Nick Bril

There’s nothing plain about The Jane, the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Nick Bril owns in Antwerp. Not the location (in a former chapel), not the food (anyone for a Pimm’s cocktail and cheesecake, mash-up?) or Bril’s partner in the project (that would be Dutch chef Sergio Herman who Bril worked with at the legendary three-star, Oud Sluis). Outside of the kitchen, Bril is a DJ and his mixtape of recommendations for Antwerp match his eclectic musical tastes.
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Refined, Classical French Cuisine

I think the fundamentals of Belgian cuisine is that it’s very classical, which I think is also true when you look at the palate of Antwerp; the people lean towards a more recognisable and comfortable cuisine, rather than food that’s innovative and challenging. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it means that we have some fantastic restaurants cooking old-school classical cuisine but done with a lot of refinement. One of those places is Bistrot du Nord, a one Michelin-star restaurant that I’d say is my all-time favourite in terms of just a really good meal. Chef Michaël Rewers’ signature is a starter of pâté made of chicken livers and enriched with blood sausage. It’s just packed with flavour and craftsmanship. This is something that always has to be on the table when I visit. During the winter, their game dishes are also incredibly strong, and their French fries are fantastically good.

Antwerp’s Most Authentic Sushi

I’m very much a big fan of Japanese cuisine. I really love restaurant Izumi, which to me, has the highest quality, and most authentic sushi available in Antwerp. The chef-patron is Dutch, perhaps in his 70s, and I think he lived in Japan for around eight years. He runs the restaurant with his two daughters, and he’s serving typical sushi-counter Japanese cuisine, but only using the best quality fresh produce, and the finest quality rice.

Belgium’s Obsession With French Fries

French fries are something that always stay on the mind of Belgian people; everyone has the craving at least once per month. Frituur N. 1 definitely does the best Belgian fries in Antwerp. It has a huge reputation and has been recognised internationally for good reason. Their fries with Flemish beef stew and tartare sauce; yeah, that really nails it.

Vietnamese Street Food

Bún is a Vietnamese restaurant owned by a really close friend of mine, head chef Huibrecht Berends. He was working as a maître d’ (head waiter) when he fell in love with a beautiful Vietnamese woman who was running a restaurant in Brussels. They decided to open up a little place here around five years ago, and six months ago they moved into a much bigger space, and now have a 40-seat restaurant – so he made quite an impressive development. This is beautiful, authentic Vietnamese food on a high level – which I very much love.

Bún Restaurant. Photography: Courtesy of Bún Restaurant

Hot And Spicy Chinese

There is a very good Chinese spot here called Ni Shifu, which is Cantonese, and they use a lot of Sichuan peppers. They do a lot of hot pots, and a lot of steamed or roast pots, which I really love.

Where The Industry Drinks Natural Wine

There’s a super cool, sort-of-Korean place called Camino. They have a beautiful assortment of natural wines, and it’s just really tasty food. It’s a pretty high level of hipster, but it attracts a really cool crowd of people. It’s definitely the spot for people in the industry. It just has the right vibe you know; rock and roll music, craft beers, perfect wine list, and of course great food. It’s also a really nice place for sitting outside when the weather is nice.

My Favourite Italian Restaurant

If I’m going out for a quick, casual dinner with my wife, I love to have Italian food and order a nice bottle of wine; it’s no-nonsense, and always a good meal. My favourite Italian restaurant in Antwerp is a family owned-and-run place called Arte. It has a tight, modern design with Art Deco décor – which is a nice change to the Italian restaurants that make you feel like you’ve stepped onto an Italian movie-set – and for me, the best Italian food in town.

A Sunny Saturday At Marnixplaats

When the weather is good, I like to go to Marnixplaats – Antwerp’s square overlooking the statue of Neptune – where there are lots of restaurants and bars. It’s just perfect on a sunny day. I’ll eat a great bowl of ramen at Takumi, which has a beautiful little terrace outside, and then afterwards grab a Negroni at Vitrin. This, for me, is a Saturday afternoon.

A Community Hub For Food And Creativity

Pakt is kind of like a community hub for food and creativity here in Antwerp. The location is fantastic. It is the location of my private table, and there is also an amazing craft beer tap room called Spéciale Belge; which have at least18 different tap beers, and a huge bottle list. This is definitely the place for people who are into Belgian beers. Next door there is an Italian place, Standard Pizza, who are doing sourdough pizzas which are amazingly good.

Selected Works: Nick Bril 33 (2018)

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