Antwerp, capital of the province of Flanders, is the second largest city in Belgium and also the second largest port in Europe, as well as known for centuries as the ‘diamond capital of the world’. taking care of cutting, polishing and trading.
A city of fascinating architecture and historical institutions, complemented by a vibrant nightlife.
Are you ready?
Prepare to be amazed! Our first stop is the spectacular Railway Station built at the beginning of the 20th century and considered among the most beautiful railway stations in the world.
Our itinerary continues towards the historic center, with a visit to the centuries-old fortress Steenplein which houses a visitor center and The Antwerp Story, the perfect introduction to getting to know Antwerp
We continue towards the Plantin-Moretus, a museum of the printing industry and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a true gem that brings back to life the centuries-old history of book printing. Here you will see the oldest printers in the world, tens of thousands of books and a magnificent art collection, including a splendid drawing by Peter Paul Rubens recently acquired by the Flemish government.
I mentioned Rubens who will be our guide and inspiration for our next stop. In fact, we arrived at the Rubenshuis, the house where Rubens lived family joys and sorrows, painted and entertained the great kings of the time ..
Built inspired by the glorious Italian structures, which Rubens loved and knew well. The artist was so in love with Italy that he decided to be called ‘Pietro Paolo’ and thus signed some of his paintings, including the famous portrait of his second wife, the sixteen year old Helena Fourment, famous for her beauty. . From her the Master had 5 children and her fertility is represented by orange blossoms in her hair.
From the monumental entrance, full of Roman-inspired statues, you pass to the house, complete with paintings, furnishings, supplies, numerous fireplaces andto his bed, quite small, I must say …..
The Cathedral of Our Lady is the largest Gothic church in the Netherlands. Inside there are two works by Rubens “The elevation of the cross” and the “Descent from the cross”. The northern tower, 123 meters high, is a real lace look like.
A yummy snack in the center?
Impossible not to taste the national gastronomic pride: ‘les frites’! Crunchy french fries, fresh and peeled in the day, not really cheap, but served in generous portions and stellar quality … They will be served to you submerged in an industrial quantity of sauces of your choice, from traditional mayonnaise to tartare, ketchup and a thousand others unexpected tastes. Where is it? From FRITTURA N ° 1, the most famous ‘fries shop’ in the city.
Another Belgian specialty is shrimp croquettes, renowned for Fish a ‘GoGo, while if you like to sit down for lunch or dinner comfortably swd and served, take a look at the’ casual bistro ‘cuisine of Nage
What about a beer?
Of course, you are in beer’s paradise … Kulminator, chosen as “Best beerpub in the world”, or De Plek with his Aurora & Momento creations. Are you looking for Olympus? Bet on De Koninck where, in an authentic, educational and interactive way, you can experience the rich beer culture and history of the last active brewery in the city.
My favorite beer? I have no doubts: Tripel D’Anvers, fruity, seductive, unique …
Fancing something sweet?
Here are the ‘must’ destinations: Philip’s Biscuits, one of the few truly artisan bakeries that still bake cookies in the traditional way, while at The Chocolat Line, in the prestigious Palace on the Meir, you will find unpredictable chocolates and imaginative pralines. In this chocolaty triumph, the largest Belgian Chocolate Museum in the world could not be missing: Chocolate Nation where you can taste 10 different flavors of chocolate.
Where to eat well
The Butcher’s son
Michelin starred restaurant opposite the Velodome in Boomgaardstraat. You enter through a black gate and then take the stairs between the popular Cheese Chop and the famous butcher’s The Butcher’s Store. At the helm we find chef Bert-Jan Michielsen and sommelier Luc Dickens.
he menu features classics such as pâté en croute, brains and head of veal with tartar sauce, lacquered eel, deluxe maxi vol-au-vent for 2 and a fine selection of cured meat entrecote. The chef also offers seasonal dishes such as a mix of marinated salmon and ricotta and spices or free range Landes chicken with morels and white asparagus. The second part of the restaurant houses a gigantic cellar which offers a well balanced wine list and an excellent selection of excellent craft beers.
