Molly’s – Antwerp’s oldest Irish pub

AudreyAudrey Molewska runs Molly’s Irish Pub on the Jezuitenrui. Nessascityblog got to ask her a few questions and the answers revealed not just some facts about a local business – but a story with a big heart.

 

Hi Audrey! Can you start by telling us about Molly’s -where and what sort of pub it is?

Molly’s (Jezuietenrui 4) is currently Antwerp’s oldest Irish Pub. A little off the main streets of Antwerp, we’re very much a hidden gem. We’re not so much a tourist bar; mainly more for the expats (although EVERYONE is welcome at Molly’s!).


interiorThe greatest thing about Mollys, in my opinion, is the sense of family: for a lot of us this is our “home away from home”, and the friends we make here are our family. Then there’s the regulars – those countless number of wonderful people-  friends- who have frequented this pub, some for more than twenty years. We’d never last without them. Our prices are fair, the Guinness is great, we showcase proper trad music, plus there’s more sport to watch than you can shake a stick at! Whoever crosses our door gets a warm Irish welcome that will keep them coming back for more. The staff care, the customers care….we’re family …Dysfunctional sometimes, but what family isn’t?!

 What about you? Where are you from and what’s your work background?

I’m from Swords Co. Dublin, Ireland and I moved here in 2012. It was a classic case of “Woman In Love Follows ‘Love of Life’” and sets up home here. I worked in a number of well known Irish bars  (bringing twelve years experience with me from home) but I never found the right fit for me. Staff and management in the larger bars never seemed to care about the customer, being more about the turnover. Something as simple as not knowing a regular customer’s name is unacceptable to me. I decided I needed to have my own place in order to stop working for people I couldn’t respect, and be able to really start giving people what they wanted…a PROPER IRISH PUB. I won’t claim to be the only one these days, and I’ll give a shout out to others operating with the same ethos: The Highlander, The Northerner, An Sibhin, and The Corner House. 

 

What do you like about living and working in Antwerp? 

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Jezuietenrui, where you will find Molly’s

I LOVE living in Antwerp! My first six years were spent living in Limburg, and then Kasterlee (both beautiful places) but when I finally moved to Antwerp, it was the missing link! Finally, I had the support I lacked before, the city life that revived me, the acceptance and help I never properly received (in my busy life I’ve never fully mastered the language despite my attempts!). It’s never easy, but it’s easier than before!

I love how cosmopolitan Antwerp is. The people are so helpful and friendly.  In these times I see us all, as small local businesses, trying to  band together, regroup, and try to support one another!  Perhaps the “family element” of Molly’s is evident in a lot of places in Antwerp!

How did Molly’s survive the shutdown, and how is re-opening going?

With difficulty like many. Finances were a constant juggle, alongside supporting a family. We missed our customers and our family. We stayed in constant touch with regulars and friends to check on their health and to see if they needed help.

familybar
Near re-opening time, we put out an S.O.S to our lovely regulars to see who could provide some skills and help to make a “NEW MOLLYS” for our customers….the response was overwhelming!

We now have a whole new look; it’s spotlessly clean with a new-look terrace, and we plan to keep making more changes as the months go on.

We’re all hoping (touch wood!) that there will be no second wave – all being well, what are your future plans for Molly’s? 

 

As stated, more renovations and possibly an extension in the future to provide our customers with an authentic Irish Kitchen. This is “phase 1” as we call it….hopefully there’s more to come!! And to all who helped: you know who you are – Molly’s would be lost without you!

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Find Molly’s on Facebook
Email: mollysirishpubantwerp@gmail.com

 

 

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Special post: The Yellow Window

The Yellow Window Coffeehouse can be found in the old part of the city. Like all local catering businesses it has been much affected by the Corona Virus regulations and lockdown. Currently offering take-away, The Yellow Window should also be on your list of places to pick up a great coffee as restrictions ease as the coffee and the cookies are delicious.

Meet Dominic, who runs The Yellow Window.

Hi Dominic! Can you start by telling us about The Yellow Window-where and what it is?

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Dominic at The Yellow Window

The Yellow Window has been open since November of last year, located at Vlasmarkt 8, 2000. The Vlasmarkt is just off the busy shopping street Hoogstraat, where there is a range of international bars and restaurants.

We serve  breakfast and lunch dishes accompanied by high quality coffee which is supplied by a local micro-roasting company: Cross Roast. We have three aims: tasty food, great coffee and impeccable service (with a smile). One thing I learned over the past ten years of working in catering is that the customer always appreciates a friendly attentive waiter or bartender, and it’s something I personally appreciate when I’m out for dinner or drinks. 

