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I S S U E 3 | F E B R UA R Y - M A R C H 2014

VEERLE BAETENS B E LG I U M ’ S

O SC AR

P ROMOTI NG B ELGI U M,

THE

HOP E

BEER, BEACH RACING B O R R E M A N S & R OT T E R DA M PLUS: DESIGN, CULTURE AND TOURISM

NETHERLANDS

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Discover Benelux | Contents

Contents FEBRUARY – MARCH 2014

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COVER FEATURE 6

Belgium’s Oscar Hope

SPECIAL THEME 16

From her early TV days that brought fame for Baetens as she played the role of Sara, Belgium’s Ugly Betty, this Flemish actress has experienced some highs and lows in the industry. But since the release of The Broken Circle Breakdown life has changed drastically for Baetens. Now with the Oscars just a matter of days away, we are waiting with baited breath to see if the film scoops the coveted crown of Best Foreign Film.

Discover Benelux Culture

38

its atmosphere certainly provides for some cosy evenings of tasty food and chat.

A wintery weekend on the Dutch coast Discover Benelux packed our thermals and set off for the lovely, little seaside town of Egmond aan Zee for a wintery weekend in January. Shedding our layers, we watched a mountain bike beach race and casually ran one of the country’s most popular half marathons.

CULTURE You don’t have to just accept our word that Benelux has a lot to offer – who knows the Benelux culture better than their own Ministers of Culture? Belgian artist Michael Borremans’ retrospective opens in Brussels this month, and we introduce you to some of the best musical talent to emerge from Benelux, all of whom Janine Sterenborg was lucky enough to catch live at Eurosonic Noorderslag in Groningen. On top of all this, a trip to Amsterdam was on the cards to soak up some more culture and Simon Woolcot attended the Alliance Gastronomique event at Hotel Okura.

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FEATURES 14

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Belgian Beer – Your Favourite Tipple? With centuries of beer production behind them, it is only fair that we show our appreciation for Belgian beer. Christopher Middleton’s trip around breweries in Beer: God’s Gift to Belgium is an enlightening read, and work up a hunger as you read about our favourite Flemish beer chef Hilaire Spreuwers.

Restaurants of the Month Two Michelin stars and the best terrace in the Netherlands? Don’t say we don’t treat you right. Amstelveen’s Aan de Poel is a class apart, offering an ever-changing menu and some of the country’s most knowledgeable sommeliers. La Villette in Brussels was obvious choice for us this month with its traditional Belgian dishes and great selection of local beers. Centrally located,

BUSINESS 40

Columns & calendar A specialist in plain language, Josiah Fisk from More Carrot shares his musings on the role of language in a business context, while Steve Flinders from York Associates dissects the potential pitfalls of meetings, and gives advice on how to avoid these faults.

PLUS 11 Desirable designs from Benelux 12 Fashion Picks 43 Column: Luxessed 44 Out & About 46 Column: Anne Faber 47 Review: The Amsterdam Confessions of a Shallow Man 47 In their own words

Issue 3 | February - March 2014 | 3


Discover Benelux | Editor’s Xxx | Xxxx Note

Dear Reader, Discover Benelux Issue 3, February – March 2014 Published February 2013 ISSN 2054-7218

Publisher: Scan Group 15B Bell Yard Mews Bermondsey Street London SE1 3TY United Kingdom

Scan Group

Phone +44 (0)870 933 0423 Fax +44 (0)870 933 0421 Email: info@discoverbenelux.com

Design & Print

www.discoverbenelux.com

Published by

Liquid Graphic Ltd. Executive Editor Thomas Winther Creative Director Mads E. Petersen Editor Emmie Collinge Contributors Matt Antoniak Immi Abraham

During the preparation for this month’s issue I’ve been fortunate enough to go not once but twice to the Netherlands. The first time saw me tackle my first half marathon (it went very well, thank you) and wear myself out cycling around Amsterdam and its 513km of bike paths. Learning that Amsterdam has almost as many bikes as inhabitants definitely won’t come as any surprise once you’ve been to its central station and seen the masses of bikes piled high outside. It really is a fantastic city to experience on two wheels and far more pleasurable than other capital cities, as car drivers show a lot more respect than you might be used to. The second trip invited us on a design frenzy tour of Rotterdam and Amsterdam. After a wonderful night’s sleep at the brand new nhow Rotterdam, we crossed the Erasmus bridge, walked down the hip Witte de Withstraat in the direction of the Boijmans van Beuningen design museum. A quick jaunt inside Boijmans left us pining for a whole day to dedicate there. Then we visited the renovated Kunsthal to see their latest offerings. Back in Amsterdam, the opening of Marcel Wanders: Pinned Up at the Stedelijk museum was on the agenda. An absolute treat of an exhibition for lovers of design, with his creations definitely ranking among some of Discover Benelux’s favourites.

Anna Parkin Phil Gale Janine Sterenborg Christopher Middleton Anne Faber Steve Flinders Anouk K. Simon Woolcot Cover Photo Michiel Hendryckx

Now it’s March and the Oscars are imminent, so who better to have on the cover than the wonderful Flemish actress Veerle Baetens? Director Felix van Groeningen’s The Broken Circle Breakdown is in with a shot for the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. If you haven’t seen it yet then I can’t think of a better suggestion for your weekend viewing. I’ll warn you though, it’s a bit of a tear-jerker. We are finally starting to see some sunlight as the days lengthen, so flick through to our calendar for some ideas on how to spend your hours.

Advertising info@discoverbenelux.com

Emmie Collinge Editor, Discover Benelux

© All rights reserved. Material contained in this publication may not be reproduced, in whole or in part, without prior permission of Scan Group – a trading name of Scan Magazine Ltd. This magazine contains advertorials/promotional articles.

4 | Issue 3 | February - March 2014


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Photo: Michiel Hendryckx

Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Veerle Baetens

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Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Veerle Baetens

V E E R L E

B A E T E N S

Belgium’s Oscar hope For Veerle Baetens, it is something of rare treat to find herself back in Belgium. Since her appearance in 2012’s The Broken Circle Breakdown - hailed as the best Belgian film of the last few decades - Belgium’s hottest star of the moment has been caught up in a whirlwind of performances and awards. TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PHOTOS: THOMAS DHANENS

Discover Benelux caught up with Baetens to talk about the unstoppable runaway success of The Broken Circle Breakdown, shooting her current pan-European project The Team with Europe’s coolest actors, and why being picky has got her where she is today. Belgium’s current star of the moment is understandably a little tired as she readjusts to life back at home. As she happily admits, the last 18 months have been a whirlwind for 35-year-old Veerle Baetens a hazy mix of clambering on and off stages – both for performances and awards. Her success has mirrored the achievement of indie film The Broken Circle Breakdown, which premiered in 2012, and catapulted Baetens from TV actress to Belgian A-lister. Since its launch at the Ghent Film Fes-

tival in October 2012, where it received critical acclaim, the film has become one of the most visited Flemish films - attracting half a million cinema goers in Belgium alone, has been hailed as the best Belgian film of the last few decades, and is now in the running for an Oscar. Not bad for an independent film with a meagre budget compared to Hollywood. The soundtrack, central to the plot and performed by the characters themselves, was equally successful, remaining at the top of the charts for a successive nine weeks, knocking the soundtrack from the 1998 hit film Titanic, (which topped the charts for eight weeks) from the record books. It is now set to embark on a 35date tour in 2014, beginning in Brussels

at the famous Ancienne Belgique on March 26.

From the theatre to the big screen In addition to Baetens, The Broken Circle Breakdown, directed by Felix van Groeningen, also stars Johan Heldenberg, who penned the original theatre play which was later adapted for the big screen by Groeningen. It depicts the rollercoaster story of the relationship between tattooshop owner Baetens and bluegrass musician Heldenberg. Juxtaposing the current state of the relationship - which hangs on the wellbeing of their daughter - and the heady early days of the relationship, this film has had audiences reaching for their tissues as they follow the highs and the lows of the pair.

