The Belgian Arms has over 200 years of experience – it’s certainly a trustworthy establishment for good food and drink. Nestled neatly in Holyport, Maidenhead in the picturesque county of Berkshire, this gastropub strips back dining with simple, excellent and unfussy fare.
The brain behind the food is head chef Graham Kirk, who has only been at The Belgian Arms for 18 months. This hasn’t stopped him grabbing the bull by the horns and taking The Belgian Arms from strength to strength with its modern British menu.
Graham started his career just around the corner in foodie hotspot Bray, which as a town has more Michelin stars than you can shake a stick at. He worked at The Hinds Head, the gastropub run by Heston Blumenthal, a literal stone’s throw away from The Fat Duck. Graham cites the master of molecular cooking as his biggest influence. It was while he worked in Bray that he learnt the value of food and what it means to be a chef.
“The biggest turning point in my career was working for Heston Blumenthal, learning not only what to do but why you do it.”
Graham moved on to work at The Royal Oak on Paley Street, Maidenhead. It was whilst working here that he achieved his biggest career highlight to date – he was working as sous chef when they were awarded a Michelin star in 2010. Here he worked with restaurateur Nick Parkinson (son of Sir Michael Parkinson), who eventually took over The Belgian Arms.
After working at The Royal Oak for several years, Graham moved to Yorkshire where he spent five years building a name for himself. He returned to Berkshire and re-joined Nick Parkinson at his new home of The Belgian Arms, and he’s been head chef ever since.
The Belgian Arms runs like a well-oiled cog and Graham believes this is one of the keys to a successful restaurant. His ethos is all about high standards and using the best quality produce combined with a trusted and experienced front-of-house team, who ensure that the restaurant runs as smoothly as possible. He knows it takes more than just fantastic food to keep a place going.
What keeps his passion alive is the adrenaline rush of service and watching the fruits of his labour as people dine in delight. Looking back at his successful career Graham reflects that to be a top chef,
“You need to be conscientious and have unshakeable standards. Common sense helps too, but the most important part is a passion for food.”
This wisteria-fronted pub in its stunning village surroundings offers some of the finest grub in a highly competitive area. Graham Kirk is keeping the flame alive and the competition hot with fantastic food that boasts just the right amount of refinement and comfort one expects from the perfect country pub.