I caught up with Bert and Luc Dickens for a nice interview
Good morning Bert, good morning Luc, you have been friends for a long time, right?
Bert: Yes, for years. We met in 2005 in the starred restaurant De Schone van Boskoop. Luc was the maître-sommelier and Bert Jan was the sous chef, then came our The Butcher’s Son, an adventure we are both incredibly excited about “
By the way, how did this name come about?
Luc: From a little accident. Bert’s car had stalled and he was still calling for help from the nearest shop. It was really a butcher’s shop and, since the tow truck would arrive 2 hours later, the butcher suggested that he help him make meatballs. Well, from there a passion was born and Bert regularly returned to help the butcher’s work, in short, he had become a bit like the ‘butcher’s son’!
Ten years of work together and the Michelin Star has arrived. Congratulations ! Are you waiting for the second?
Luc (laughs) Well, one is enough!
The ‘must’ dish that a tourist must taste?
Bert: ‘Secreto 07’ our flagship, with a subtle taste, obtained from ribeye, which we carefully select to obtain a perfect marbling of the fat.The meat is then rubbed with a secret blend of seven herbs and spices. Then a drying process begins which lasts seven weeks. Every day the Secreto 07 is turned upside down so that the taste can penetrate everywhere. During these seven weeks the enzymes destroy muscle tissue and much of the liquid disappears from the meat.This results in exceptionally tender meat with an intense and deep flavor.
An antagonist of Parma ham?
Bert: (smiles) No, no competition, both great cold cuts, although I must admit that Secreto 07 with its very thin cut and its crunchiness is a real winner on a platter of cured meats and excellent as a filling for artisan ravioli and as a traditional croquette often served with a lime mayonnaise and lime zest. Among our fifth quarter specialties, we serve sweetbreads, brains and veal tongue, but also fish such as the lacquered eel and tuna tartare, peas and the very traditional white asparagus au gratin
Bert, your first memory in the kitchen?
Bert: My brother, who absolutely did not want to eat vegetables. My dad and my mom Maria liked some tantrums, so with a funnel they convinced him to swallow boiled vegetables, nothing violent, rather pleasantly … a somewhat drastic method but defenetly effective.
When did your desire to be a cook start?
Bert: When I was a child, my grandmother cooked in a castle, worked for a rather demanding clientele. I admired her very much, I kept repeating “when I grow up I want to open a restaurant too” I remember that even at school, where I wasn’t very good, I always said to the teachers “I don’t have to learn French or English or mathematics , because I’ll be a cook .. “.
If you hadn’t become a chef, what would you be today?
Bert: Something to do with ships, the sea has always attracted me.
An onboard chef?
Bert: (laughs) No, when I cook I like to keep my feet on the ground!
Where to sleep well and …be surprised
I chose Hotel Franq, 4 stars (well deserved) of the Relais & Chateau chain. Very central (the Cathedral is literally a stone’s throw away) this structure knows how to combine the historic charm of a neoclassical building with the most advanced contemporary design
Team professionale, servizio ottimo, camere spaziose e luminose, arredate con gusto e un’ adorabile accoglienza a cominciare dal ‘ welcome’ trovato in camera: fiori, champagne e macharons alla menta.
Enjoy a cocktail at the bar or on the intimate terrace before savoring a gourmet dinner in the elegant restaurant, where … to my surprise and delight, I discovered that at the helm of the kitchen there was a star chef whom I have always admiredthe moves: Tim Meuleneire, a native of Easter Belgium , for twenty years in Antwerp.I didn’t miss the opportunity to meet him for a nice interview.
Bonjour Tim, ritual question: where do you love to spend a weekend off?When I have time, I like to take my family up and down France, my wife Natalie and my twins we call it the ‘Tour de France’ …
I imagine you will also taste ‘colleagues’ dishes. What is your reaction if you like the dish?
Admiration and curiosity: I try to identify the techniques of how it was made.
Grandma Georgette and the perfumes that came from her kitchen … I remember that when I visited her I enjoyed sniffing out the door to try to understand what she had cooked. I think that was my first encounter with the art of cooking or at least with the scents of cooking.