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Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Veerle Baetens

Veerle as Elise in the Oscar nominated The Broken Circle Breakdown.

It was the theatre show which initially hooked Baetens. “I was actually teaching when the stage show was at the theatre and I went to see it twice – the second time taking my class,” she explains excitedly. “The first 10 minutes captivated me, I found it quite extraordinary and knew that my students needed to experience this beautiful mix of humour and emotion. This was a play which really dragged you in.” Once the play had manifested itself into a film script, the question on everyone’s lips was would play the lead female. Heldenberg, an actor originally, was the obvious choice for the role he had essentially written for himself. However the leading female proved more elusive. Baetens laughs modestly as she admits that she was initially overlooked in a typical case of typecasting. “In Flanders especially, I am known for my role in Sara – the Belgian version of

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Ugly Betty – so some people considered me as just a commercial actress. For me, type-casting is completely irrelevant.”

Receiving rave reviews “The role of Elise in The Broken Circle Breakdown is one that every actress dreams of. I was the last person to audition and I could not have been happier to get the part,” continues Baetens. She was undoubtedly a great choice, with her performance since gaining critical acclaim around the world. The New York Times cited her acting as one of the stand-out performances of 2013, stating: “Ms. Baetens never less than bristles with intensity, as if the tattoos that cover her skin are not just rendered in ink but filigreed with raw nerves,” while the UK broadsheet The Telegraph wrote that Baetens “blows you away with her whole performance.” With The Broken Circle Breakdown busy

on the festival circuit at the beginning of 2013, Baetens was approached by the BBC to appear in The White Queen, a BBC co-production with the Belgian channel Éen, which appeared on TV in the UK last summer. “Again, this was another dream for me – I am so fond of costume dramas. I loved acting in English as well – getting to say all these old English lines was brilliant fun. And I got my own trailer!” Fame has come as quite a shock to the friendly and down-to-earth Belgian as she has been active in the industry for a fair while already. “It is a bit crazy,” she admits shyly, “it was so nice for The Broken Circle Breakdown to do so well in Belgium. And then when we didn’t get selected for Cannes, I was pretty disappointed and thought that would be it. But then in Berlin it was received so well.” Now the film has won eight awards at various international


Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Veerle Baetens

The Broken Circle Breakdown's soundtrack is performed by the band of the same name.

festivals from Tallinn to Tribeca and received over 40 nominations. It is being touted as a major hope for an Oscar in the Best non-English Language category, but Baetens remains modest with regards to their chances: “Obviously I’d be delighted. I am hoping to win but it’s all just so exciting.” Having just accepted her biggest award so far - Best Female Actress at the European Film Awards - Europe’s answer to the Oscars, Baetens says she is happy just to be home for a short period before travelling again in January. “Things are slowing down again now temporarily. I’ve been on set shooting a new pan-European police drama called The Team, I play the role of the Belgian police investigator – it’s a project from Denmark, Austria, Germany and Belgium with some really big European actors in it.” However, shooting continues

across Europe until June 2014, meaning viewers will have to wait until much later in the year until it appears on our screens. Baetens’ enthusiasm however is contagious, and we’re already waiting impatiently.

Austerity measures that hit culture While accepting her accolade at the European Film Awards in Berlin on 7 December, Baetens’ acceptance speech raised a few eyebrows back home in Belgium due to the current uncertain political climate. “There are some people who don’t think I should have said what I said,” she says in reference to her out-spoken words of unity, (“I’m not a political person, but I am an emotional one and I think we should stick together”), “I was actually referring to Europe as a whole – it was so amazing to sit with all these incredible European filmmakers, feeling so safe and unified. But the southern countries are worried because of

the austerity measures as culture is always hit hardest. I wasn’t specifically pointing at Wallonia and Flanders when I said we should stay together, but just at how great it is to be Belgian and European as one. I haven’t always been positive about Belgium but spending so much time away has really made me appreciate it. It does rain and the people can nag but it’s a beautiful country.” So what next for Baetens once The Team is wrapped up? “Do you know what, I don’t know. I’d love to be approached with something brilliant – a project with an amazing director, a great plot and fantastic characters. I’d like to do more work abroad as well.” What is certain, is that the Belgian star is unlikely to be bored. When Baetens isn’t acting, she can often be found fronting her

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Discover Benelux | Cover Feature | Veerle Baetens

ABOVE: Didier and Elise's relationship is one full of love to begin with. BELOW: The on-screen marriage between actress Veerle and actor Johan.

band Dallas. “2012 was the year for Dallas – I deliberately made space in my life for it. In fact, all the band have their own other projects to work on so this works well. After Christmas we all went to Italy together to write and create. What came out of our time there in January will be considered something beautiful I hope, but it’ll be very different to the electro-pop album we released in 2012 entitled Take It All.” Having studied music at school and university, Baetens admits that now she tends to consider music as more of a hobby, but a very enjoyable one she assures us. “In 2012 I ended up buying loads of electronic instruments which I’ve got at home now.” As a child, she spent her free time switching from drawing club, to dance groups and piano lessons. With her own young daughter now at a similar age to her onscreen daughter who goes through unspeakable horrors in The Broken Circle

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Breakdown, can she imagine her daughter playing such a traumatic role? “I’m going to encourage her to find her own way to express herself. If she wants to act then of course I’d be happy for her,” Baetens says. Looming large on the horizon for Baetens and the team behind The Broken Circle Breakdown is of course The Oscars, the crème- de la crème of film awards. Baetens is understandably excited: “We naturally want to win an Oscar, and I personally am really hopeful.” The next couple of months will not only be an emotional rollercoaster with the nerves of the Oscars but also a continuation of Baetens’ whirlwind, seeing her pack up her bags and get on a plane to Los Angeles for the ceremony before returning to Belgium and taking to the stage once again to sing the Americana-influenced soundtrack to thousands of fans.


Discover Benelux | Design | Desirable Designs

Desirable Designs from Benelux We’re bound to spend hours in the house this month so it’s vital to keep warm and cosy. Once again, Discover Benelux has selected its favourite winter-warmers.

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BY EMMIE COLLINGE | PRESS PHOTOS

1: Spruce Stove We were completely blown away when we stumbled across this wood-burner. Lovingly hand-crafted with materials of the highest quality by two young Eindhoven-based designers, Michiel Martens and Roel de Boer, the Spruce Stove is their attempt to “reshape reality and create more adventure and joy.” Infinitely practical, a delight to look at, and saves your back the strain caused by chopping wood. Heating the house during the winter becomes an experience rather than a chore, explains the pair: “by gently pushing the trunk inwards during the burning process the experience subtly becomes a natural and informal time-indicator which holds the promise for long, warm and cosy evenings at the fire place.” (Prices start at Q4,500) michielmartens.com studiodeboer.wix.com/studioroeldeboer

2: Mehary Biennale Interieur’s Designer of the Year 2013, Brussels-based Jean-François D'Or came up trumps with this stunning doormat-cum-umbrella holder. Photo: Stéphanie derouaux.

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www.loudordesign.be

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3: Glassbulb Lamp The fabulous wine-glass shape of this lamp designed by Eindhoven-based Studio OOMS is a winner and looks fantastic on or above the table. According to the studio, “the LED’s inside the Glassbulb have over 30,000 hours of shine within them, so that’s around 10 years of romance at night!” (Q59) www.oooms.nl

4: Saddle Stool Vroonland and Vaandrager, in true Dutch style, have created this long-lasting Saddle Stool which we are desperate to get our hands on. It’s available in two sizes (63cm and 83cm) and for those of you who cycle with a leather saddle, you’ll know that this stool, like a fine wine, will age gracefully.

