind one in the Midlands, late on a Monday night and being able to enjoy small glasses of quality beer and knockout nom is a crazy thought. Somehow, a rack of pale blonde cask beers and a few cubes of cheese in a bowl isn't quite the same.

I'd experienced the kind of continental beer culture that the UK can't recreate merely with a few stainless steel chairs and a late license. I'd love to be proved wrong, but I don't think a Moeder Lambic-esque bar would work even in London. Not enough customer interest, too much commercial pressure to knock out big-name pints alongside the artisinal beers.

It's a shame. But it's made me want to go back to Brussels and find more bars that wouldn't work in the UK.


  1. A nice little article, but I think you should check out the "Craft Beer Co." which is essentially a pub in central London in Clerkenwell which has approximately 40 taps of different and outstanding beers. I've been there 3 times in the past month since discovering this gem and think it may well compare to Chez Moeder Lambic (Fontainas). Time will tell though as I am off to Brussels next week and will certainly be spending an afternoon in Chez Moeder Lambic (Fontainas) to see how brilliant it is as well.

  2. I know the Craft well; it's certainly got a similar vibe. Tom does a fantastic job. If he had a permenent Cantillon tap and some killer platters, he'd almost be close...