Just northeast of Antwerp in Schoten, it was previously known as De Uilenspiegel but was bought by the Van Nederkassel family (well known local entrepreneurs) and transformed last year from an outdated dining room into an elegant French restaurant.
The interior is all cream-coloured chairs and beige tints, French oak flooring and a Zen-like fireplace. Nooks and crannies contain simple vases that are decorative but not cluttering. Near the entrance are two round booths with darker tones and intimate lighting. A separate but visible lounge bar adds to the social buzz of the dining area.
The new owners kept the same chef, who brought a contemporary feel to the menu. While focusing on French cuisine, there are cosmopolitan accents such as sashimi alongside family-friendly classics like cheese croquettes and steak. The list of suggestions is worth watching as it is updated every 10 days with brand new dishes.
The cooking delivers everything the menu promises. Shrimp in a light curry sauce – normally a dullish offer – is pleasantly memorable at Présence. The shrimp is cooked to perfection, and the sauce is given a light peppering to add some zest. The filet pur "Rossini" is beautifully arranged with a grouping of seasonal vegetables.
The wine list is impressively long, with one 124 mostly French bottles on offer, including a number of recommendations. The after-dinner drink list has an above-average selection of single malt whiskies, catering to the Flemish love affair with the Scottish drink.
The restaurant staff also deserve a mention. Polite and friendly service but also a passionate and experienced restaurateur who clearly enjoys telling diners about the daily suggestions. Visitors are treated like old friends, even if they’ve never been before.
Come the summer, the restaurant has outdoor seating, both in front and behind. It’s best to reserve, especially on Saturdays when all the tables are booked long in advance.
Brechtsebaan 277, Schoten
Wed-Sun, except for Saturday afternoon
Lunch €35, dinner €63