Advantages Nice building, good atmosphere
Disadvantages Food a little on the cold side
|Value for Money|
|Standard of Service|
The address is Sint Michielskaai 41 and so should identify for those who know Antwerp, that it’s on St Michael’s Quay. We drove into the city and along the riverside and parked in what may well be one of the ugliest but and one of very few free car parks in the city. There were a lot of campervans and white vans and I wondered if poor chilly souls were camping out there with the snow on the ground.Hangar 41 styles itself as a ‘contemporary grand café’ and I can sort of see where they’re coming from though the fit with an old warehouse seems a bit strange. They’ve created something that reminds me of a traditional grand café out of a building which logically really ought to sit at the other end of the grandeur scale. The windows are huge and must flood the place with light during the day – not so much at 7.30 in the evening although it was still light when we arrived. The walls are bare brick, there are giant sparkling mirrors, deep brown painted walls, wooden floors and lights suspended on long wires. The lighting was actually pretty weird as several times during the evening we felt as if someone had just turned the dimmer switch a tad too far leaving our eyes to readjust to increasingly dim conditions. The bar is a long slab of wood with neat curved stools lined up along it and with bottles glimmering beneath large mirrors.
Tables are wooden and without cloths. There’s a menu as well as specials written up on blackboards and the choice is not too extensive. There are enough dishes to not restrict you without there being so many that it’s impossible to choose. The menu is broken up into sections and its in Flemish. I don’t know if there’s an English translation but if you’re stuck, tell the waiter or waitress the sort of thing you fancy and I’m sure they’ll help you out.There’s a breakfast menu served until noon or 2pm at the weekends. Clearly people sleep late. There’s a snack menu and a sandwich menu available until 6 pm. For the evening the menu splits into ‘fingerfood’, soups, dishes for children, salads, starters, pasta, big main courses, and puddings. I picked anchovies with garlic off the ‘fingerfood’ section and a main of tuna with red peppers and fennel served with rosemary potatoes. Karin choose cheese puffs as starter and a main of salmon on spinach risotto. By Antwerp terms – and this does seem to be the city that recession forgot – the prices were pretty good. Our starters were around the €6-8 mark and the main courses €20-25.
Karin’s plate had four neat and perfectly fried breadcrumb-coated cheese puffs. The insides were soft and intensely cheesy, the outsides crisp and golden brown. Unhealthy in the extreme but the half a puff I pinched was divine. It’s not exactly haute cuisine – a jar of anchovies and some deep-fried cheese so I hoped for more from the mains.Karin’s salmon was a large piece, criss-crossed by the griddle marks and perched on top of a mass of bright green risotto. I’d known it was spinach risotto but I’d not really prepared myself for quite how garish it would look. My tuna came as two rectangular pieces, sharing the same griddle marks as Karin’s salmon and accompanied by stir fried strips of red pepper and fennel and a mound of skin-on rosemary potatoes. I don’t think they’d been roasted as they seemed very dry on the surface and not at all greasy but I’m not entirely sure how they’d been prepared.
If you’d asked me if I liked fennel I probably would have been ambivalent about it but this was cooked very well and the contrast with the sweet red pepper was very pleasant. I’d have preferred the veg to be fried more lightly and not dripping with oil, but they were tasty. The potatoes were lovely although rosemary is hard to eat and is better picked off the potatoes before you try. The tuna was great quality, cooked to perfection – seared on the outside, a little bit pink in the middle – but was just too cold. Serving it with a weird gravy-like sauce did not excuse the temperature being way too cool for the dish. A few degrees hotter and the tuna would have been close to perfection. I can only think they didn’t heat the plates or left it on the plate too long before serving.
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