Antwerp's Grand Café de Rooden Hoed, operating for over 250 years (since 1736), is the city's oldest restaurant. It's right in the historic town center, near the grand cathedral and City Hall. Sure, it's a bit touristy, but the place is still charming. The wine cellar is really old and is rumored to date from Roman times. This restaurant serves classic Belgian favorites. I was very happy to be hosted to experience it!
There are two different levels of the restaurant; the top level is very intimate and a good place for private groups to meet.
Their house aperitif -- Belgian restaurants like to serve something sparkling to start the meal, opposed to a cocktail -- is a Kir Royale made with raspberry Lambic beer added to sparkling wine. The Lambic gives the drink the traditional fruity sweetness, but with a deeper flavor from beer.
An amuse bouche was sent out: cauliflower soup cappucino, crumble of bacon, whipped cream top. This was a fun, thoughtful opener, with great texture and contrast of flavors.
I finally got to try the famous Belgian mussels. They steam their with onions and peppers, kind of like a Philly cheesesteak!
You gotta get a beer with mussels . . . as comedian Donnie Baker would say, "It's state law!" I tried a local McChouffe beer from Ardennes. It was dark, with a malty/coffee flavor and malty nose.
The fancy version of steak frites is entrecôte (premium cut of beef for steaks) served with a choice of sauces. They had Béarnaise, pepper or mushroom. I chose Béarnaise, which is super traditional. I ordered it medium rare, but I could have ordered it even a couple of notches before rare, including the French "sanglant" (bloody). It was a huge tenderloin! The steako was served alongside a salad with micro purple basil, which have a good amount of perfume for their little size. There was also creamed, diced fennel and pickled red onions in the salad -- a powerfully flavored side dish to go with meat. I ended up sharing an order of frites, which I recommend if you're hesitant about carbs: spread the wealth!
As a premier destination in Belgium, the restaurant has to have a good chocolate dessert, right? They are able to serve a tasting plate of chocolate treats in different forms/textures/temperatures.
Upscale Belgian restaurants take pride in how they serve the evening coffee. At Rooden Hoed, they serve it with a little chocolate cream liqueur!
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