We’re well aware that Michelin starred dining isn’t for everyone, or for every occasion. Sometimes you need a good, affordable meal, with plenty of options to satisfy the whole family. If you have a hungry family to feed, on a budget, the Colmar chain of restaurants, in Belgium, may be just the thing you’re looking for.
We visited the Colmar Restaurant in Groot-Bijgaarden on a Thursday evening. It was bustling with families of all descriptions: young parents with small children, parents with teenagers, and extended families, including the grandparents too.
The first thing we noticed, as we headed to our table, was the giant salad bar. This was more than just some sad looking iceberg lettuce and overcooked pasta salad. The Colmar starter bar truly has something for everyone: couscous, pasta, fresh veggies and fruit, smoked salmon, BBQ-style chicken, cheeses, pates, and piping hot soups.
Once seated, we familiarized ourselves with the menu. The main dishes run the gamut from burgers to steak, and include lighter options like a vegetarian ‘crumble’ and Atlantic salmon. There are a few unexpected additions as well, like Iberico chorizo and filet of kangaroo.
Once you choose your main dish, you decide on a formula: express (just the main dish, with unlimited drinks), confiance (main dish, drinks, and either the giant starter bar or the dessert bar) or gourmand (includes your main, drinks, starter bar and dessert bar).
Because I’m not much of a sweets person, I chose a steak and the confiance menu. Andrew went all the way and chose the kangaroo gourmand menu.
We filled our plates from the starter bar and then went to check the drinks situation. Each of the menus includes unlimited soft drinks, red or white wine, and beer, from a self-serve dispenser behind the starter bar.
With the wide selection on the starter bar, it would be easy to have an affordable lunch on starters alone. It is possible to have the starter bar with just fries for 14.95 or with fries and dessert for 19.95.
When we finished with our starters, the mains arrived. The portions were ample and we were offered more fries or croquettes if we wanted them (we had plenty in the first go.) The meal was tasty, although we both found our steaks slightly over-cooked. (This could just be because they could tell we were North American and assumed we didn’t really mean medium-rare, when we asked for it.)
By the end of the main course, I was stuffed, but Andrew still had the dessert bar to go. This would definitely be a hit with kids. There is soft serve ice-cream with a variety of toppings and a chocolate fountain with fruit for dipping, in addition to several other cakes and sweet treats.
Our overall impressions – Colmar is a nice, affordable, family restaurant with lots of variety for picky eaters. This is not fancy food and we wouldn’t suggest it for a romantic date, but if you have kids (or elderly folks) to feed and entertain, this would be a good option. We also think it would be a good, quick alternative to fast-food, for lunch. You could easily fill-up on the healthy starter bar, without even needing a main course.
Colmar has three restaurants near Brussels (including the Groot Bijgaarden location we tried), three in Antwerp, two in Ghent, and one in Kortrijk.
For more great restaurants in Belgium and beyond, check out our Restaurant Review page.
We’d like to thank Colmar Restaurants for inviting us to try their Groot-Bijgaarden location and allowing us to write our honest impressions, as always.