5: Paper Porcelain tableware This tableware set from super cool Dutch design-duo Scholten and Baijings has a certain minimalist charm to it, the cardboard-like appearance of the unglazed porcelain is understated yet eye-catching. We can’t wait to serve our guests with this incredible range of cups, saucers and plates. www.scholtenbaijings.com

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www.vroonland.info

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Discover Benelux | Design | March Fashion Picks

March Fashion Picks Chatting about next winter's collections when spring has not yet sprung is the bane of a fashion insider's existence. Add loads of reference-heavy jargon (“This shoulder line is totally giving me SS08 Balenciaga, pre-Wang obviously”) and you've got yourself a confused reader. So, in order to satisfy both the future-obsessed fashion fans as well as the more laid-back style lovers, we've combined two catwalk looks from the upcoming seasons with Benelux designs that are in stores right now. March on with March's fashion fierceness!

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AS PICKED BY IMMI ABRAHAM. FASHION GURU AND BLOGGER. STYLE4GUYS.BLOGSPOT.CO.UK | PRESS PHOTOS

WOMEN 1: Viktor & Rolf Photo: Marcus Tondo)

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Viktor & Rolf's spring 2014 collection gave us private school girl with an irreverent streak. Preppy blazers were deconstructed, shirt dresses pleated sideways and pierced with safety pins. In this look, the Dutch designer pair showcased their construction skills by melding two jackets into one. Who knew bermuda shorts could ever look office appropriate? 2: Leopard by Belle Sauvage jumper Q127. Photo: Belle Sauvage If Karl Lagerfeld were a cat, we're pretty sure he'd look like this one. Luxembourg brand Leopard by Belle Sauvage provides the perfect raspy-tongue-incheek jumper for all you crazy cat ladies out there! 3: Maison Martin Margiela purse Q1090. Photo: Net-à-Porter Just because the sky/your mood is rather grey at this time of year, it doesn't mean your outfits need to be! This cobalt-blue leather bag by Maison Martin Margiela adds just the right kick of colour to your outfit. What’s more, the inside is lined with super soft black suède so you can literally rub this baby in all of your friends' faces! 4: Haider Ackermann boots Q411. Photo: LN-CC The definition of 'chunky heels', these sumptuous leather boots by Haider Ackermann will give you all the balance you need if the cobble-stone streets turn to glacial death traps. Stomp away! 5: Véronique Branquinho coat Q1189. Photo: Opening Ceremony

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If this coat is good enough for Queen Mathilde of Belgium, it may just be good enough for you. Sesame Street's Big Bird comparisons were quick to be made when Her Royal Highness stepped out in this number, but there is nothing childlike about the luxury of this zesty yellow woollen coat.


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Discover Benelux | Design | March Fashion Picks

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1: Raf Simons Photo: Yannis Vlamos For his latest collection (autumn-winter 2014-'15), Belgian designer Raf Simons collaborated with American artist Ruby Sterling - churning out one great outfit after the other. Like this grey oversized coat (with stripey cuffs) paired with black leather gloves, a wafer-thin briefcase and clunky boots! One of the more subdued looks in the collection, but teeming with individuality.

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2: Olaf Hussein jeans Photo: Olaf Hussein These slightly speckled grey selvedge jeans by Amsterdam-based denim label Olaf Hussein are just right. Not too baggy but also not tight enough to make sitting down an issue. Just the way we like it! 3: Kris Van Assche shirt Q498. Photo: Ssense We may all have 24 hours in a day, but Kris Van Assche seems to find the time to helm both Dior Homme, a huge global brand, as well as his eponymous line. Imagine the collar of this crocodile-print shirt, with its cracked enamel feel, peaking over the neckline of your jumper. Edgy elegance! 4: Komono watch Q54,95. Photo: Komono How great is this cement-coloured watch by Belgian brand Komono? We'll tell you: pretty damn great. The blue dials give the soft beige timepiece a jolt of colour that will have people constantly glancing at your wrist. And at less than 60 euros, it's a total steal.

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5: Chauncey jumper Photo: Chauncey There's nothing more fun than a polka dot jumper, and this Chauncey specimen is no exception. This Belgian-based brand prides itself on the use of the finest quality yarns and pure craftmanship. If that means that it’s well made on top of making us feel giddy, then we can only sing this young label's praises!

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Discover Benelux | Special Feature | Egmond aan Zee

TEST OF ENDURANCE ON THE SAND With more than 250km of North Sea coastline, it comes as no surprise that the Dutch have combined their landscape with their love for two wheels to create another popular cycling discipline: beach racing. After road cycling, mountain biking, track racing and city riding, comes this lesser known but rapidly growing form of cycling, taking place on the beach. TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PHOTOS: PHIL GALE / LE CHAMPION

Not dissimilar to mountain biking but with drop handlebars as in cyclocross, the norm, competitors charge up or down the coastline with the North Sea winds acting as either friend or foe. Variations in tidal conditions add to the challenge, with narrow stretches of churned up sand at high tide or the more welcome low tide, when the beach resembles a Dutch pancake and is at its fastest. AGU Egmond - Pier - Egmond, now in its 15th year, takes place in the popular seaside town of Egmond aan Zee in North Holland. The race was born out of a shared passion for cycling and some inspiring

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photos from the 1930s of a local named Piet Tervoort, a man seen in all weathers cycling up and down the shoreline. It has now become the world’s largest beach race, taking place on the Saturday and followed by a half marathon on the Sunday. Flooded with visitors over this January weekend with 60,000 spectators and over 20,000 competitors of all ages and abilities, Egmond aan Zee welcomed Discover Benelux for an action-packed weekend, to show us first-hand why so many are taking to the beach. With night setting as we arrived, Friday evening saw us dine in style at Zilte Zoen

[salty kiss] and we headed to our apartment without having seen the sea. Full of excitement, we arose early the next morning to fit in a run in the wooded dune reserve. Five kilometres at its widest, with crisscrossing paths and trails, the North Holland Dune Reserve is an area of natural beauty and gave us the much-needed respite from the all too urban landscape that we have become so familiar with. The beach race began early on Saturday afternoon and saw multi-world champion Marianne Vos, Tour de France riders Thomas Dekker and Laurens ten Dam, and 4,000 other riders faced with some of the


Discover Benelux | Special Feature | Egmond aan Zee

toughest beach conditions since the race was founded. As a spectator, you were greeted with breath-taking scenes of the silhouettes of cyclists against the horizon as well as glimpses of the intensity on their sweat-drenched faces. The backdrop of the beach serving as the canvas and the tyre tracks adding texture to the image. After a testing 36km up and down the beach taking anywhere from 1 hour 19 minutes to nigh on four hours, the riders collapsed over the finish line, understandably proud of themselves. Yet for almost a quarter of these riders, the competition was not over as Sunday heralded the 42nd PWN Egmond Half Marathon and their ambitions of completing the ‘combi’ event, where a time is given for both races over the weekend. The half marathon, one of the largest in the Netherlands with a field of 17,000 runners, does not lend itself to fast times due to the hard course. The run begins in the town with 3.5km on road, followed by 7km along the beach and finishes with an undulating return to Egmond through the dunes. With an equally top class international field as the bike race, the anticipation for an exciting event was high. Leading the Dutch effort, top athlete Adrienne Herzog showed her potential by coming third among the Ethiopians and Kenyans. As a keen runner, my own experience of the event was certainly a positive one, although the combination of soft sand and a strong headwind proved more challenging that I had thought possible. Stiff but satisfied, we watched the sunset over the North Sea on Sunday evening. Content with our half marathon times, we marvelled at what a weekend it had been. Whilst Egmond is clearly a popular summer destination with its family-friendly beaches and quality restaurants ensuring that any stay here is a pleasant one, our experience proved to us that a winter weekend break on the coast can be equally as enticing. Just 25 minutes with the train from Amsterdam, this fishing village with its dunes and open beaches made for a brilliant excursion from the city and left us pining for nature, sea breezes and more racing on the sand!

17,000 half marathon runners spread out over the beach in Egmond aan Zee. Photo: Le Champion

Where we stayed: www.zeldenpas.nl Where we ate: www.ziltezoen.nl What we ran: www.pwnegmondhalvemarathon.nl What we cycled: www.aguegmondpieregmond.nl What bike to ride: wikkit-cycles.com

The long stretch of beach in Egmond aan Zee is the perfect location for a beach race.

