The people of Antwerp are proud of their city. They’re proud of their diamond trade, art scene and fashion industry. And they’re especially proud of their rich and diverse food culture. The city’s port – one of the biggest in Europe –ensures their seafood cuisine is varied and exciting, and Antwerp’s emergence as a creative and business hub has created a need to keep up with trends in fine dining, as well as a desire to create a few new ones of its own. We asked five Antwerpenaars to recommend their favourite places to eat and drink in the city.
Recommended by Els Debremaeker
“As a sinologist and a chef, I have a weak spot for Asian food, especially street food. The smells always take me back in time. I lived in China for several years and travelled through Asia extensively, so when this restaurant opened in Antwerp, I had to try it. It’s a true meeting of East and West, where the owners, Hoa and Huibrecht, offer a tranquil and warm reception.
The beautiful pottery dishes in which the food is served (as well as the woodwork in the restaurant) were handcrafted by Huibrecht. Hoa’s parents arrived here by boat from war-torn Vietnam and today she shares her passion for authentic Vietnamese street food, with all its colours, textures and tastes, with the people of Antwerp.”
Sint-Jorispoort 22, www.bunantwerp.be
Els Debremaeker is a chef and food writer. After travelling in Asia, she moved back to Belgium and cooks her way around the world from her own kitchen
Grand Café De Rooden Hoed
Recommended by Erik Verdonck
“It’s always hard to pick out one particular place in your home town. Do you go for the best meal, the atmosphere, the setting, the choice of beers or the live music? Nostalgia could have a hand in this, but few places are still the way they were 30 or more years ago.
Bearing all this in mind, I would go for Grand Café De Rooden Hoed. Why? Because of the welcoming staff, the fine meals, the nice beers and the unique setting. The former mussel restaurant has been transformed into a brasserie. Pick a table with a view of the cathedral, at the terrace, on the first floor, in the oyster bar or in the historic cellars. Wherever you sit, you’re sure to feel welcome.
Tip: Order their seafood menu, and ask owner Cas to pour you a cocktail, prepare a sabayon with Liefmans Kriek Brut at your table or just serve a beer. Watch and enjoy.”
Oude Koornmarkt 25, www.deroodenhoed.be
Erik Verdonck is a story teller going his way through the wonderful worlds of beer, food and tourism. Be his judge or advocate at www.beertourism.com
Recommended by Luc De Raedemaeker
“Goossens is a well-known artisanal bakery in the city centre. You won’t have much trouble finding the place, because there’s always a long queue of people waiting outside. After tasting the bread, you’ll understand why.
You could go for the sucre or raisin bread, but the masterpiece for beer lovers is a Keuninckske, produced with the local beer, De Koninck. As soon as you put this bread to your lips, you notice its incredible aroma; it smells like all the warm, yeasty maltiness you get hit with when you walk into a brewery.
When you take a bite, your mouth fills with the perfect combination of dense, chewy, crusty and moist textures. It delivers the wonderful flavours you love in a great beer: caramel, malt and yeast, except this is like a beer you can chew.”
Korte Gasthuisstraat 31
Luc De Raedemaeker is director of the Brussels Beer Challenge and editor-in-chief of Bier Grand Cru and the Beer Link (China). He’s also DoemensDiplom-Biersommelierand owner and founder of Beermatters.
Recommended by Ben Vinken
“Piet Vannieuwenhuyse has just received the Cornet Beer & Food Pairing award, a yearly award given by Bierpassiemagazine. Piet is the owner of Dock’s Café, a brasserie that’s been on the Antwerp culinary map since the early 90s. Hegets a lot of foreign guests, and they’ve played an important role in the wide range of 39 Belgian speciality beers he offers.
He has several beers on tap, thanks to the innovative tapmaster from Palm Craft Brewers, which allows him to keep the draught beers fresh for three weeks. The rest of the beers are in large bottles, and he serves them on ice buckets and in small wine glasses, the way the beer sommeliers advise. He serves beers as an aperitif, and also pairs them with his dishes. Some examples are oysters with Dame Jeanne Brut, a local beer, Bresse chicken with Palm, red meat with Cornet, desserts with Rodenbach Caractère Rouge. You can also ask for your own pairings: choose a dish and pair it with your favourite beer. Piet will advise.”
The design of the Art Deco-style brasserie is by Antoine Pinto, timeless and stunning. It’s definitely a place to be for beer and food aficionados.
Jordaenskaai 7, www.docks.be
Ben Vinken is a beer sommelier, journalist, publisher and specialist in beer brand development. Since 1992 he has worked as a journalist and publisher on titles such as Michael Jackson’s ‘Great Beers of Belgium’ and the Bierpassie/Bièrepassion Magazine. Every June he organises the Beer Passion Weekend in Antwerp www.bierpassieweekend.be.
Recommended by Iris Debremaeker
“Two years ago, brother and sister Frederik and Ans converted an old pub into a no-nonsense corner cafe.It’s next to a lovely park with a playground for children: a perfect family place. The menu displays a love for everything authentic: the vegetables they use in their quiches and salads come from a local farm and the lemonades and beers are organic. It’s also a great place for breakfast on Sundays, with a buffet of croissants and homemade bread, yoghurt, granola and pancakes. And on sunny days the terrace is a hotspot for young families.”
Markgravelei 90, www.cafekamiel.be
Iris Debremaeker loves food, travel, books and beer and writes about it on her blog