|Chez Bob’s colourful interior. Photo credit: chezbob.biz|
With Hampstead’s many gastro pubs just up the road, Belsize Park could easily be overlooked for interesting dining options. Especially as most of the restaurants lining this area of Haverstock Hill are your standard chains. But Chez Bob offers something different.
A restaurant called Chez Bob, and particularly a restaurant called Chez Bob in upmarket Belsize Park, is in danger of sounding – and being – pretentious. But in practice, the restaurant is a lot more ‘Bob’ than ‘Chez’. The floor is lined with brightly patterned tiles, the walls with cheerful, colourful wallpaper. Seemingly always busy, the restaurant’s soundtrack is the happy hum of others’ conversations. There’s also an outside dining area which is lovely in summer, and just far back enough from the road that you can ignore the passing traffic. All in all, Chez Bob is bright, friendly and fun and not at all show-offy. Service too is always great – the waiters don’t rush you, are friendly and seem happy to provide recommendations.
The restaurant’s name, presumably, comes from the its premise of ‘French bistro meets steak house’ (Chez being French, Bob being American-sounding – geddit?). In practice, I’d say it’s probably more upmarket British pub food, sometimes with a bit of a twist. But more important than what type of food it is exactly, is that there’s a lot of choice that means everyone will find something that suits both their tastes and budget: mains range from £6.95 – £19.95, with most being around £10 – £13.
Having been a bit of a regular at Chez Bob’s, I have come to particularly love the starter of Bob’s Nachos, which always come piled high and smothered in toppings. £6.50 might sound steep for a starter, but the huge portion can happily feed 3-4 hungry people, if not more.
Choosing a main is more difficult. You can choose from a range of burgers and sandwiches, comfort foods including as mac ‘n’ cheese (£6.95), and more full-on meaty options, such as steaks and ribs. I’m a huge fan of the lamb steak with sweet potato chips (£13.95). The steak is juicy, full of flavour, and always cooked perfectly (I go for medium-rare), and the sweet potato chips compliment it really well. My vegetarian sister particularly enjoys the goats cheese and red pepper burger (£8.95). Bob’s Beef Burger (£9.95, add £1.30 if you want cheese or bacon) always seems to go down well with everyone who tries it. Presentation of the food is also nice, with many mains served on thick wooden boards rather than plates.
If you’re feeling particularly hungry and aren’t on a budget, I recommend the ribs (£19.95). It’s hard to convey quite how large they are, but if I say that there’s a reason they don’t come with a side as standard you might start to get an idea. This is somewhere where quantity isn’t prided over quality, though, and my Dad’s always found them really tasty (I’ve never been brave enough to try them!).
|The huge Chez Bob ribs. Photo credit: chezbob.biz|
And it’s always worth saving room for dessert. I’m usually a chocolate girl when it comes to pudding – and I can’t deny that the chocolate brownie is good. But Chez Bob’s apple, raspberry and pecan crumble is absolutely stunning. I can’t say more than that it’s just perfect. You’ll just have to try it! As with the mains, though, dessert portions are pretty generous and most people would probably be more than satisfied with sharing one.
Although the list of wine and beer isn’t huge, it’s more than adequate. That said, the beers all hail from the other side of the Atlantic, which may be a problem for some. I’m also not sure what I think of the menu designating the wine as ‘cheap’, ‘decent’, ‘good’, ‘excellent’ and ‘Bob’s pick’: cute and quirky, or just embarassing if you order the cheap option? (Perhaps that’s the point.) There’s also a cocktail menu; ranging from £6.50 – £6.95, the cocktails aren’t cheap, but there is a half price Happy Hour from 5-7 on weekdays making them a more affordable choice. The Frozen Passion Fruit Daiquiri sounds particularly interesting.*
There’s also a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks. As well as the standard fizzy brands, you can also choose from juice, ginger beer, root beer, fresh lemonade (which is delicious), iced tea, smoothies and milkshakes (also delicious).
|Chez Bob’s Crumble of Dreams (Picture Credit: chezbob.biz)|
If I had one criticism, it’s that the main restaurant can get a little loud at times, meaning you sometimes have to shout accross the table. The outside always feels a little more relaxed but, this being England, eating alfresco isn’t always (or often) an option. As a result, the lively atmosphere makes this a venue more suited to dining with family and friends than a partner.
The only other ‘problem’ is that the restaurant can get very busy, so it’s always worth booking a table if you’re coming for dinner or a weekend lunch/brunch.
With some much choice and such great food, it’s hard to do Chez Bob particularly cheaply out of Happy Hour – though it is possible if you’re careful. Some of the dishes do seem a bit expensive – if you’d forgotten that you were in Belsize Park, paying £12.50 for fish & chips or £9.95 for a plain burger is a quick reminder. However whenever we’ve visited the food has always been excellent and the portion sizes more than generous; on my many visits, I’ve not once been disappointed. This, combined with the friendly service and fun atmosphere, make Chez Bob well worth a visit.
Chez Bob’s weekday 5-7 Happy Hour also extends to the food; during this time, you can get penne arrabietta, steak or Bob’s Burger with a glass of house wine, Red Stripe beer or soft drink for just £8.95.