Restaurant Spotlight: Au Vieux Port

Antwerp eatery brings French flair, rare wines to the Belgian port city

Restaurant Spotlight: Au Vieux Port
Au Vieux Port lures diners with its charming Old World atmosphere, a menu of French and Belgian specialties and a wine list spanning key regions in France and Italy. (Courtesy of Au Vieux Port)
Nov 3, 2022

Visitors to Antwerp, Belgium, are sure to revel in its history, artistic heritage and famed Diamond District. No visit is complete, however, without checking out Het Eilandje (“The Little Island”), the city’s oldest port area—not to mention savoring some of the city’s gastronomical riches. Enter newly minted Award of Excellence winner Au Vieux Port, which since 2007 has been delighting locals and tourists alike with its traditional takes on classic French cuisine, served just adjacent to the glittering Willemdok marina.

Proudly described on its website as “Antwerp’s Frenchiest restaurant,” Au Vieux Port delivers French food “the way it is supposed to be,” complete with tableside carving service for select specials, notably canard à la rouennaise.

A passion for tradition shines in the wine program, which boasts nearly 300 selections and a 3,500-bottle cellar. Wine director, general manager and owner Serge Verboven, assisted by sommelier Tom Geerts, oversees a list with notable strength in Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Rhône, plus a smattering of solid offerings from across the Old World, especially Italy. Verboven told Wine Spectator that his goal is to “[match] with the kitchen and the feel of the place” by focusing on “classic regions and [selecting] the best” in each category.

 Classic and rare bottles of wine in an old wine cellar.
Au Vieux Port's wine cellar holds 3,500 bottles, allowing owner Serge Verboven to offer the best of Europe along with picks tailored to seasonal menu items. (Courtesy of Au Vieux Port)

Diners can start the meal with a number of classic Champagnes, including Louis Roederer, Bollinger and Pol Roger. Those in a white Burgundy mood will cheer for the Meursault and Chassagne-Montrachet offerings. For guests willing to venture beyond France, rewards include mature riserva magnums from Produttori del Barbaresco; Tuscan gems from Isole e Olena, Fontodi and Biondi-Santi; and a range of reds from Ribera del Duero icon Vega Sicila. And don’t skip dessert, at least not dessert wine: Au Vieux Port devotes its entire sweet wines section to the late Austrian maestro Aloïs Kracher.

Chef Stijn Havermans’ menu changes with the seasons, but a recent version features such starters as goose liver terrine, beef carpaccio and shrimp croquettes. In the mains, the saddle of lamb steals the show, but don’t miss the eel in green sauce—a Belgian classic—or the roasted poulet noir. Pheasant, saddle of hare and tarte au boudin also compete for diners’ attention among the rotating dishes. For those in an especially carnivorous mood, aged filet mignon or ribeye steak fit the bill.

Au Vieux Port is open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, and reservations are recommended.

 Server pouring wine for three guests at Au Vieux Port in Antwerp on a sunny day
With outdoor seating available when the weather is good, Au Vieux Port provides a pleasant setting for a break from sightseeing. (Courtesy of Au Vieux Port)
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