TINSEL: VLAAMSEKAAI 40, ANTWERP

I’m a big fan of Antwerp. It’s a vibrant city with gorgeous architecture and the centre is largely pedestrianised, which makes for an extremely pleasant day of walking around, exploring the various boutiques and little eatery nooks, and a cosy bar (or two).

Each time I’ve visited, I’ve found myself on a different mission, though having spent so much of my life around the sea I always take at least a small detour to visit the marina to the north of the Grote Markt. This time, however, I turned my boots southward from the beautiful Antwerpen-Centraal Station, with the goal of starting the day in a little café on the Vlaamsekaai, at a spot that’s been on my list for a little while now, but I hadn’t had the chance to visit until recently: Tinsel.

We were a party of three, and Tinsel doesn’t take reservations for brunch, so we hoped our walk wouldn’t result in a no-seats-available outcome as dining space is limited, but our gamble certainly paid off. It wasn’t too long before I was challenged by my two companions to a test in translation…

By way of context: I’ve been trying to broaden my linguistic horizons by wrestling with my first few beginner-level Dutch classes over the past couple of months, so I was quite pleased to discover I was able to decode most of the menu unassisted – though my spoken Dutch is still woeful and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to properly pronounce that ‘sch’ sound! Still, I’m not quitting yet and where I faltered, our server – whose excellent English put my Dutch to shame – kindly stepped in to help me out.


For non-Dutch-speaking anglophone readers, here’s a translation of the day’s menu (Lesson 1: ontbijt = breakfast!) to give you an idea of what’s on offer:

1. Breakfast #1: organic orange juice, filter coffee (refills: €1.50) or tea, croissant,
homemade bread with sweet spreads.

2. Breakfast #2: organic orange juice, filter coffee (refills: €1.50) or tea, two fried eggs with bacon, homemade bread with sweet spreads.

3. Breakfast #3: organic orange juice, filter coffee (refills: €1.50) or tea, cheese, ham, soft-boiled egg, croissant, homemade bread with sweet spreads.

4. Breakfast #4: organic orange juice, filter coffee (refills: €1.50) or tea, yoghurt with homemade granola, cheese, ham, tapenade of the day, goat’s cheese, parma ham, soft-boiled egg.

5. Kids: soft-boiled egg with soldiers, cornflakes or coco pops with milk, apple juice.

 

6. Eggs Parmesan: toast with two fried eggs, balsamic vinegar, rucola and tomato, topped with parmesan

7. Tinsel Pancakes: American-style pancakes with seasonal fruit, cream and maple syrup.

8. Homemade Granola: toasted nuts, grains and seeds with fresh yogurt and seasonal fruit.

9. Croissant with butter and jam.

10. Mix of homemade bread with sweet spreads.

11. Soft-boiled egg with homemade bread soldiers.

12. Cornflakes with milk.

Afterwards, it was about a 15-20 minute walk to Antwerp’s historic central district, where you’ll find an impressive cathedral, the Grote Markt square, easy access to a host of cafés, interesting shops and galleries, and some amazing architecture.

But the best view, hands-down, is from the top of the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS), located in the marina just north of the Grote Markt. This enormous red sandstone cuboid is 10 storeys high and you can enter for free to take the escalators up to the viewing deck for a 360 degree view of Antwerp and the surrounding area, which really puts the city in perspective. Highly recommended.

Practicalities:
– Closest Tram: Antwerpen Museum (line 4)
– Vegetarian options
– Outside seating
– Cards accepted
– Service style: table (order at counter)

N.B.  Tinsel is closed on Tuesdays

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