It looks like Antwerp could finally secure its spot on the radar of foodie travellers, thanks to its place as the backdrop for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards Ceremony, held today (October 5).
Really though, that should have happened long ago; for years now the city has been cultivating a series of spectacular restaurants, many with seasonal menus and local ingredients at the forefront.
The reason why that hasn’t happened could easily be due to the city’s humble attitude. Seppe Nobels, chef-owner of the popular restaurant, concept store and aparthotel Graanmarkt 13, said: “We should be a little more chauvinistic, like the French people, you know. They are extremely proud, the French people. We have extremely beautiful produce, and I think we have the right people to serve it. It is the right moment to show the world what we have in Antwerp and Flanders.”
I couldn’t agree more. On a whirlwind trip through the city, I was constantly surprised and impressed by the quality of the dishes and the thought behind each one. The fact it’s only a few hours away by Eurostar is an added boon. Whisper it, but Paris has some competition.
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It makes sense when you learn that the chef-owner of Graanmarkt 13, Seppe Nobels, struggled as a child to decide between becoming a farmer and a chef. Today his swish modern restaurant, which has been open for more than a decade, strikes the balance between the two; so much so that every Sunday, he lets the farmer tell him what he has in stock before deciding the menu. This is completely the other way around to how he learnt in school. “It’s nature that decides the menu,” he says. They also have their own beehives and use more than 100 herbs daily in the kitchen from their own garden.
Naturally, vegetables are a highlight, from the decadent brussels sprouts done in beurre noisette with mustard leaf and old Bruges cheese to the earthy tempura cauliflower doused in black olives and aioli. But this is by no means a vegetarian restaurant, and if the Secreto 07 Luc de Lact is on the menu, you won’t want to miss out. This dried beef is treated with seven herbs for no less than seven weeks and has the most amazing salty, umami flavour, reminiscent of Wagyu.