And the first ‘professional’ spark?
When I was six when I went with my parents to a restaurant close to home. I was fascinated by the dishes and how they were prepared, how they were served, the atmosphere of the dining room and the buzz that came from the kitchen … One day I said to my dad “Dad. I want to be a cook”
“The cook? Are you crazy?” Well, he was hoping for a more consolidated profession, like a bank manager … (laughs) by the way in the bank, I really worked, but it wasn’t for me …) Seeing my insistence, dad asked the owner if I could have worked over the weekend and learned and it all started from there …,
Your strength or your flaw?
I would say something that comibines the two things …as a matter of fact I am a rather reserved type and usually I don’t go to the client’s table to ask for his opinion or if everything goes well, not because I’m not sure about my kitchen or because a criticism can be constructive, but because it seems to me a bit of invading the customer’s privacy. If he wants to compliment or criticize I am sure he will find the moment
Is there a dish you prefer to eat if cooked by another chef?
Les ormeaux! The abalones! Those rather expensive seafood are now becoming popular in starred kitchens. I have tried it several times but I wasn’t happy abot the result. Luckily I discovered the restaurant Le Coquillage by Olivier Roellinger, a truly exceptional chef who cooks them to perfection!
Franco-Belgian, seasonal, rather classic, reinvented. There is no lack of influences from Japanese cuisine, from Southern France, where I studied and worked, and from the traditionality of certain Belgian dishes.
Like the typical (and fabulous) brown shrimp, ‘les crevettes grises’?
(smiles) But of course, my fish supplier brought them to me this morning, .. They are very fresh and I put them on the menu that you will taste tonight! I cooked them in sea water, but pay attention to how they should be eaten … absolutely with your hands and you have to open them yourself … it is a bit complicated but you will see that you will succeed.
And there is no shortage of curiosities such as ginger ice cream and an exotic touch, the Bora Bora dessert, with passion fruit and then … surprise among surprises...
here are the Chef’s petit fours served on a ‘tiroir’ of a former National Bank of Belgium , whose vault has become the wine cellar, undoubtedly the only one in the world.
Would you like to ‘give’ a recipe to our readers?
With pleasure! I chose a dish with a Belgian excellence: the traditional white asparagus, now in full season.
Halibut cooked with Kalamata olives, white asparagus with Ramson and creamy butter sauce with green cumin.
4 halibut fillets
350 g of kalamata olives
100 gr of grape seed oil
8 white asparagus type AAA
For the wild garlic sauce
150 gr of wild garlic leaves without stem
10 gr of horseradish
100 gr of apple juice
150 grams of ice water
1 gr of xanthan gum
100 gr canola oil
100 gr of lemon oil
6 gr of salt
For the creamy green cumin butter sauce
50 ml of creamy butter vinegar
50 ml of asparagus broth (reduction)
50 ml of fish glaze
50 ml of white wine
250 gr of butter
75 ml of cream
1 spoon of green cumin
Remove the stone from the olives and dry the flesh of the olives for 48 hours at 60 degrees. Blend the dried olives with the grape seed oil to obtain an olive paste with very intense flavors. Cover the halibut fillets with the olive paste using a kitchen brush.
Add a little fleur de sel and mill pepper on the fish and cook them the first time for 3 minutes at 175 degrees in the oven. Before serving, bake for another 2 minutes.
Peel the asparagus and boil them in a pan “a blanc”. Before serving, heat them in a good butter and season with fleur de sel and voastaperiferie pepper.
Combine the sorrel, horseradish, apple juice and ice water in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Add the xanthan gum and mix until the sauce has thickened.
Continue to blend and slowly add the canola oil and lemon oil. Strain the sauce and add the salt. Add the shallot with vinegar, white wine, asparagus reduction and fish glaze to a saucepan and reduce until 50 ml remain. Add the cream and green cumin and cook until creamy, gradually add small pieces of butter, always beating (monter au beurre).
Strain the sauce and add the salt for seasoning.