Antwerp trip: day 2

As I had said in part one, the day had started off a bit rough due to something called gluten. Once we finally did get a move on, we decided to go to the shopping district. Our first stop (and only one on our list) was a comic store called Mekanik. A great store and I would’ve loved to take home at least half of it! Moving on to the city center, we stumbled upon Lombardia, one of the gluten free lunchrooms on my list! The busy decor gave it the chaotic feeling of a Latin American street market: little space, lots of cramped tables (I found out Belgium really likes to go for 100% occupation of all spaces) and very colorful. We found a table in the middle of the joint: a bit close to the kitchen but the other option would be a table next to the restrooms.. no thanks! The menu was made out of colorful, multi-layered, mix-matched pieces of menu, with some parts of the old menu ripped off, new ones added and everything in between. We ordered a large Beasty Tapa for 2 and washed it down with a coffee for Albert and Bionade Elderberry for me. The order arrived after about 8 minutes.. but was taken back right away by our waitress: she saw the cook had crumbled some bread crumbs on the dish. After this lucky rescue (and another 5 minutes later), we got our order and it looked amazing! Unlike any tapas I’ve ever had, this was full bread and dip tapas. The plate had about 8 different dips to choose from and ciabatta and crackers for dipping. My favorites were the guacamole and the chicken curry with parsley. Albert’s was most definitely the chicken salsa. One was good, but we both had no idea what it was. Since it almost never happens that we are both fully clueless we had to ask what it was: it turned out to be pulverized magic mushroom.. Very interesting! After having our lunch and a little more close observation we found out the cook wasn’t too thorough with making sure nothing would be cross-contaminated: after handling a normal order with bread, she would just wipe her hands on her apron and start with the next order. Since the gluten of the day before were still being felt, we decided to just go with it and hope for the best. Still, for a restaurant that’s famous for it’s gluten free menu (even for celiac patients!), I thought it was just too careless. All in all, the location was ideal, the decor was nice, although busy. The food tasted good (and it was different), but was actually pretty expensive for a few pieces of bread and dip (€17,-) and unfortunately probably wasn’t fully gluten-free.

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After eating at Lombardia’s and walking around the town center a bit more, we decided to walk to the other side of town for something I was very excited about: the gluten free bakery! The bakery required a pre-order of 3 days and Saturday was our day to pick up our order of: 2 flans, 1 elcair, 2 small buns, 2 sesame buns and 3 french bread. As we were on our way, we found another stop on my list and, since we still had time left before the pick-up time, we decided to get some coffee. This cafe, called Coffee & Vinly, was simple and sweet. Easy-listening indie music played in the background and newspapers were scattered on old school desks, that were used as tables. In the back they sold vinyls and in the front they had the coffee bar. I decided to order a homemade Ice-tea: Green tea and Lemon. Albert stuck with a simple coffee. It was a great place to sit and relax after such a busy day and I could see myself coming in as a regular if I had lived nearby.

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Onward! Just a few doors down, we found our bakery! The Glutenvrije Bakkerij had a small shop in the front, filled with gluten free products ranging from candy to frozen croquettes. We were able to pick up our order right away, and the smell! It was fantastic! Fresh and, well..  bread-like. Eugene’s bakery has been the best gluten free option this whole trip.

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After this, we walked all the way back to the hotel to get a quick rest before dinner. Which would be needed. Gravely. The restaurant I had planned to go to was called Native and was supposed to be a fantastic meal; fresh ingredients and a chef with a love for vegetables. The reviews I had read glorified this restaurant. I had to go there as well to see what they were talking about. Unfortunately, once we had finally arrived (we got lost a few times, it’s pretty much out of the way of the city’s buzz), it was already pretty late and there weren’t any vacancies. I thought I would die right there (no really, I can be a huge baby when it comes to plans being shattered..). We walked back to the center to find somewhere else to eat, but nothing seemed quite good enough. Until.. we came to the Cathedral square.. That’s were we found our words of salvation: mussels. We hadn’t had any yet this year and we decided that it was meant to be. We decided to take a seat at ‘T Putke, unsuspecting of the great service we would be about to receive. After ordering our dinner and wines, our waitress came back with a frown. I thought something would be wrong with the gluten free aspect of the dinner, but no. It seemed the restaurant was out of mussels. At this point, I would’ve been okay with some slices of cheese on our fresh french bread for dinner.. but our waitress came back! They had gone to their neighboring restaurant and bought off some of their mussels for us! We felt like a million bucks! Our orders of garlic mussels and a side of salad was done in about 10 minutes, and I have to say, it tasted like heaven. Who would’ve thought the one restaurant that didn’t advertise it’s gluten free menu would be the best in it’s dishes and by far the best service? Needless to say, we tipped them quite nicely.

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That was our second day of our trip to Antwerp! Tomorrow I’ll post our conclusion 😉

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