So here we are in Antwerp… I have decided to have dinner at the lovely Het Pomphuis. The name translates to the Pump House. When it was in operation it drained the neighbouring dry-dock to allow for ship maintenance. And the place still looks the part, with a charming Stile Liberty style dining room, expansive interior and an impressive pit with iron parapets, arch windows and the original metal rods.
We are seated outside at the start… but as the pitter patter of summer rain falls we decide to move inside to the enjoy the beautiful decor and warmth of the indoors. This place has a real charm to it, wonderful hospitality and the perfect atmosphere for a rainy summer evening next the river.
We have a little appetiser to warm the taste buds. If I recall correctly, it was a salmon mousse with a crust bread circle and gravely pistachios.
I opt for the Von Winning, Erste Lage, Ölberg (Riesling) from Pfalz in Germany. It has a spicy bouquet, aromas of yellow fruits with follow through on palate of beautiful peach and apricot fruit flavours. There is fresh minerality and nice dry peppery finish to round out the wine. It is such a beautiful to start to the evening and the perfect pairing for the rich shellfish pasta I had for entrée.
My Dining companion opted for the Chassagne-Montrachet, 1e Cru, “Morgeot” by Fernard and Laurent Pillot. A beautiful chardonnay with citrus aromas which by all accounts pairs well with both the entrée and main.
Fideuà Pasta – fideuà with mussels, squid, razor shells, garlic, curry, coriander and coconut milk
The Fideau is amazing. Mussels are the staple of Belgium diet and it is only fitting that they form the cornerstone of this dish. The beautiful distinct saline flavour of the shellfish flows through the pasta. The soft pasta is well done. The juicy mussels, razor shells and the soft tender squid add to texture and experience of the dish. It is truly an experience to behold. The overlay of garlic and coriander with the creamy coconut milk adds to fusion of light spice flavours to complete the dish.
My dining companion opts for the croquettes.
Garnaalkroketten – Shrimp croquettes , tzatziki and fried persil
The croquettes looks delicous and the ultimate comfort food. Is there anything more inviting than the crunchy golden brown coating?
Melkkalf – Milk calf, string beans, pointed cabbage, marinated artichoke, eggplant, grain mustard, fried potato and peanut
The succulent beautiful tender veal with the crunchiness of the string beans and cabbage sing in harmony with the sharp taste of the mustard to provide a beautiful base tasting experience. This is mixed with the overlay of a light sweet/spicy (mild oriental like) sauce with a sweetness and the texture of the beautiful peanuts. A lovely dish with a balance of taste, textures and of course the logistical challenge dealing with ribs – which makes every mouthful that much more rewarding.
My dining companion opts for the Sole which has a beautiful foamy crustacean sauce which looks lovely. Slight bout of food envy is suffered.
Zeetong – Sole, green asparagus, tomato, nobashi, belle de fontenay and crustacean sauce
To pair with the main, I opt for a glass of the Rust en Vrede Estate blend from Stellenbosch (South Africa). It has majority of Cabernet Sauvignon with a about a third of Shiraz and some Merlot. Given its nature there is a strong aroma of dark fruit, rich dark chocolate and vanilla aromas. The wine is full-bodied with beautiful velvety dark fruit and liquorice flavours through to a long finish. I just love it.
My dining companion didn’t want dessert, so I went for the Cheese Plate by myself.
Cheese plate by cheese master “Van Tricht” with Italian bread bell pepper, tomato and olive chutney
I will do the Cheese from left to right. There was just too much for me, so I focused on my favourites:
The first cheese is the Dôme de Boulogne (a French Cheese). I did enjoy but my main focus was on the last three.
If I recall correctly, the second was also a French Cheese but I didn’t really try much of it.
The third was the Rouelle cendré – Raw goats milk cheese. Pure, clean with a slight tartness tart but not strong… just flows through the taste buds.
The fourth was the Brokkel Oud Roeselare – This is a hard Belgium cheese. This has to be my favourite with a sharp taste and grainy, gravel crumbly texture with sprinkling of what appeared to rock salt. It was a divine and truly sensuous experience.
The fifth was a French blue cheese made from raw cows milk. A blend of rich milkiness with the pepper and spice tang of the blue mould.
I finish with a coffee and some beautiful buttery petit four cookies.
The service was amazing, the staff attentive and selection of wines was extensive. The food was homely with a focus on delivering on quality and taste… a bit like the city itself, no pretense but just plain beautiful.
The decor inside was amazing and the setting is unique. However if it was a little sunnier, I couldn’t think of anything more elegant than sitting outside casting an idyllic gaze across the port, the ships and casting ones mind back to what it would have been like living in this grand old city back in the day.