Issue 3 | February - March 2014 | 15


Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Belgian Beer

T H E M E :

Belgian beer: What’s your favourite tipple? Generally speaking Belgians tend to be moderate and discrete people, but not when it comes to their beer! Then their pride emerges, however boasting is rare, tasting is the rule.

Why does a small country have so many (about 1500) beers, which are so diverse and so good? This is difficult to answer. There is partly a religious explanation: Belgium is the birthplace of abbey beers since the Middle Ages and the origin of the world famous Trappist beers also lies in our country, more than 200 years ago. But there is more, much more: another explanation refers to the Belgians’ open minded nature. We have a 'progressive' beer culture, meaning that we have added a lot of ingredients (apart from the basic ones: water, malt, hops and yeast) over the centuries. The best recipes have survived and thus for instance 'Kriek' was created by adding fruit (sour cherries), 'Saison' beers

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particular have been more important in our history than central state structures. Many cities have their 'own' beer. While some of these have disappeared through the ages, others have reinvented them. These are just some reasons for the abundance of Belgian beer. But we shouldn't think or talk too long about all this. The proof of Belgian Beer is in the tasting. Consider this an invitation. saw the light by adding many spices. 'Wit' beers are brewed by adding wheat to barley. A third factor is the city: Belgium is a country where local communities and cities in

Sven GATZ Director Belgische Brouwers - Brasseurs Belges www.belgianbrewers.be

Photo: Het Anker.

S P E C I A L


Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Belgian Beer

Beerstronomy Over the past ten years, exports of Belgian beer have grown by over 70%, testament to Belgian brewers’unwavering dedication to high quality production and a popularity which shows no signs of faltering. When thirsty, many people all over the world reach for a beer, but if suggested as accompaniment to fine-dining it may result in a shake of the head. Yet things are set to change. TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PHOTOS: VISIT FLANDERS

“Especially for you, all the way from Belgium with my two favourite ingredients: beer and gastronomy,” begins Flemish Kitchen Rebel Hilaire Spreuwers enthusiastically before he is promptly silenced as the director shouts: “Cut. From the top.” And so it goes for the remainder of the day at regular intervals. Discover Benelux found themselves on set with Belgian chef Hilaire Spreuwers in a hip, exposed-brickwork warehouse apartment in the heart of trendy East London where Visit Flanders (http://www.visitflanders.co.uk) are busy preparing their latest Flanders-tastic cam-

paign conceived to promote one of Flanders’ most well-known products: Belgian beer. The crew from creative agency Orchestra and Spreuwers, the chef whose name is on everyone’s lips, are well into their groove, focused solely on the adeptness with which he manoeuvers himself nimbly around the foreign kitchen. The individual ingredients and beer bottles are strategically placed in front of him on the large work surface. The kitchen where the filming is taking place seems familiar and we later hear that it is the same location that the famed British TV chef Jamie Oliver used for his 30 Minute Meals programme.

Discover Benelux is suitably impressed, but Spreuwers tells us animatedly that Jamie is the one who would be impressed now, having been ‘the starter’ to Spreuwers who is the main course. The ever-friendly Belgian is clearly comfortable in this unknown kitchen, teasing the crew as one member of the team has a little hiccup with her headphones. We watch from the comfort of the sofa in the open-plan kitchen/lounge, secure in the knowledge that the man in the kitchen is going to create something both distinctive and delicious. “Spreuwers was the obvious

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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Belgian Beer

choice for our campaign,” explains Anja Bogaert from the other end of the sofa. In her role as Visit Flanders’ Consumer Marketing Communications Manager she is responsible for enlightening Brits about Brussels and Flanders. “With his concept of Beerstronomy, he couldn’t be a better brand ambassador,” she says enthusiastically.

The missing ingredient? Beerstronomy as a concept is relatively new but is quickly growing in prominence in Belgium. Invented by the Belgian Beer Company of which Spreuwers plays a part, it is a not-unsubtle play on the words beer and gastronomy; referring both to using beer when cooking as an alternative to wine or stock, as well as the potential exquisite pairings of beer with particular dishes.

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It is of course no understatement that good beers are cherished like fine vintage wines in Belgium and nowhere is this more apparent than in BitterZoet, Belgium’s only fine dining restaurant that has chosen to forsake a wine menu. But isn’t wine the perfect accompaniment to fine dining? “We may think that wine is more distinguished,” replies Spreuwers, “and people don’t make the connection between beer and gastronomy. But I think beer certainly has its role within high class cuisine.” So does beer have an undeserved bad reputation? “Not at all, we typically drink beer in pubs, in a certain glass, from the tap, but at BitterZoet we treat beer like wine – it deserves a similar treatment.”

A conscious choice to forsake wine BitterZoet, the brain child of Spreuwers and his wife, opened its doors two and a

half years ago and continues to draw in eager diners, quickly filling up the intimate restaurant floor to the rafters. “If I was busy or had to be elsewhere then I wouldn’t open the restaurant that day – it’s only ever me who does the cooking. The recipes are my creations,” says Spreuwers, “and when we serve the beer we take it to the table, giving an explanation of the particular food and beer pairing.” Valued with the same respect shown by sommeliers, the beers’ characteristics are carefully considered when serving each individual dish. Watching him passionately prepare the dishes here today is inspiring: the satisfying hiss of the star ingredient being opened; the beer poured proudly over the sizzling meat of the stew; and the tantalising aromas which then fill the room. The chef is regarded as somewhat of an expert in beer-


Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Belgian Beer

based cuisine, regularly featured in the press, and is clearly an ardent connoisseur of beer as well as a lover of this drink. “I was first allowed to try beer when I was five years old, a small amount at family gatherings, served in a shot glass,” Spreuwers laughs, “but I know much more now.” “The beer that I’m using with the second dish of today is Gouden Carolus Classic,” he explains to the camera with a slight smile on his face as its lens rapidly pans back and forth in front of him. “This is a beer from a Belgian family brewing collective in Mechelen called Het Anker. It’s ideal for this classic dish of pig cheeks, carrots, potatoes stuffed with bacon and sour crème, topped off with cream of peas. The dish itself has a slightly greasy touch and a roasted taste so you really need a decent classic beer to fulfil the palate and com-

plete the dish.” He looks up briefly as he carefully selects a handful of fresh herbs: parsley, dill and tarragon.

Hoping to emulate Spreuwers’ cooking The objective of this day of filming for Visit Flanders, is to produce three cookery class style videos (available online visitflanders.co.uk/beerstronomy/) and Spreuwers has selected three delicious dishes to showcase today, assuring Discover Benelux that the choices have been wisely chosen for those of us who lack restaurant-standard kitchens. The beers selected are of course widely available in Belgium, but if you are in the UK then it is wise to look online or try certain specialist shops. The Mechelen-based brewery’s Gouden Carolus Classic was awarded the title of the World’s Best Dark Beer 2012 and, as Spreuwers takes a satisfying gulp of the

beer once the director has shouted “It’s a wrap”, it certainly goes down well. While beer versus wine is not quite the age-old debate of red versus white, or rare versus medium, it is one which is growing ever more acceptable to have over the dinner table. “A good beer can add so much to your meal,” says Spreuwers fervently, “too many people disregard it when they are dining.” Whether diners are worried that it is too heavy or frowned upon is unclear but what is certain is that Beerstronomy is an appealing new concept, one that will certainly do more to boost those export sales and add a new dimension to our dining habits. www.bitter-zoet.be www.beertourism.com www.visitflanders.co.uk

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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Belgian Beer

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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Belgian Beer

B E E R

– God’s gift to Belgium

There's a reason why they call Belgium“beer heaven”, and it's not just the fact that the country boasts 150 breweries. It's because some of the finest and strongest beers are made by monks.Yes, while the clergy in other European countries have spent centuries preaching the evils of alcohol, their Belgian counterparts have taken an altogether more pragmatic stance when it comes to beer. TEXT: CHRISTOPHER MIDDLETON | PHOTOS: MILO PROFI

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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Belgian Beer

Begijnhof in Mechelen. BELOW LEFT: Westmalle trappist beer, Antwerp. MIDDLE: Chimay monks at work in the old days. RIGHT: The severe looking front entrance of the Chimay beer producing trappist monastery. Photo: Christopher Middleton.

