Antwerp grill restaurant takes less-is-more approach

Summary

Every week, Flanders Today surveys the world of local cuisine to fill you in on the best recipes, culinary events and special eateries. This week: Little Butcher’s Summer Grill

Dan Smith on Flemish food and drink

The first thing you notice as you approach Little Butcher’s Summer Grill is the unmistakable aroma of barbecue smoke hanging in the air. As you’re drawn closer by the delicious smell, you come across its source, a massive “Oklahoma” smoker right out of the Wild West. Sitting next to it is the roaring and sparking half-tonne barbecue known as The Beast.

Little Butcher’s Summer Grill occupies the former coach house in Park Spoor Noord, a sprawling oasis of green space and playing fields in an otherwise crowded Antwerp neighbourhood. Central to the park’s success has been Cargo Zomerbar, which pops up each summer in a former railway shed.

Until now the park had lacked a good place to sit and partake in quality food while still enjoying the open space. Then up popped the Little Butcher’s Summer Grill. Developed by Sven Wille and Nikolaj Kovdal (who also run Cargo Bar), the restaurant serves matured West Flemish beef, supplied by Antwerp’s master butcher Jean Willems. The vegetables are organic, while seafood is sourced locally.

Normally, it’s Wille outside cooking in the restaurant’s open kitchen. But on the night we visited, The Beast was being handled by Yannick Van Aeken, former sous-chef at the world-renowned Noma restaurant in Copenhagen, and now at Hof Ter Linden in Edegem. He was joined for the night by mixologist Paul Morel from Antwerp restaurant The Jane, who prepared a selection of amazingly fresh cocktails and shots.

We opted for the Treat Me Nice tasting menu. Served in four courses, each dish showed that even the humblest fresh ingredients can delight the senses. Highlights included an unforgettable fennel salad and a mix of deep-fried chicken and cod served with smoked cheese.

But the stars of the show were the beef ribs smoked in peat and coated in beetroot glaze, and the sweetest barbecued langoustine these two Australians have eaten. No one could resist the delightfully succulent beef ribs – as evidenced by the many purple hands around the tables.

To round off the evening, we were served two types of ice cream – one flavoured with hay, the other with geranium. Both again demonstrated how simple, if unusual, ingredients can be made great.

Little Butcher’s Summer Grill will be at the coach house in Park Spoor Noord until early October, after which it will move next to the newly renovated De Koninck brewery for the winter. The Grill will be back in the coach house permanently from next May.

Photo by John Graves