What about you? Where are you from and what’s your work background?

I grew up in the midlands of Ireland (lots of green fields and cows) from the age of ten, although I’m originally from the UK. Ireland is home for me and I love it dearly. I always knew I wasn’t going to stay in Ireland after school, as I had that desire to travel and see the world. After school, I returned to London to work for two years in bars. I loved living back in London but It wasn’t going to be long term. I then went onto Spain to work two seasons in bars, nightclubs and restaurants (with way too much partying!). I then returned to Ireland for one year, working in a hotel.

I moved over from Ireland in 2015 and have been living in Antwerp for the past five years. Originally I intended to stay for six months to a year, but from the moment I arrived in Antwerp I fell in love with this beautiful city. 

What do you like about living and working in Antwerp? What are the challenges?

IMG_20200601_142332There’s lots I love  about living in Antwerp. There is beauty on every street, from the very accessible Meir shopping street, to the beautiful buildings throughout the city. The parks, the museums, the bars, the beers, the food, I could easily go on and on and on! 

Before I came to Antwerp, I didn’t know much about the city, the languages or the Flemish people, and I was nervous that it was going to be difficult to communicate with customers, or in the shops but I was pleasantly surprised that the majority of the community speaks English. I have met some of the nicest Flemish people during the past five years. 

The biggest challenge I have found since being in Antwerp is trying to learn the language. I do my best in certain situations and I can understand more than I can speak. Having my own business has motivated me to learn and understand more and more everyday. 

How has the pandemic and the shut-down affected The Yellow Window?

Other than the fact The Yellow Window was only opened for three full months before the shutdown, the effect has been huge! I have had to re-think and reorganise my business plan for the future. 

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The Yellow Window interior: soon customers will be able to come back inside

I have many ideas, with some already in place. I have been exploring many options for the future and I am very excited with what’s coming up at The Yellow Window. 

Now that the next phase of the government’s plan is going ahead on June 8th, I can look forward to (I hope) regaining a more steady flow of customers, even with the long list of restrictions. 

One thing I will say is – watch this space!

Lots of people seem to have become enthused about baking during lockdown. Do you have a great recipe for us to try?

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home baked cookies at The Yellow Window

Before the lockdown I never saw myself as much of a baker; now, I have made many batches of cookies over the past few months. I tried different recipes I pulled from the internet, making many mistakes along the way but I have landed on a recipe that is working well for me. I can’t take the credit, as it’s not my recipe. It’s this one from Sallys Baking Addiction. Sally’s recipes are very clear and easy to follow.

 

 

Find/ contact The Yellow Window:

At Vlasmarkt 8, Antwerp 2000
On Facebook

And on Instagram.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/B808bENplUZ/

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The Chef’s Cut: culinary adventures in Antwerp

Tell us about when and why Chef’s Cut was established?

Established in 2012, The Chef’s Cut was set up to cater for a very specific niche of the culinary market: foodies and professionals alike, who like to travel to the foods’ places of origins, and to cook with the locals.

What services do you offer?

We offer culinary tours, professional cooking courses, barista courses, wine evening experiences and culinary consultation.

chefscut2I hear you have started offering some experiences at a more accessible price – can you share some information about these? 

We have identified a more moderate, differentiated niche for wine lovers. We have therefore decided to offer two types of wine evening experiences: the exclusive wine evenings, starting from € 85.- p/p; then the moderate wine evenings, starting at € 35.- p/p

Do you think that food and drink has a special role in bringing people of different backgrounds and origins together? 

Not only do we think so, but we have some clear cut evidence that indeed this is so! 

Tell us about the experts who lead guests through the food and wine experiences? 

Screen Shot 2019-04-07 at 18.35.02On our web site you can see a short CV of each our sommeliers:  https://www.thechefscut.com/en/wine-tasting/wine-tasting-evening/ 

We are now in the process of bringing on board a Spanish Sommelier for our Spanish wine collection, and a local Belgium sommelier who will talk about our unique Eastern European wines.

To what extent does Antwerp have a good culinary scene for “foodies”? 

Very much so. Antwerp can pride itself on having numerous restaurants and offering a very multicultural cuisine (it’s the city with the highest number of restaurant per capita in Europe). It has always been a hub where culinary trends are set.

chefscut1An Evening At The Chef’s Cut

I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to a Chef’s Cut wine tasting last week. I should probably be clear that although I regularly enjoy wine, I don’t really know anything about it, so it could be that such an evening would be an intimidating experience, however this was not the case. The sommelier (Alexis Caraux; pic left) was very relaxed, informative and hit precisely the right tone for this occasion, clearly reaching both inexperienced tasters like myself, and those present who knew a bit more. The evening was held in English and those present came from a variety of places.

