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It appears that Antwerp continues to wear the crown for Belgium’s coolest city with the Lewis, a hip restaurant in the bohemian Zuid (south) district. Although it sits cheek-to-jowl with the lofty and grand Royal Museum of Fine Art, the building Lewis occupies actually comes from more down and origins - a Love Hotel.
Instead of glossing over its insalubrious past, the history of the building has influenced the current design, and interior designer Bjorn Verlinde also took blended inspiration from its vibrant and fashionable location, where famed Belgian designer Dries Van Noten’s flagship store sits, to create a truly metropolitan concept.
Traditional materials such as concrete, steel, brick and plaster make up the template of this pared-back trend-setter restaurant with the addition of a modern, open kitchen made with Belgian clay bricks, topped with blue steel. The ceiling is created from a criss-cross of dark, wooden beams and light flow through the sun-angled windows softening the tough textiles. Walls come in dusky pinks and greys, painted with an old-fashioned fresco technique. A nod to the building's heritage comes via a neon sign spelling out LEWIS in glowing pinks that refracts around the restaurant.
Chef Thomas Snijder has spent the last two years in Relae, Copenhagen- one of the fifty best restaurants in the world and with Ferran Adria in Barcelona. He has come to Lewis with a renewed vigour, after closing his phenomenally successful restaurant Lewis in Hoogstraten, outside of Antwerp, in a quest for something new.
And new this is. The menu is fresh with seasonal ingredients with a focus on the pure and simple. The open kitchen gives opportunity for guest interaction, and the mixture of high and low tables and seating gives an informal air. Head to the restrooms and find a shared vanity area divided by a mirror for privacy with a space for a subtle interaction. Guests may find this discombobulating - perhaps a disorienting ploy to heighten senses for Antwerp’s newest and most immersive dining experience.
Where to stay in Antwerp: There are two fabulously designed hotels to opt for a stay in the Flemish city. Boutique Hotel Julien, with its mansion-house pedigree in the heartlands of old-town Antwerp, is a self-confessed curator of the arts, designer pieces, antiques and mid-century furnishings, which adorn the handsome salons and rooms in comfy elegance. Alternatively, opt for a spot of design at Hotel August - created within a former Augustinian cloister and chapel, was designed by one of Belgium's most acclaimed architects, interior designers, and product designers, Vincent Van Duysen.