Saturday, September 17, 2016

Graanmarkt 13 Restaurant | Antwerp

The problem with having a big list of places you want to try is that it takes ages to finally get around actually trying them. Graanmarkt 13 had been on my to-do list for ages, so I decided to book a table there to celebrate my birthday with my family! I wanted to go here because Seppe Nobels, the chef, is Belgium's best vegetable chef. Graanmarkt 13 was even named one of the top 25 vegetable restaurants in the world. In a country where great vegetarian food is hard to find, this sounded like the perfect place for me! 
Graanmarkt 13 | Antwerp

Graanmarkt 13 is kind of an all-in-one concept. The big white building is located on a quiet square in the centre of Antwerp, and houses a concept store, shoe department, restaurant and hotel (they even have a food truck). It's definitely a place you can't miss when you're visiting Antwerp. 

Graanmarkt 13 restaurant | Antwerp

Graanmarkt 13 restaurant | Antwerp

Upon entering, you catch a glimpse of the shop, which is well worth a visit. They have some really unique brands, and they've just re-opened their shoe shop on the floor above. The restaurant, however, is located in the basement. 

Graanmarkt 13 restaurant | Antwerp

Graanmarkt 13 restaurant | Antwerp

The restaurant is relatively small and beautifully designed, which is not a surprise since the talented Vincent van Duysen is responsible for the design of the whole building. 

Graanmarkt 13 restaurant | Antwerp

Graanmarkt 13 restaurant | Antwerp

Upstairs there's a little herb and bee garden, and apparently on the 2nd floor, there's a vegetable garden. Urban farming at its finest, although I do wonder where these little bees can find their flowers in the city?

Graanmarkt 13 restaurant | Antwerp

Back to business, time to get to the main act of the evening ;) The menu slightly confused me since I only spotted dishes with meat and fish. Wasn't this supposed to be a vegetable restaurant? But then I saw the little line at the bottom of the menu stating that all dishes could be turned into vegetarian dishes. Yes, that's what I was looking for! 

The dinner menu is €43 and consists of a  starter, main and dessert. 

If you want you can also get some nibbles to share. We got sweetcorn since it's kind of a tradition on my birthday!

The first course was a truly delicious vegetable risotto. I love it when it's not too creamy and has a bite to it. Beautiful flavours!

My brother didn't take the veggie menu so he had veal tartare, which I didn't try but it gets 10 points for the flawless presentation. 

The main dish consisted of a plate with veggies (red cabbage, broccoli, hummus) which you had to complete yourself with extras. The waiter brought several bowls filled with more vegetables such as beetroot, tomatoes, beans and artichoke. One big veggie fest! 

I loved the combination of colours, flavours and textures. To me, this is what vegetarian/vegan food is all about! It doesn't need to be boring, as long as you pile up your plate with enough variety you can have a delicious meal. I must admit that this meal wasn't particularly surprising, but maybe that's because I'm quite used to special flavours and also because my preference for vegetarian food forces me to be creative with vegetables every single day. But I think this kind of food might already be quite adventurous enough for some others.

My brother had fish as a main. I tried it and I must admit it was delicious!

The downside of a fixed menu is that you eat way too much. No one in my family is used to having THIS much food, but we worked our way through it ;) We were quite happily satisfied after the first couple of courses, but there was more...

Homemade madeleines and a lemon meringue cake with dill and yoghurt ice cream. I'm going to be really honest, I didn't really like this dessert. It was way too sweet and the "cookie" was so hard it was almost impossible to eat it properly. Maybe it's because I'm not a big fan of lemon desserts... It's the only part of the whole meal I didn't enjoy, so I really can't complain!

All in all, I really liked Graanmarkt 13. Although I might have expected a little more creativity with the vegetarian dishes, everything else was perfect. Fresh, organic, seasonal, great flavours, textures, colours... I am very aware that it takes a lot of effort to be able to pull this off at a restaurant! I have huge respect for Seppe Nobels because so far, he's the only chef in Belgium who's managed to create high-class vegetarian food. I'm curious to try more of his creations so I'll definitely be back! In the meantime, I'll try some of his dishes from the cookbook I received from my sister. 

Graanmarkt 13 is open for lunch and dinner from Monday to Saturday. Be sure to make a reservation if you choose to go for dinner!

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