Easter beckons....so treat yourself to a "Top" break

Easter comes early this year (10 April) and if you're looking for ideas for a well-earned break why not try a refreshing trip to the seaside?

There’s one place that’s a relatively short drive from Brussels and undoubtedly ticks the boxes Hotel De Blanke Top reopened May after a major facelift.

Brilliantly located directly overlooking the North Sea at Cadzand-Bad, just over the Belgian-Dutch border, it reopened after a six-month closure for major refurbishment.

About 50 per cent of guests come from Belgium and Germans also make up a sizeable proportion of visitors. Only a relatively small number are from The Netherlands itself but one specific challenge is to attract more Brits.

It seems word is yet to spread to Blighty about the wonderful charms of this place but they say good news travels fast so that may soon change.

After reopening in May 2019 the latest additions are a fantastic wellness/spa centre – said to be the biggest in a hotel in the whole of the country – and a brasserie. It’s named after Henriette who, with husband Nico, took over the ‘hotel-café restaurant’ in 1964 from the previous decade. Daughter Monique, her son René, and his wife Brigitte transformed the place into an elegant hotel. Today, it is run by the third generation of the same de Milliano family. They are 35-year-old Anne-Laure (very ably assisted by her Antwerp-born husband Olivier) and sister Kimm, aged 38.

Anne-Laure and Olivier met while studying in Antwerp, and with Kim, they have set about taking this well-established hotel, surrounded by the golden dunes of the Zealand coast and just 3km from the Belgian border, to the next level.

The well-appointed and spacious guest rooms have also been increased, from 51 last May to 93 (a good number with sea views). The superb 1,400 square metre wellness boasts an enviable selection of fine facilities, including family pool, several saunas with lovely views of the adjacent beach, treatment rooms and a small gym. It’s got history too: part of the hotel was used as a bunker in WW2.

There are two restaurants, the aforementioned brasserie named after Henriette, and also gourmet restaurant Le Sommet which offers fine dining.

Here, there is a choice of either a set menu (the price depends in the number of courses) and also a la carte option. It’s overseen by head chef Martin Philipse who is local and has been a mainstay at the hotel for some years.

Dishes are inspired from traditional French modern cuisine and Martin says the aim is to “be as creative as possible”.

Staff have worked here for years including the head waiter, a veteran of nearly three decades. Patrick Corijn cannot claim such longevity (in his case, it’s four years) but, like everyone else working here, he’s very friendly and particularly knowledgeable about the locale (always useful if you’re after tips on what to do). He is also sommelier for the hotel’s “Wine House” that has a selection of wines from the world’s finest vineyards.

A new feature is the underground car park, a particularly useful addition (which was also legally required by a regional Dutch law). The very spacious parking space is environmental-friendly and whisks you from your vehicle to the reception (where all guests are offered a welcoming drink).

This is situated in the “new” part of the hotel which has, in effect, been built from scratch. The older part did not “escape” the upgrade though with big improvements to about 26 rooms taking place there too.

If you’ve visited this charming establishment in the past chances are that, such is the fantastic job done during the refurbishment, you may not recognise it.

But, while there have been multiple changes (first started back in 2016) plus plans for a fifth floor cocktail bar one thing that has not altered since Henriette’s day is the warm welcome offered to guests.

The hotel is close to the 10,000 hectares Zwin Nature Reserve and Sluis, a gastronomic fortified city, with some great nearby cycling.

With so much to offer and all at a very reasonable cost, you really need no particular reason to visit this grand old dame of the Dutch coast.It’s less than a couple hours’ drive from Brussels and makes for a real treat – whatever time of the year.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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