The food provided to enjoy with the wines was really delicious. I’m vegetarian so didn’t take the meat, but my partner assures me that it was good, and I certainly enjoyed the cheeses.

The costs of this evening is 35 euros, which is a bit more than events and locations I tend include on this blog. However, I think this was great value, given that the price includes the aforementioned foods, a knowledgable sommelier to talk you through the experiences, and the chance to try seven different wines; ones which it is unlikely that you would ordinarily have the chance to taste, since they were described as a little “off the beaten track”.

If -like me you- don’t know a great deal about wine-tasting events it’s an accessible and informative introduction, and a chance to meet some new people. If you have a date that you’d like to impress or treat, this would be a classy way of doing so.

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Images: my own and one selected from Pixabay.

 

Special post: Leandro Targon @ Hardrock Cafe Antwerp.

 

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Leandro Targon

 

Where are you from and what brings you to Antwerp?

I’m from Mendoza, in western Argentina. My city is the proud wine capital of South America and lays at the feet of the Andes.

I first came to Belgium in June 2016 for holidays and during that trip met my spouse, who is from the Netherlands. Ten months later we were married in Antwerp!

Tell us about your job.

I’m the Sales & Marketing Manager at Hard Rock Cafe Antwerp. I simply love my job: I’m responsible for the 100% of the sales figures of our cafe (groups, leisure, corporate and individuals) and contracting with business partners. Being the spokesman and image of the brand in the Flemish region, I plan, budget and execute the yearly event calendar. I’m also responsible for the marketing communication of our cafe.

You are right at the heart of an area very popular with tourists. What’s that like and how is the tourism business faring in Antwerp at the moment?

We are indeed at the core of everything that happens in Antwerp. Tourism figures are growing considerably every year in the city, but at the moment there is a big focus on the business traveler, weekdays and weekend visitors from neighbouring areas who come mainly for shopping, people interested in the cultural aspects of the city, and plenty of foodies. Like many in the hospitality industry, we’re aiming for major growth in the long-stay leisure traveler segment, mainly the international one. That is certainly one big area of opportunity compared to other destinations in the Benelux, and hopefully with the increasing number of cruise ships calling at the port of Antwerp, there will be much better results.

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Leandro with Santa at the kids’ Christmas Breakfast

Can a place like Hard Rock be something that is both for locals and tourists, or do you think of them as being very separate demographics?

Combining the two of them is the exact key for what an authentically genuine Hard Rock Cafe must be. We are a worldwide well-known reference for tourists, and as such our cafes are an attraction. But the strength of our business resides in the local community; both Flemish and expats. Therefore our events and initiatives welcome everybody, without putting our guests into boxes. Hard Rock Cafe Antwerp is our house, and that’s how we like to be seen.

What are you looking forward to in 2019?

2019 is a year full of ambitions for us as a cafe. In March we will have been open for two years and that is something we’re immensely happy about. My personal and professional goal is to enhance our fans’ experience, and create genuine experiences that rock. Undoubtedly it will be an amazing year!

What do you like best about living in Antwerp, and what do you miss about your home country?

I totally love that Antwerp is such an international city; a hub for business, its also offers plenty of heritage and culture, as well as amazing shops and museums to visit, and I love the fact that is so beautiful. I’ve lived in many countries before coming here, and been out of Argentina for more than seven years… I wouldn’t say I really  “miss” something about my country because I receive visits from friends and family at least once a month, and I go to Argentina twice a year. The nature over there is breathtaking, so I try to reconnect with that every time I’m back.

Hard Rock Cafe is on Groenplaats, Antwerp.

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EAT: recommendations for vegetarians and their omnivorous friends.

olivebread

I enjoy eating out and have been vegetarian now for over 30 years. Antwerp has some good places to eat if you are vegetarian. Here’s a pick of some that I enjoy in Antwerp, along with a quick summary of price. I’ve included some where veggies and omnivores can eat together, because most of my friends are not veggies, but we can always find something that suits everyone:

For hardcore Lentil Lovers:
 
Aahaar’s: Indian, informal- wholly vegetarian/ Vegan/ Jain

Ignore the menu and go for the all-you-can-eat buffet for a tenner. It’s excellent.

