Christmas isn't closed everywhere - try Antwerp and Manhattn's

Christmas is, arguably, the best time of the year for a visit to Antwerp, Belgium's 2nd city.

The great Flemish city is great to enjoy a winter break, even if it’s just for the day, that is just a little bit different. This winter, Antwerp’s famous Christmas market sadly fell victim to the ongoing nightmare that is the health pandemic but, even so, it is still the place to go for anyone who enjoys a great festive experience.

One of Antwerp’s traditional Yuletide activities that have happily survived this year (one of not many) is the lovely ice skating rink on the Groenplaats, a delightful square which is also just a 3 minute walk to the huge Cathedral (currently undergoing major renovation).

After a spot of skating (and exploring the myriad of fascinating streets nearby in the city’s picturesque Old Quarter) you may well have worked up an appetite. So what better way to sate your hunger that at another of this area’s best-known attractions: Manhattn’s.

It’s a very affordable (prices as low as €10.20) burger joint which directly overlooks this, arguably the most lovely of Antwerp’s many lovely squares.The Antwerp Manhattn’s (there are also branches in Brussels and Gent) is spread over three floors and can seat up to 100 people (plus terrace).

There’s some very creative artwork on the walls – with a predominant Manhattan-skyline, of course - and there are excellent metro links right outside.Of course, it is the food that is the main thing and, here, you will not be disappointed.

The taste, flavour and sheer quality of the burgers that are served - some with very inventive names like Rockefeller, Empire, Gatsby and Brooklyn (remind you of anywhere?) - here are just as superior as the welcome and service.The prime Angus cattle that is the source for the burgers are grass fed; the chips are very well cooked and tasty (as are the buns) and you really do need to also try the accompanying sauces, including the “secret sauce” (you’ll really have to pay a visit to see how good it is!).

For those yet to discover it, Manhattn’s is a real Belgian success story which started in 214 when Jerome Vandermeulen, a young Belgian, went to New York to work and started selling Belgian waffles and other typical Belgian products in the bustling streets of Manhattan.

For a couple of years he mastered the ins and outs of the New York food truck scene and street life in general.Jerome returned to Belgium and, with the idea of taking a slice out the Big Apple,he transposed “the entertaining and enchanting New York experience” to this country.

In partnership with his brother Phil, who already had extensive culinary track-record in the Belgian restaurant scene, the go ahead Vandermeulens set about realising their dream with Manhattn’s.A crucial element is the energetic and lively “American-style” customer service from a team of hard working young staff. At Antwerp, this includes the very welcoming team leader Nickole, 26, who comes from the Philippines and has worked at the resto for three years,having started in the kitchen.

“I love it here” he says, “not least because Jerome actually listens to his staff and takes on board what we have to say.”He says they will “go out of our way” to accommodate guests, including those without the current health certificate required for entry to restos

“If someone hasn’t got it, they are offered a takeaway or to sit outside instead,” he says.“Of course, we take the current rules very seriously but no one is left out. We have options even if you don’t have a coronavirus pass.”

You order at the front counter, take a seat and a small device you’re given will alert you when the food is ready.

Of course, there’s plenty of places to eat burgers but the now-mini network of Manhattn’s are a class above the rest.

Incidentally Christmas isn’t the only time to visit this famous city.Looking ahead, in 2022 Antwerp and its port is, the pandemic allowing, to host The Tall Ships Races for the seventh time.

Further info

Manhattn’s

Groenplaats 1, Antwerpen

03 434 5453

https://www.manhattns.com

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