Art Design & Seven Restaurants To Enjoy Antwerp
17 March, 2017
A far cry from the great business centre that is Brussels, or the slightly mock tinge we picked up in picturesque Bruges, Antwerp is a modern, cosmopolitan city with an upbeat cultural scene, particularly in the fields of fashion, art and design. It is well worth a trip on its own although, if you’re pressed for time and based in Brussels, you should devote at least a whole day trip to the city.
Their culinary offerings are endless, commensurate with a city brimming with affluence. Who said Belgium cooking is uninteresting? In Antwerp, the fantastic local cuisine rubs shoulders with a host of restaurants featuring international cuisine.
Weather permitting, a good option is to have a pizza on the terrace at Heavenly Pizza with its contemporary pitch. There we found original, bold creations and views of the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) building, a museum that sets out to explore Belgium’s relationship to the rest of the world where we were pleasantly surprised by the interesting exhibitions.
While lunch saw us sharing a pizza and an organically sourced salad at Heavenly Pizza, night time is ideal for booking a table at the restaurant, Ras, literally suspended over a river which is unquestionably the centrepiece of life in Antwerp. This sophisticated locale, where cocktails vie for pride of place with local cuisine with a contemporary twist, is a magnet for the city’s beautiful people. Their food is noteworthy, characterised by a conspicuous offering of fresh fish and vegetables.
The Món restaurant is located in the premises of a little old house with many of its original fittings intact. A sophisticated yet cosy venue, ideal for group dinners, featuring meats that are all the rage in Antwerp thanks to their use of the Josper oven, which is Catalan in origin. Hence the name, Món, meaning “world” in Catalan.
LocalStore is the perfect place for brunch. On Sundays, the light-filled, glass-fronted building draws families with children, as well as groups of friends, eager to start the day with a good shot of organic cuisine in the form of salads, soups, cheeses, cured meats, delicious breads and other locally-sourced organic products. Apart from being an economical, casual-looking restaurant, the store also sells delicatessen and you can end the day window shopping in the surrounding area.
Coworking venues have a life of their own in Antwerp and numerous freelance professionals engaged in culture – particularly art, fashion and design – have opted to set up in the city on account of the wealth of coworking options available. While open to the public, CoffeeLabs is actually a bustling restaurant based in a coworking venue where you can order multi-coloured salads, toast, homemade cakes, juices and other casual offerings to eat at any time of day. “Of day” is the operative word, as it is closed at night.
One of our favourite spots in Antwerp is the unusual Bar Paniek, located in an industrial warehouse with beautiful views over the river. Their terrace is always crowded, even when temperatures makes it an awkward place to be. It is peopled by a multifarious crowd, from families with children (the neighbouring children’s park is a big draw) to young Erasmus students having their first drink of the night, to artists, and both local and outside professionals. Clearly, they come here because of its charm, the perfect balance between a hangout which is rundown and yet cool, with its reasonable prices and intense cultural activity.
Graanmarkt 13 is a venue which accurately reflects the spirit of Antwerp, with art, design, interior design and cuisine concentrated within a single building. This XXL concept store (a type of store which is widespread in the city) sells clothing, furniture and accessories, with a ground-floor restaurant headed by prestigious chef Seppe Nobels, who commits to seasonal cuisine based on local recipes and a healthy vocation. This refined, elegant yet essentially casual venue is ideal for dining after going on a shopping spree – beware, the prices are prohibitive.
The Chocolate Line
You can’t sit down to a meal but, equally, you can’t visit Antwerp without dropping in on The Chocolate Line, a stunning place where we tasted the most delicious chocolates we can recall. It is located in the Paleis op de Meir, a pretty building near the Rubens House – who, it turns out, was quite a character, and his house is a must-see. We splashed out like there was no tomorrow in this shop, which sells just chocolates, and discovered products which would change our lives forever. In this case it was chocolate for sniffing.
Book your Vueling to Brussels, a mere half-an-hour’s train ride from Antwerp, and get ready to discover the culinary facet of this beautiful city.
Text and photos by Laura Conde of Gastronomistas.com
17 March, 2017