Lombardia –Cafe, vegetarian, vegan, organic, gluten-free etc
This is nice food but it is a bit on the pricey side. It’s OK for lunches and early evening meals. It’s informal and a little cramped inside, so not ideal with wriggly kids and/ or push chairs, but there is space outside during summer, so it’s easier with kids then.
This is pricier but very nice. Almost totally veggie, it usually offers one or two fish dishes. Good food and good service. You probably need to book
(the one on Kasteelpleinstraat is better for evening meals; the other one has more of a lunch/ cafe vibe).
Not wholly veggie, but with really good veggie choices:
This restaurant is really nice for a group or as a date. It has a page of vegetarian choices all of which are filling and very reasonably priced at 11 -12 euros. A lot of the sides (priced at around 6- 7 euros) are veggie. The atmosphere is relaxed and the service is unpretentious and friendly.
 
I love this place. It is not cheap but it has great, fresh food for veggies to eat alongside their omnivorous dining companions. Nice relaxed atmosphere, delicious Greek tapas, down next to the river. You need to book and you get the table for about 90 mins. If you book the later sitting you can stay longer, for post-prandial drinking, because it is the perfect food and venue for sitting and swilling loads of red with…
Originally just near MAS museum, now with branches in Berchem and on Leopold plein; very nice, but not that cheap. Handy for combining with a trip to the museum (for the one at Eilandje).

Nice location, good service, very tasty Nepalese, Thai and Japanese food (including a good choice of veggie Sushi, also to take away). Good service and staff who clearly take pride in what they produce.

Tarbouch (Lebanese)

Tarbouch
Tarbouch

I have only been here once but I am definitely going back. It offers a delicious buffet with the vast majority of choices being vegetarian. Ingredients are fresh and really nicely presented. Check the website and go with carnivorous or vegetarian friends on the buffet night. It’s a good deal.

Falafel

I really like Falafel (which you can get at Tarbouch too, of course) and find that Falafel places are always ideal when there is a group of veggie and non-veggie diners, looking for quick, cheap, informal food.

There is also a great (fairly) new Lebanese place on Hoogstraat: Shami. Here’s my Happy Cow Review.

Also on Hoogstraat is Falafeltof -a popular venue, very good prices considering it is in the tourist district. I also though the service was good -staff are friendly and cheerful.
FalafelBeni.
Beni Falafel
However, I think most falafel fans will agree that Beni Falafel is pretty much the best choice for falafel in Antwerp. Beni’s has an all-vegetarian menu and is located in the heart of the Jewish quarter on Lange Leemstraat. It is fresh, tasty and cheap. Service is quick and friendly.
oscar
Bar Oscar is a bit of a hidden gem that is well worth finding – just off the Carnot Straat (cross over Astrid Plein) and a very short walk from Central Station. It’s cool, without being pretentious, and the service is friendly and efficient. Most of the food is healthy, tasty, and vegetarian/ vegan with the odd option for omnivores. I like the way children are made welcome, and share the space with the more trendy adult clientèle from the design centre. It’s a great place to stop if you have decided to get away from Meir, and instead head to the shops along Carnot Straat and around that area.
Escobar
Escobar -friendly, tasty, cute venue!

 

…. As is Escobar on Quellinstraat, which has been there for about 5 years now and has built up a steady, busy lunch trade (also does breakfasts) and deservedly so. It’s a very pretty eaterie where everything is fresh and nicely presented. Friendly service, fresh food, great home- baking. Kids are welcome and there is a sunny back garden to sit out during summer time.

Hochan

 

The food on Keyserlei (in front of the station)is largely consumed by tourists. Most of it is OK as pub style food, or for a pizza but on the whole there is nothing there that is worth a really hearty recommendation (although I like stopping at the bars for a drink), with the possible exception of Ho Chan House on the Breydelstraat (just off Keyserlei) which is a Chinese restaurant with an entirely separate vegetarian menu -just ask. It’s often busy and lies in the heart of the tourist area, so if you want to be sure -book.

 

 

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delicious seaweed, egg & tomato soup at Bai Wei

Obviously there is a great deal of choice in China Town itself. The Best has a good selection for vegetarians, but my current favourite is Bai Wei. It has fewer choices for vegetarians, but it’s incredibly tasty and fresh. The noodles are hand-pulled on the premises (you can see the chef doing this on the open-plan first floor) and I am assured by my usual dining partner (who lived in Taipei for six years) that as far as taste is concerned, this is the real deal. It’s very reasonably priced, and friendly, so although other places might have more numerous choices for vegetarians, I am more than happy to head to Bai Wei.

Finally, I guess we couldn’t leave a restaurant post without mentioning pizza. There are lots of them in the tourist area of the old town and near central station, of course. But I like La Grappa on Anselmostraat, for a decent pizza in a lively, friendly pizzeria, when we are out with the kids. The desserts went down pretty well too …

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Tartufo at La Grappa

 

This is just a small (and personal) selection of what is available around Antwerp. Please add recommendations of your own in the comments!

Eet smakelijk!