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.

 

LeadroT
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.

leandroSanta
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.

 

 

soup
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 …

tartufoGRAPPA
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!