Rather than sitting back and watching their parishioners die as a result of insanitary drinking water, they chose, several centuries ago, to address the problem, by producing a glorious range of amber and dark brown beer. A liquid which had the twin advantages of (a) being pure, due to the fermenting and boiling processes, and (b) rendering the worshippers pleasantly plastered.

a film revealing – to those denied access – just what goes on behind the walls when it comes to beer production. In the same way, Chimay beer pilgrims get the chance to taste all the abbey's ales and cheeses at the nearby L'Auberge du Poteaupré, as well as feasting on rabbit cooked in prunes and beer (17 euros), and sleeping off in one of the inn 's guest rooms (70-80 euros per night).

Surprisingly, the six monasteries still most actively involved in the making of this traditionally tongue-loosening liquid, are all Trappist institutions, where the rule of silence holds sway. Some of them are even open for public visits, provided the current Abbot approves.

Meanwhile, in the pretty, little town of Mechelen, just south of Antwerp, you can spend the night in a working brewery that used to be a convent. The Brouwerij Het Anker was founded in 1369, and, as well as producing Gouden Carolus, a powerful, ruby-red ale (8.5 per cent alcohol by volume) named after former Mechelen resident (and Holy Roman Emperor) King Charles V, it also has an on-site bar and restaurant, along with bedrooms just a short stagger across the cobbled courtyard. Back in the Middle Ages, the brewery began life as a béguinage, a female religious community-cum-hospital, with the right to brew beer, which (as we have noted) was much more beneficial to patients than the local, polluted drinking water. As well as dispensing charity to the sick, the 1,600 béguines of Mechelen (who lived as nuns but reserved the right to return to normal life) would also dish out the odd flagon of booze. Which means that a modern-day stay at the brewery's Hotel Carolus provides the visitor with an opportunity to experience both strong ale and a link with the divine.

Most accessible at the moment is the austere-looking Abbaye Notre-Dame de Scourmont, set in remote countryside some 70 miles south of Brussels. You arrive at a forbidding wooden door, but once within the walls, you find the severity of the surroundings mellowed by the glorious, fruity waft of Chimay beer. Incredibly, the place operates both as a bare monastic retreat (prayers seven times a day) and a modern, hi-tech industrial complex. One part of the abbey is bare stone cloisters and austere chapel, the other half is a factory turning out 42 million bottles of beer per year. And while the monks are in charge when it comes to policy decisions (everything from advertising slogans to marketing strategies), it is lay brewers who are responsible for production. Though not for spending the profits; apart from the money required for running the business, all proceeds from Chimay beer are distributed to the monastery's various charities. The same applies at Westmalle, another Trappist-run brewery, some 20 miles northeast of Antwerp. Separated from the main road by a long, parkland approach road and a water-filled moat, the abbey admits fewer visitors than Chimay, but offers consolation in the form of the up-market Cafe Trappisten, just 400 yards away. As well as stocking all the beers produced by the Westmalle monks, the cafe shows

The same applies to drinkers at Antwerp's most famous, religious-themed beerhouse, t'Elfde Gebot (The Eleventh Commandment). Here, amid extravagant sculptures of flying cherubs and the Virgin Mary, drinkers knock back golden Kwak beer, from extraordinary glass vessels, held upright in a wooden stand. These look like outsized egg-timers, but owe their shape to the beer glasses which waiting coachmen used to attach to the outside of their cabs. Just a short trot away, across the city's main Grote Markt, stands Antwerp's most famous, old (14th century) bar. It's called

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Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Belgian Beer

ABOVE: The grounds of the ruined Abbaye d'Aulne. Photo: Christopher Middleton. OPPOSITE TOP LEFT: The Brasserie Het Anker in Mechelen. Photo: Jo Op de Beeck. BELOW: Stained glass window in the Bosteels Brewery in Buggenhout. Photo: Christopher Middleton. RIGHT AND BOTTOM: Het Anker beer, the popular family run brewery in Mechelen. Photo: Het Anker.

Den Engel (The Angel), and you can spot it not just from the huge, golden winged figure that stands on top of its gabled roof, but from the perennial crowds of drinkers. Both those inside the bar's ancient wooden exterior, and those spilling out on the square, taking in not just the house brew ( a bolleke, or round glass, of local De Koninck beer), but the view of the city's mighty Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal, the largest Gothic construction in the entire Low Countries. So devoted is Antwerp to ale, that it even has its own version of a beer-priest. He's called Hans Bombeke, and he's installed on weekend nights at Bier Central, a cosy, but busy bar, just 100 yards from the miraculously multi-layered central railway

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station. His job is to hold the hands of the bewildered, as they try to find their way through the bar's list of 320 beers; after a session with him you will be able to tell your gueuzes (sour, bitter beers) from your fruit lambics (cherries, raspberries), and identify those flavours in your Duvel Tripel Hop (kiwis, lychees, raisins). And it's not just in the big cities that you come across this very Belgian tie between beer and God. The monks may have gone, but their brewing legacy lives on at any number of rural abbeys and monasteries. Within an hour's drive of lovely Namur, 35 miles south of Brussels, you can sniff out no less than three different breweries all based at beautiful, isolated locations.

There's the fantastic Floreffe Abbey (founded 1121), perched on a riverside hilltop, where the Lefebvre family have been making beer for the past six generations. There's the atmospheric L'Abbaye d'Aulne, an enormous, ruined Cistercian monastery, where beermaker Frederic Colinet operates in one of the old stables, applying ginger, cumin, orange and a whole range of other spicy flavours to his beers. And, most visitor-friendly of all, there is the magnificent Maredsous Abbey, where monks still live (but no longer brew). It's a long ride up to the top of the hill, but once you've arrived, there is a playground and funicular railway to keep the children amused, while grown-ups treat themselves


Discover Benelux | Special Theme | Belgian Beer

to a beer which is named after the abbey, but is actually made by the Duvel brewing company (it means “devil” in Flemish). What's more, the goodwill doesn't just extend to the drinkers. Any brewery whose bottles bear the legend Erkend Belgische Abdijbier (Recognised Belgian Abbey Beer) is required to render unto the Church a slice of its profits. Which means that each time you raise a glass of their beer to your lips – you are not just having a drink, you are carrying out an act of philanthropy. Fact is, there's no getting away from it. Wherever you travel in Belgium, you're never far from beer – or from God.

BEER TO STAY *L'Auberge de Poteaupré, Chimay, +32 6021 1433, www.chimay.com Busy, but isolated inn close to the Scourmont Abbey, comprising beer and cheese shop, visitor experience area, bar, restaurant and Chimay beer-themed menus; rooms 80 euros a night. *Hotel Carolus, Het Anker Brewery, Mechelen, +32 1528 7141, www.hetanker.be Rooms (80 euros per night) overlook the brewery courtyard; tours are offered, as are food and drink at the bustling, on-site restaurant.

*Bosteels Brewery, Buggenhout, +32 5233 2323, www.bestbelgianspecialbeers.be Founded 1791, the makers of Kwak and Tripel Karmeliet *De Koninck Brewery, Antwerp, +32 3218 4048, www.dekoninck.be Space-age, modern brewery, hidden behind oldfashioned facade. * Het Anker Brewery, Mechelen, +32 1528 7141, www.hetanker.be Tours and tastings, spectacular views from brewery roof.

*Hotel Amigo, 1 Rue de l’Amigo, Brussels, +32 2547 4747, www.hotelamigo.com

*De Dochter van de Korenaar, Baarle-Hertog, +32 1469 980, www.dedochtervandekorenaar.be

As close as you can get to Grand Place, the glorious, guildhall-rich heart of Brussels; rooms from 199 euros per night.

