Antwerp restaurant caters to the vegan within you

Summary

Since its opening in 2014, Bites & Wines has become the eatery of choice for Antwerp’s vegan community

No meat allowed

Veganism is neither niche lifestyle nor hair-shirt. Smart money sees it as a growth market. Despite expanding demand, however, vegan cuisine remains a relative rarity in Europe.

Bites & Wines is doing its part to rectify that oversight. Anglo-Flemish owner Katherine Nash and her crew have been serving Antwerp’s vegan community since 2014. In two short years, Nash has earned a reputation as a warm host and a culinary miracle worker.

With one foot in the Anglo-American foodie world and the other in her native Antwerp, the proprietor entertains guests – and explains a finely detailed daily menu – in fluent English.

Bites & Wines occupies a cosy, ground-floor space on a quiet side street just around the corner from Antwerp’s bustling Grote Markt. There’s room for only a handful of tables, so a dozen guests feels like a full house. Naturally, reservations are recommended, especially at weekends.

The decor combines contemporary design principles – simplicity above all else – with strategic rustic details. There’s a functioning upright piano for diners to tinker on. The restaurant also puts on the occasional concert.

Every night, Nash proposes a unique two-course menu consisting of soup and your choice of one of two totally made-from-scratch main dishes

As the name suggests, Bites & Wines pairs its dishes with organic and vegan wines from around the world. The scope of Nash’s wine list is admittedly limited, but through no fault of her own. The fact is, organic wines have precious little market share in a conservative industry that favours tradition and established names to evolution and ethics.

The organic revolution is slowly changing the face of the wine business but, like Morrissey says, these things take time. So the bites are the main event at Bites & Wines. Every night, Nash proposes a unique two-course menu consisting of soup and your choice of one of two totally made-from-scratch main dishes.

Nash’s ever-growing repertoire includes stuffed tomatoes, tofu in avocado sauce and vegan tortillas with asparagus and pineapple salsa. Dessert options include sophisticated fruit dishes and vegan cakes galore.

As with most vegan fare, the lack of meat doesn’t hit as hard as the absence of eggs and dairy products. Tofu and quinoa can play the lead every bit as deliciously as steak and seafood. But one does miss the supporting roles that hold the show together. That said, Nash works wonders with vegan substitutes and is able to nearly replicate the originals.

Oude Beurs 60, Antwerp