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Antwerp Gourmand

Belgium's port city features culinary delights like goose liver with gingerbread, "latte de Pooh" and the world's best aged ales. Here are our correspondent's picks.

Zuiderterras

Antwerp's Zuiderterras restaurant is an excellent place for lunch. Don't miss the waterzooi." (Photo by ImageExchange)

Sustenance should be no problem for famished fashionistas prowling the streets of Antwerp. From the medieval heart clustered around the cathedral, to the bar-and-boutique-lined streets of the Zuid neighborhood and the tony theater district, Belgium's second city has built a reputation for fine restaurants and cool cafes that matches its renown as a shopping Valhalla. 

As a great seaport, Antwerp has long been open to exotic influences. It's home to Belgium’s oldest Chinese restaurant, founded to serve east Asian sailors in the 1920s and still a feature in the city's red light district; Kosher food abounds in the diamond trading district; and the city can boast some of the best Mediterranean cooking north of the Alps. Resolutely local products include cured beef known as filet d'Anvers; de Koninck brown beer; and Elixir d'Anvers, a golden herb liqueur. (Antwerp is "Anvers" in French.)

Many of the city's top tables combine classical French cuisine with typically Belgian ingredients — like North Sea fish or game from the Ardennes forests — to create modern cooking rooted in tradition. Here's a guide to grazing that should ensure you don't drop while you shop.

Morning Coffee: Caffenation

Hopland is one of Antwerp’s most intriguing streets, running from downtown toward the diamond district. There are stores selling designer furniture, luxury lingerie and organically produced ales. Amongst them is Caffenation, a shabby-chic java joint that has become the place to be seen. Beneath a portrait of Cher as Che, trendy young chaps read the latest edition of Wallpaper over their Ramirez organic espresso, and girls in black turtlenecks sip a latte de Pooh (with added honey). Joao Gilberto plays in the background. Kitsch 70s lamps hang from a baroque ceiling.

There’s a large communal table and armchairs tucked away in cozy corners. Drinks include a coffee called a Mokkamak with ginger and whipped milk; homemade iced tea; and (this is Belgium after all) a selection of hot chocolates such as the White Lotus with white chocolate, whipped cream and crumbled speculoos cookies.

Hopland, 46
2000 Antwerp
0466 323015
No website
It’s right in the center of the city, a short walk from the central station or the Meir shopping street. Nearest tram stop: pre-metro Opera
Reservations Required? No, but it gets crowded
Price for an espresso: $2.50
Ambiance: Moderately noisy
Seating: Indoor and garden out back
Dress: Casual


Lunch: Zuiderterras

Architect Bob van Reeth’s black and white pavilion perched on the bank of the River Schelde has been an Antwerp landmark since in the 1990s. A multi-level cube tacked on to a cylindrical tower, the Zuiderterras recalls the Art Deco lines of great ocean liners. From the high glass windows, diners can watch boats and barges heading up and down the river or gaze out over the Antwerp skyline. There’s even a great river view from the restroom portholes.

The food is modern Belgian with the accent on fresh, local produce. Starters include goose liver with gingerbread and Belgian endive jam, and homemade shrimp croquettes. For mains, there’s rabbit casseroled in De Koninck beer served with parsnip and potato mash or “waterzooi” a creamy fish stew of eel, zander, bass and cod. Among the desserts, apple crumble with white-cheese ice-cream stands out. If you want a lighter lunch there are great salads, perfect for a summer’s day on the expansive riverside terrace.

Getting There
Ernest Van Dijckkaai, 37
2000 Antwerp
03 2341275
www.zuiderterras.be
On the river bank, a two-minute walk from the Groenplaats pre-metro station in the heart of the city.
Reservations Required? It will help, particularly when the weather’s good.
Lunch for two: $100
Ambiance: Moderately noisy
Seating: Indoor and riverside terrace
Dress: Casual


Afternoon tea: Guenther Watte Chocolate Cafe

Take a table at the back and you can watch the exquisite handmade chocolates and pastries being concocted behind the kitchen’s glass wall. After 15 years working in his parent’s patisserie, Watte opened his chocolate cafe in Steenhowersvest alongside Louis, the corner boutique which launched the career of the Antwerp Six designers in the 1980s, and Francis, Antwerp’s best-known second-hand fashion store.

Out front there’s a vast display of shiny, jewel-like chocs, filled with almond and banana or raspberry and saffron. Order a selection with whichever of their gourmet coffees, teas or hot chocolates strikes your fancy. Favorites include a white chocolate drink which you make yourself with a jug of warm milk and a mug of tiny chocolate buttons, or the layered glass mug of white, milk and dark chocolate.

Steenhouwersvest, 30
2000 Antwerp
03 295 58 94
In the heart of the trendy shopping district, walk 200 meters down Nationaalstraat from the Groenplaats pre-metro station.
Reservations Required? No
Hot Chocolate and a raspberry pastry: $12
Ambiance: Quiet
Seating: Indoor
Dress: Casual


Beer: Kulminator

Tucked away on a side street near Antwerp’s iconic 1960s police headquarters, this crowded, cluttered little bar is a place of pilgrimage for serious beer drinkers from around the globe. Many rate it as the world’s best spot for quaffing ale. Dirk and Leen, the white-haired married couple who run the place, have been serving suds here since the 1970s. They have over 700 bottled beers, plus an ever-changing of selection on tap that include hard-to-find Belgian tipples like a 10-year-old Kasteel Cuvee or the tangy Avec Les Bons Voeux.

In a country of great beer bars, Kulminator is unique for its range of aged ales. Bottles of monastery-made Trappist brews like Chimay and Rochefort are laid down in the cellar and served like vintage wine to an accompaniment of classical music. Due to its dedication to rarer brews, this is one of the few pubs in town where you won’t find Antwerp’s favorite draft ale, De Koninck — try Den Engel or ‘t Oud Arsenaal instead.

Vleminckveld 32
2000 Antwerp
03 2324538
No website
Close to the Police HQ on Oudaan, a 10-minute walk from Groenplaats.
Reservations Required? No
Glass of speciality beer: from $4
Ambiance: Moderately noisy
Seating: Indoor
Dress: Casual


Dinner: Bicyclette

Since opening in August 2010, this “bistro de luxe” has emerged as one of the city’s hottest tables. Owner Vinko Pepa named his latest venture in tribute to the national obsession with cycling and there’s a photo of Tour de France great Eddy Merckx beside the bar. Downstairs there’s more of a bistro feel, while the second-floor salons have a more elegant style with a huge marble fireplace, cool white furniture and a couple of vintage European movie posters.

The food is classic Franco-Belgian, produced by chef Geert Weyn, who trained with Gordon Ramsay and worked in the Michelin-starred Chalet de la Foret in Brussels. A typical meal could start with kalfskop (tender veal’s cheek in jelly) with pickled vegetables; followed by slow-cooked shoulder of baby lamb served with spinach, Belgian endive and roast potatoes, or grilled Correze veal slices with winter roots; to finish a warm sabayon made with kriek, Brussels' unique sour-cherry infused beer.

Mechelsesteenweg, 76
2018 Antwerp
03 2577707
No website
From downtown, head south on tram line 7 and get out at Van Bree, a two-minute walk.
Reservations Required? You’ll be lucky to get a table Friday and Saturday without one.
Dinner for two with wine: $150
Ambiance: Quiet
Seating: Indoor
Dress: Casual
 

http://www.globalpost.com/passport/travel/101208/antwerp-gourmand