Frites Atelier: Star chef brings chic fries to Antwerp

Summary

Building on the success of his three outposts in the Netherlands, Sergio Herman has opened his first gourmet frituur in Antwerp, and people are lining up at the door

On food and drink in Flanders

Korte Gasthuisstraat in Antwerp is no stranger to snaking queues – but this time people aren’t lining up for the celebrated bakery Goossens, but for Sergio Herman’s Frites Atelier Amsterdam, a chic new neighbour on the other side of the street.

The venue, which opened last month, is the first Belgian outpost of the three-strong Dutch chain, launched last year to make “tasty fries accessible to everyone”.

The reality is both more glamorous and less democratic – this is no average frituur, with the atelier’s smart navy blue façade giving onto a mosaic-tiled interior, designed by Piet Boon. Flemish cartoonist Kamagurka is behind the arty napkins, and Dutch firm Cor Unum the elegant ceramic sauce dispensers.

“I think Flanders makes fantastic fries, but we’re just that tiny bit different,” says Herman. “We partly join in the experience. The business oozes craft, and you arrive in a kind of workshop.”

Frites Atelier Amsterdam is the Dutch chef’s second Antwerp venture, following the opening of the hugely popular eatery The Jane, which he launched with Nick Brill in 2015 (it now has two Michelin stars).

A fresh take on tradition

Herman shut his three-star restaurant Oud Sluis, just over the Flemish border in Zeeland, in late 2013, seeking a more balanced life – but has continued to expand his empire. Besides Frites Atelier and The Jane, it now includes hotel-restaurant Pure C in Cadzand, Zeeland, and Air Republic, due to open in Cadzand this spring.

Herman spent 18 months perfecting his fries, which use Zeeland potatoes baked in a blend of 100% natural oils before being fried and flavoured with samphire salt.

Customers can pick from five homemade mayonnaise-based sauces – basil, truffle, andalouse, classic and béarnaise – or opt for gourmet toppings like Indo peanut sauce, Flemish stew and a fiery kimchi special. Fries start at €3.50, while “pimped up” versions stretch to a hefty €8.50.

And the verdict? “Pretty good; some of the better fries I’ve had, but more of a one-time thing for me because of the price,” says filmmaker Aaron Beyers. He’s sitting at an outdoor table; the interior also hosts a handful of seats.

Fellow diner Johan Matthé, rueing the disappearance of Flanders’ traditional frituren of late, is more reflective. “Maybe the time is right for something like this – a new take on a culture that hasn’t changed in decades. And the fusion-style fries are good. But personally I prefer the old-school joints.”

32 Korte Gasthuisstraat, Antwerp