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Published: 31 July 2008

Duty manager Faton Abrashi in a rare quiet moment at Belgo Noord in Chalk Farm Road
Musseling in successfully on traditional fish’n’chips

Belgo Noord is the perfect marriage of good value and personal service, writes Sara Newman

BELGO has made its name as the place to go for a traditional Belgian meal of mussels and chips.
The steel and glass venue Belgo Noord, the original of the four London restaurants, has graced Chalk Farm Road for the past 10 years.
The whirr of the machine that is the Belgo franchise is not immediately obvious here, thanks to the attitude of the staff and the layout of the restaurant.
The managers are hard-working and the staff are attentive and personable.
Although the canteen décor is modernist, the seating area is varied, which is perfect for lunchtime mothers’ meetings, business engagements or a romantic meal for two.
Reasonably priced for its young professional clientele, a one-kilo pot of mussels is £12.50 with chips, or those with a smaller appetite can pick through half a kilo of meaty shellfish for £5.95.
Chefs give a fine performance, stooped over their steaming vats of mussels or dancing with spitting fryers of hot oil – fun food theatre but also a great way to check standards of hygiene!
My guest was delighted with her pan-fried king prawns cooked in chilli and ginger (£7.25) and recommended the crème caramel dessert.
We both had a half-kilo flavoursome grilled lobster, which was surprisingly easy to remove from the shell.
Another bonus of being part of a huge corporation is that they can make whopping deals with their suppliers, enabling the restaurant to offer meal discounts regularly.
Nothing was too much trouble for the energetic, conscientious duty manager Faton Abrashi, 32, who lives in Maida Vale with his wife and two young children, and who saw to it that we left the place contented.
He said: “When you are the manager you are front of house.
“I must ensure everyone is leaving the building happy to come back again.
“We try our best to avoid anyone leaving the building disappointed. People often say we have a lovely service. As a manager you need to help the staff and work quickly with them no matter how many floor staff you have. As a guest it’s not your problem if we have a staff shortage. That’s a problem for us,” he said.
Soon after arriving in England in 1999, having left his home town in Gjakove, Kosovo, Mr Abrashi landed a job with Belgo as a bar manager and has recently been promoted to duty manager.
“When I came to this country I felt like a stranger,” he said. “Everything I learned, I have learned from here.”
The company’s flexible working hours allow Mr Abrashi to study accountancy at the City of Westminster College.
The “home grown manager” – as he des­cribed himself – also speaks highly of the fact that all the staff are en­titled to free food.
Although Mr Abrashi will eventually move on from the restaurant business he is bound to remember his experience at Belgo fondly, as patrons of the restaurant will remember him.

* Belgo Noord,
72 Chalk Farm Road, NW1. 020 7267 0718

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