One-man brewery in tiny town near Dutch border.

BEER TO VISIT

BEER TO DRINK

*Abbaye Notre-Dame de Scourmont (Chimay). Open daily 8am to 8pm, www.chimay.com

*Cafe Trappisten, Westmalle, +32 3312 0502, www.trappisten.be

*Westmalle Trappist Abbey, Westmalle, +32 3312 9222, www.trappistwestmalle.be

*Bier Central, 25 De Keyserlei, Antwerp, +32 3201 5985, www.biercentral.be

*Maredsous Abbey, nr Namur, visitor centre and monastery open all year, +32 8269 8284, www.maredsous.be

*Den Engel, 3 Grote Markt, Antwerp, +32 3233 1252

*Abbaye d'Aulne, nr Gozée; ring brewery to arrange visit, ruins visible all year (audio guide five Euros); Brasserie de L'Abbaye, +32 7156 2073, www.abbayedaulne.be *Floreffe Abbey, nr Namur, brewery mill open all year; +32 8144 5303, www.brasserielefebvre.be

Check first for tour timings

*t'Elfde Gebod, 10 Torfbrug, Antwerp, +32 0389 3466 *À La Mort Subite, 7 Rue Montagne Aux Herbes Potagères, Brussels, +32 2513 1318 *Le Chapitre, 4 rue due Séminaire, Namur, +32 8122 6960

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One of the perks of Delirium Village is the chance to wander the seven bars and terraces, drinking and chatting.

The place to Beer As the capital of Belgium, housing the headquarters of multiple European institutions, Brussels is a dynamic city, recognised for the vitality of its nightlife. In the centre of the »Ilôt sacré« you will find one of the most symbolic places of this festive atmosphere: Delirium Village. TEXT: LESLIE MOREAU AND SOPHIE BARRIÈRE | PHOTOS: THIBAULT CORDONNIER

The founders’ adventure began in late 2003 with the opening of a "modest" bar, serving a mere 2004 beers: Délirium Café. This new concept rapidly gained a reputation, thanks to the brewers' weekend held annually in early September on the Grand Place in Brussels. For any beer lover, a visit to Delirum Café is a must-do and this has been the case for almost 10 years. Indeed, it offers its customers an impressive number of Belgian and foreign beers from all corners of the Earth. In exceptional surroundings, you can muse over your decision, choosing from an astounding range of beers, with more than 3000 different types. But Delirium Village is more than a beer emporium: consisting of eight separate establishments, you will find a variety of special products to be enjoyed. Whether its

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absinthe, whisky, rum, cocktails, or tequila that tickles your fancy, each bar has its own speciality, and fans can find products dear to their hearts, and/or their livers. In addition, Delirium Village complies with the desire of anyone: equally at home here is the beer lover who wants to enjoy a quality beer on the terrace, as is the night hawk who can drink and chat until the wee hours. Delirium Café's reputation now crosses borders. Some entrepreneurs have been seduced by this concept and they have decided to open a franchise in their country. For example, you can now find Delirium Café in Brazil, Japan, France, Dubai, and Spain. The list is long and shows no signs of abating.

One of the other advantages to Delirum Village is its location in a pedestrian impasse, allowing its guests to casually stroll from bar to bar, glass in hand. This also gives you the opportunity to meet people from around the world, and socialize in the Belgian spirit of friendliness. Are you looking for an unusual place, an unforgettable evening, and unprecedented flavours? Than push open the doors of Delirium Village and expect to leave with some great memories! www.deliriumvillage.com


Discover Benelux | Column | Welcome to the crossroads!

Joke Schauvliege, Flemish minister of Environment, Nature & Culture. Photo: Wim Kempenaers

Welcome to the crossroads! “Brussels was incredibly beautiful: an impressive city with wonderful buildings and street names in Flemish and French. For merely 3 franks the hotel thoroughly spoiled me.” I cannot guarantee that a stay will only cost you 3 franks – not even 10 eurocents by current standards – but I sincerely hope you will enjoy your stay as much as dr. Sigmund Freud did, more than a century ago. Magritte, Ensor, Horta or van de Velde don’t roam the streets of Brussels anymore – as they were fond to do. But they have definitely left their traces, so please feel free to visit the Magritte museum, Ensor paintings (Old Masters Museum), and the splendid Horta-buildings. And don’t forget the art centre Bozar, a unique laboratory for contemporary art. And of course Brussels itself, with its array of both big and small galleries and creative input from all corners of Europe.

But there is much more to discover in Flanders, by car, by public transport or even by bike. Our unique, rural landscape, “where only the cathedrals are mountains”, as Jacques Brel famously put it. Visit Bruges with its abundant cultural heritage, or Ghent, the UNESCO Creative City of Music with unforgettable vibes, bars and parties, and its unique triptych Lam Gods of the Flemish Primitive painter Jan Van Eyck. Or Antwerp, fashion city par excellence, and home of the Flemish Ballet, the Rubens house, or the iconic MAS. And there are other lesser known gems such as Ostend, Ypres, Leuven or Mechelen. Each place is a crossroads of the ancient and the new where you can intensely admire

our arts, theatre, dance, music and film. In less than an hour you can hop from city to city. No matter what takes your preference, I’m sure there will be a pleasing offer. As Flemings are heartfelt Europeans, we’d also like to point out that there’s easy access out of Brussels to other cultural hotspots like Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and London. But we are proud and thankful for every one of your visits. Enjoy your stay! Joke Schauvliege Flemish minister of Environment, Nature & Culture

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Discover Benelux | Column | A warm welcome awaits you

A warm welcome awaits you! The Dutch writer and poet K. Schippers once said “I wish I didn’t live in Amsterdam, so I could go there on holiday.” When he uttered this lament, the major renovation work on the Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum and the Maritime Museum had yet to begin. Now the mammoth projects have finally reached completion, and these cultural highlights are now shining even brighter than before. Three more excellent reasons to pay a visit to our capital! Our glorious new Rijksmuseum has succeeded in reinventing itself completely. It has undergone a metamorphosis that allows us to see its many masterpieces in the light of history while enabling us to see history as illuminated by art. We couldn’t be prouder of our Rijksmuseum, the home of our national treasures. And we are delighted to be able to share these treasures with visitors from around the world. The Stedelijk Museum has forged a breathtaking link between its historical building from 1895 and state-of-the-art 21st century architecture. The result is a stunning setting in which to enjoy contemporary art and design. Art that shocks, that moves us and calls us to reflect on the world around us. Exactly what art should do, in my opinion.

ABOVE: The Rijksmuseum. Photo: Holland Media Bank. BELOW LEFT: Jet Bussemaker, Minister of Education, Culture and Science, The Netherlands. Press photo. BELOW RIGHT: Beautiful facades in Amsterdam. Photo: Holland Media Bank

The Scheepvaartmuseum, our National Maritime Museum, began life in 1656 as a naval storehouse. Now it is the very embodiment of the Netherlands’ seafaring history, a place that gives you a real sense of how the sea has formed our character and culture. It brings 500 years of maritime history to life in fascinating exhibitions that enthral young and old alike. And there is so much more to see and experience: dozens of museums and galleries, hundreds of exhibitions, films, performances and concerts. Amsterdam more than lives up to its reputation as the cultural capital of the Netherlands. Here you will find an unparalleled cultural experience in the unique setting of the city’s Canal Belt, which now enjoys the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. As Minister of Culture, and as a proud citizen of Amsterdam, I invite you to visit my beautiful city. And once the capital has given you a taste of the Netherlands, I feel sure that you will want to discover more of our country. From our cosmopolitan cities

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to our river landscapes, and from the sandy soil of our polders to our woodlands and lakes. A warm welcome awaits you! Jet Bussemaker Ministry of Education, Culture and Science The Netherlands


Discover Benelux | Column | Luxembourg – more than meets the eye

Above left: Maggy Nagel, Minister of Culture, Luxembourg. Press photo. Right: River Alzette in the Qround quarter, Luxembourg City. Photo: Tommi Lappalainen © ONT

