‘t Zilte

Restaurant ‘t Zilte (two Michelin stars) changed address almost a year ago, moving from the small Flemish town of Mol to its current position atop one of the newest and most striking additions to the Antwerp skyline: MAS (Museum Aan de Stroom). A clever mix of red Indian stone, rippling glass and signature “Antwerp hands”, it houses a large collection of art and historical artefacts relating to the port area.

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We arrived early and after a coffee and a quick look in the museum shop we wandered back towards the historic centre of Antwerp, to browse in the old shops…

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…and soak up the romantic atmosphere.

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Back at MAS by midday we made our way to the top of the building and took a moment to admire the rain-drenched view

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We were the first to arrive, although by 1pm the place was packed. We admired the ring-shaped charger while we perused the menu, finally opting for five courses (seven and three course options were also available).

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Amuse-bouche number one appeared: churros with a mushroom dip. A pretty wacky opener, but fun and tasty.

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Then, sauerkraut mousse topped with marinated salmon, and a white celery crunch with rocket. The mousse was chilly and still a little solid in the centre, which made me think it hadn’t quite had time to fully defrost.

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Goat’s cheese and beetroot.

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A Bloody Mary. We were warned to place the whole thing into our mouths so as not to make a mess with the liquid centre.

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Radish, grapefruit, yoghurt and mustard. A little bitter for my palate, although I guess you have to expect that with grapefruit.

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And finally, something of a triumphant climax to the first movement: chili con carne. Note the tiny slivers of pepper, fragments of popcorn, and the black bean snake.

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Another waiter brought us a selection of bread (note the black cotton gloves, to avoid soiling our bread with his filthy, sweaty fingers).

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First course: raw shrimp and sea bass with watermelon and mushroom. At this point it became clear that the elaborate visual nature of the dishes wasn’t confined to the starters. It must take at least as long to plate up one of these creations as it does to actually cook it.

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Halibut with anchovies, and a white bean and garlic foam. For me foams at this point are so out of fashion as to be almost retro (I mean, they’re so 2008!). Or maybe they’ve gone beyond being the latest gimmick and have now just become a standard part of a chef’s repertoire, like jus or emulsions? Anyway, it tasted lovely, and the fish was perfectly cooked.

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Carpaccio of Chianina (Italian beef) with potato, morel mushroom and burrata. Gorgeous textures and flavours, and a little surprise. At first glance I thought that the orange disc was a chunk of carrot, but it turned out to be egg yolk. The tiny fried onion rings added some zing to contrast with the egg and potato.

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Pigeon, slivers of oyster (lurking under the parsley), a terrine of pigeon liver and kidney, and white cabbage with black radish.

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At this point the waiter stopped by and said “Can I seduce you with extra cheese?”. At first I was a little unsure how to respond, but before I could slap him in the face for his impertinence I realised that he was asking if we wanted a cheese course before dessert. We politely declined.

Dessert number one: chocolate, yoghurt, limoncello. Yes. Ticks all my boxes, thank you.

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Dessert number two: strawberries and basil ice cream. Shame they dropped the plate and had to glue it back together again.

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Then a trolley arrived and we were asked to choose from a selection of mignardises to accompany our coffee.

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Here’s my selection, including marshmallow, green tea cream and meringue.

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And my wife’s maccaroon, caramel jelly and coconut and blackberry.

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Self-portrait with espresso.

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And so ended one of the prettiest meals I’ve eaten in a long time. Antwerp now posesses a restaurant on a par with its globally renowned fashion designers.