Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Antwerp – 18 January 2012

One of the interesting features of Eurostar travel is that a ticket to Brussels actually allows you to travel to any station in Belgium. So since it was someone's Diamond Anniversary of their birth, we decided to have a long weekend in the diamond capital of the world. Apparently 70% of all cut diamonds pass through Antwerp.

With the new high-speed link from St Pancras, it takes only a hour before the train emerges above ground in France and just over two hours to Brussels. Unfortunately the connecting intercity train to Antwerp was cancelled and we had a bit of a delay before finally catching a scruffy, old, local train to Antwerp's Grand Central Station, the first we have ever visited with train platforms on three levels; one above the main concourse and two below.

It was a lot easier to find a vending machine to purchase a Metro pass than it was to find the Metro, but eventually we located the correct platform and got to our art deco hotel just as the rain began to fall.

The hotel website implied they had a restaurant and since it was late and raining and we had not had a chance to explore the options we asked the receptionist to book a table which she did and then informed us that it was actually an independent restaurant 50m down the road. The die being cast we wandered along at the allotted time to find that the restaurant was a tad classier than we had expected (and significantly more expensive). Maybe it would have been fine for the birthday night but this was just an ordinary night.

However, the “floor show” at the restaurant more than compensated: Every meal was “dressed” for the diner at a central table in the restaurant by the waiters. The meat, for example would be cooked in the kitchen and then brought out with the vegetables and the production would begin. The meat would be carved, the vegetables dished up, the sauce heated and served and so forth and then the finished masterpiece would be delivered to the guest. It was all quite remarkable and great fun to watch. The meals were very nice and accompanied by a number of “free” unexpected extras before and after the ordered courses.

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