Luxembourg – more than meets the eye Luxembourg, small as it may be, has a lot more to offer than meets the eye. Its capital, Luxembourg City, is one of the most diverse, multicultural and multilingual cities in Europe, home to no less than 150 nationalities. Through the cross-border thinking and openness to international exchange as well as its multilingual workforce, Luxembourg presents itself as a perfect location for leading global companies to serve customers around the globe. From a cultural perspective, Luxembourg embraces modern architecture and technology, while simultaneously showcasing and thus reminding of its rich history and cultural heritage. Luxembourg has been awarded three times by UNESCO, firstly for the capital’s ancient fortresses, dating from the 9th century, which still remain and are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1994. Secondly, the “Family of Man” exhibition, an exhibition of photos mounted by Edward J. Steichen in 1955 for the New

York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), is permanently installed in Clervaux Castle and was inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World register in 2003. Last but not least, the hopping procession of Echternach, which takes place each year in the medieval town centre of Echternach, the oldest city in Luxembourg, was inscribed in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage register in 2010.

all over the world. The multinational population of the country has influenced the offer of cultural activities, which is tailored to the audience by providing a multilingual and multicultural agenda in a vast array of cultural institutions throughout the country. This is complemented with national and regional cultural centres and museums which offer insights into Luxembourg’s history and traditions.

Luxembourg has twice been honoured as European Capital of Culture, in 1995 and 2007, and it buzzes with artistic creativity in music, dance, theatre, cinema and art. Luxembourg is home to many great cultural institutions and venues, including, for example, the Philharmonie, the Museum of Modern Art (MUDAM) and the Neumünster Abbey, a cultural centre established on the historic grounds of a former prison in the lower part of Luxembourg City (Grund). These institutions, along with many others, offer performances of all kinds coming from

Luxembourg’s vibrant arts scene, encompassing all art forms from literature to performance arts, are also supported through institutions such as Music:LX, the Luxembourgish music export office. In short, impressive nature, a rich and diverse culture, outstanding cuisine, superb outdoor activities, and a bustling nightlife, are but a few things that this country in the heart of Europe has to offer. Maggy Nagel, Minister of Culture, Luxembourg

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Discover Benelux | Special Feature | ICONICity

A M S T E R D A M

ICONICITY IN THE CITY With a wintery 24 hours to explore Amsterdam and its icons, Discover Benelux set off on our traditional Dutch-style bicycles, complete with back pedal brake and upright position. TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PHOTOS: PHIL GALE

Casually winding our way along the canals with an occasional swerve to avoid those tyre-swallowing tramlines, we experienced a historical side of Amsterdam that set our pulses racing.

ICONICity: Dinner Immediately thinking of Speculaas? Stroopwafels? What about something a little more substantial? While traditionally eaten for breakfast in the US and only once a year in the UK, the approach to pancakes in mainland Europe differs greatly. As our Scandinavian peers reach for the jam to accompany theirs, the Dutch let loose with their ingredients and nowhere is this more apparent than Amsterdam’s most famous pancake restaurant, The Pancake

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Bakery. With a menu that left Discover Benelux reeling, the 17th century building’s open-plan restaurant with its communal feel put us at ease. Thanks to the staff who were keen to share their pancake tips and their attentive, rapid service, our dinner was transformed into a gastronomical experience. The speed with which our vegetable-topped pancakes were created astounded us. But to call pancakes fastfood would be doing them a disservice. The savoury batter used for our first pancake (cheese, leek, spring onion and mushroom), which was much thicker than its French cousin the lightweight crepe, lent itself just as tastily to our pudding: winter poffertjes (mini pancakes) with chunks of stroopwafels, cinnamon ice cream,

vanilla sauce and whipped cream – which tasted even better than it sounds. Wine from the owner’s own vineyards in South Africa was the ideal accompaniment to our pancakes, and as we left the homely atmosphere we reflected on our evening: The Pancake Bakery had done much more than just shelter us from the rain; we now understood the Dutch nation’s passion for pancakes and they had opened the floodgates for future pancake cravings.

ICONICity: Amsterdam Light Festival – Evening Entertainment To settle the debate of whether Amsterdam is best explored by canal or by bike, we boarded an evening canal cruise complete with festive mulled wine to see the Ams-


Discover Benelux | Special Feature | ICONICity

work, Amsterdam’s urban planners are moulding their city into a breath-taking fusion of history and modernisation, industrialism morphing into hip city slickness.

ICONICity: Lunchtime degustation. “We Dutch eat cheese all day long,” proclaims our cheese master, the amiable Leo from the flagship store and tasting centre of Reypenaer cheese. Stored in traditional wooden warehouses in Holland’s “authentic” capital of cheese Woerden, the family of Wijngaard and Reypenaer cheeses are amongst the only cheeses in the Netherlands to undergo a natural ageing process, the benefits of which become apparent as the tasting sessions goes on. “In our natural micro-climate, the cheeses rest on wooden shelves, are hand-cleaned and turned over on a weekly basis to get the right consistency,” explains Leo, “they all come from selected farmers in North Holland. Perhaps you can taste a hint of the sea breeze and fresh grass?” Putting our senses to the test, we duly complete the ‘tasting notes’, rating the cheeses in terms of smell, taste, consistency, and we haphazardly guess at ages –however, by the time the three-year-old VSOP (Very Special Old Product) cheese came onto the guillotine there was certainly a noticeable difference in maturity.

OPPOSITE: Amsterdam Light Festival. TOP: Holland's only naturally-aged cheese, Reypenaer. BELOW LEFT: Dutch pancake toppings - everything goes. RIGHT: Cruising around the Negen Straatjes.

terdam Light Festival. The now annual 50day wintertime festival from 6 December to 19 January invites Dutch and international artists to showcase light projections and sculptures under the theme ‘Building with Light’, taking inspiration from Dutch culture, canals and other concepts. Gently bobbing along the canals and the Amstel River, we sat entranced by the creations. The projection myhouseyourhouse struck a particular chord with its analogue projections, drawing on real photographs submitted by Amsterdam locals of the interiors of their homes, the artists Femke

Kempes & Machteld Aardse perfectly captured the very Dutch habit of gluren bij de buren [peeking in your neighbour’s house]. Interestingly, Discover Benelux found themselves unable to resist peeking in the windows of Amsterdam’s many wonderful buildings; spellbound by the warm glow emitted from the stylish canal-side apartments. Marvelling at the trendy décor of Amsterdamers became a constant topic of conversation during our time in the city, and left no doubt in our minds that this is a capital city that understands aesthetics. With a multiplicity of architectural styles, each generation encapsulated within brick-

The tasting, six cheeses and three wines, lasted for one hour and the combinations of cheese and wine complemented each other perfectly, and as Leo put it: “the balance is achieved and the taste intensified if one first bites the cheese then sips the wine.” Beginning with the Wijngaard Chevre Affine and Gris (goats cheeses), Discover Benelux was immediately sold, rating them 10/10. To Leo’s amusement, we then continued to the more aged cows’ cheese and began to struggle, wanting to score them just as high if not higher than the goats’ cheeses. For centuries the Netherlands has had a certifiably strong reputation as prime producers of cheese thanks to their fruitful grazing conditions. And equally as well as the cheese ages, so too has the company, who have benefitted from their 100 years of cheese production, earning them multiple

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Discover Benelux | Special Feature | ICONICity

ABOVE LEFT: At Rembrant's house you can uncover the origins of his etchings. TOP RIGHT: After ten years of renovation, the Rijksmuseum is once again a stunning piece of architecture. BOTTOM RIGHT: More bikes than people.

world titles, including World’s Best Gouda in 2005, 2007 and 2009.

ICONICity: Afternoon enrichment What trip to the Dutch capital would be complete without a nod to the greats of the Golden Age? First up on the agenda was a visit to a house just off Waterlooplein where Rembrandt van Rijn spent twenty years of his life, using it as a base to store his vast collection of etchings and paintings, and the city as inspiration. An avid collector of work by his contemporaries, the current exhibition ‘Room for Improvement! Rembrandt and the Old Masters” displays his distinct habit of subversively copying their work, matching them not stroke for stroke but instead modifying and in his belief improving the originals. Opinions are divided as to why he so desired to create these similar etchings, so this visit was certainly one that sparked discussion. The Rembrandt House Museum is housed in the original building built in 1606, the same year in which he began work on the Night Watch, and has been meticulously restored to its present state of authenticity. After cycling through Amsterdam’s Vondelpark, we neared the Rijksmuseum and

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the numbers of tourists rapidly multiplied. Rembrandt, Vermeer and Cuyp are just three of the many icons whose work is showcased in style at this national museum. Having reopened in the spring of 2013 after ten years of renovation, the museum has over 8,000 items spread within its colossal frame, including Rembrandt’s Night Watch which has visitors craning their necks for a glimpse. The building itself, with a pedestrianized gangway stretching through it to the delight of local residents, was designed in 1885 by esteemed Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers and restored over the past decade by Spanish architects Cruz y Ortiz. The arches that divide the natural-light filled building welcome thousands of cyclists on a daily basis who use the tunnel as a gateway to the city, with the occasional unsuspecting tourist stepping onto their path to the rowdy ring of a bicycle bell.

and showed a courteousness that is somewhat lacking in other capital cities. Ultimately we failed to agree on what is better out of cycling and canals, but our overwhelming impression of Amsterdam was that of a city that treasures its history, respects its inhabitants and embraces its evolution. With a warm winter coat and sturdy umbrella (seeing residents actually riding with them up), 24 hours cycling around Amsterdam is the perfect way to get to the iconic soul of this city. CityJet offers up to 8 flights daily from London to Amsterdam. Fares start from as little as £99 return including all taxes and fees, and includes CityJet's award-winning complimentary on-board service. For more information, reservations and to check-in online, visit www.cityjet.com or call reservations on 0871 66 33 777.

ICONCity: Reflection: Bikes or boats?

To visit:

Having said that, the chimes of bicycle bells were not a sound we heard very often. The demeanour of Amsterdam’s many cyclists impressed us; to our surprise they steered calmly around aimlessly wandering tourists, waited graciously for green lights,

www.holland.com www.rembrandthuis.nl www.rijksmuseum.nl www.reypenaercheese.nl www.pancake.nl www.amsterdamlightfestival.com/en


Discover Benelux | Feature | Bozar

ABOVE LEFT: Michaël Borremans Weight 2005 35.5 x 27.5 x 4 cm still from film. TOP MIDDLE: Exterior of BOZAR. Photo: Mikael Falke. BOTTOM MIDDLE: Michaël Borremans The Devil’s Dress 2011 203 x 367 cm Oil on canvas. Photo: Ron Amstutz. RIGHT: The BOZAR exhibition space.Photo: Jerome Latte.

As sweet as it gets Since he began painting in the 1990s, Belgian artist Michaël Borremans’works have garnered international acclaim and are prized in collections worldwide. As of February 2014, Borremans’first retrospective exhibition will be held on home turf at BOZAR in Brussels. TEXT: MATT ANTONIAK | PRESS PHOTOS

The Ghent-born artist originally trained as a photographer and then as an engraver, only beginning to paint in his thirties. Since then he has produced paintings and films that are remarkable for both their arresting aesthetic, and their sinister subject matter. At first glance one could be excused for simply missing the foreboding undertones that proliferate Borremans’ works. His paintings are executed with deft precision, reminiscent of great masters such as Manet and Velazquez. Yet having succumbed to the quiet yet insistent pull of the works, and having been drawn in for a closer look, one discovers on further inspection that there is something more unnerving happening. With an acknowledging nod to Belgium’s illustrious canon of surrealists, and fellow

countrymen Rene Magritte and Paul Delvaux, Borremans’ works transcend beyond their beauty and enter a bizarre realm filled with sinister melancholy. We see the figures act out peculiar scenes; men wearing suits build giant toy train tracks whilst in other works swimmers exercise in front of ominous murals. After a while one finds oneself questioning even the most apparently ordinary scene, owing simply to a twist in the title or a curiously placed dab of paint. Indeed, nothing is quite as it seems in the world of Borremans. His works are riddles; satisfied in remaining unsolved whilst content with their own striking beauty. A comment on the high regard in which his work is held can be seen in the rapid rise through the artistic ranks the enigmatic Belgian has enjoyed. In the past two

decades he has exhibited numerous times at home and abroad, has won international prizes, and has even produced paintings for the Belgian Queen. Arguably however, this retrospective at BOZAR (opening February 22nd) will be his biggest achievement to date. Around 50 paintings, 40 drawings and 5 films will be shown, and will provide an extensive look at one of Belgium’s, and the world’s most exciting talents. It should not be missed. Michaël Borreman’s retrospective ‘As sweet as it gets’ runs from 22 February 2014 to 3 August 2014 at BOZAR, The Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium. www.bozar.be

Issue 3 | February - March 2014 | 33


Discover Benelux | Music | Three Benelux artists to watch in 2014

Three Benelux artists to watch in 2014 Every January, the northernmost city in Benelux is the playground for upcoming artists from all over Europe. TEXT: JANINE STERENBORG | PRESS PHOTOS

Music professionals and music lovers invade Groningen during the four days of the Eurosonic Noorderslag festival to discover the next best thing. Three artists to keep an eye on in 2014:

Town Of Saints (NL) This Groningen-based band is rising at high speed. Last year they were one of the discoveries of the festival and since then they have taken their folky indie pop to many clubs around Europe, playing their songs with all the positivity and energy they have. And that is a fair amount! Catch them live in The Netherlands if you can. March 15, Ekko, Utrecht. www.ekko.nl March 22, Rotown, Rotterdam. www.rotown.nl March 30, Paradiso, Amsterdam. www.paradiso.nl Music and more dates can be found at townofsaints.tumblr.com

Coely. Photo: Sander Baks

Coely (BE) Coely was the talk of the town after her performance at Grand Theatre. No wonder: this young lady (only 19!) from Antwerp knows how to charm the audience with her beautiful singing voice, strong raps, positive attitude and energetic performance. Coely has already starred as a supporting act for Snoop Dogg and last summer she played at Kanye West's afterparty in Amsterdam. Let’s be fair, if you can catch the eye of Kanye West, you are definitely doing something right!

Say Yes Dog from Luxembourg. These three guys know how to steal their audiences’ hearts. Their poppy, melodic, synthpop songs accompanied by a warm male voice make us long for a warm summer nights of dancing with a beer or smoothie in hand. The last couple of months saw them play all over Europe and now they are locked in the studio to record new songs. For further information, please visit: www.sayyesdog.net

Town of Saints. Photo: Bart Heemskerk

April 18, Paaspop festival, Schijndel. www.paaspop.nl For further information, please visit: www.coelymusic.be

A dancing crowd, smiling band members and catchy tunes that you just can't shake off hours after you attend their show. That's

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Say Yes Dog

SayYes Dog (LU)


Discover Benelux | Feature | Culinary Highlights

Travel the culinary highlights of the Netherlands in one afternoon One of the best kept secrets about the Netherlands is its fine dining scene. From Amsterdam to Den Haag, and from Harderwijk to Maastricht, there is a selection of culinary treasures that are every bit as good as those to be found throughout the rest of Europe. TEXT: SIMON WOOLCOT | PRESS PHOTOS

Many of the best restaurants in the country are members of the Alliance Gastronomique. This group, dedicated to maintaining and developing the highest standards in gastronomy, was founded in 1967 by 19 restaurateurs who shared a vision of the essential elements and standards required for fine dining in the Netherlands. Forty-six years later, being a member of this group is both prestigious and sought-after, providing diners with an assurance of high culinary standards. The combined total of forty three Michelin stars that are currently held by members of this group shows that they have been and continue to be successful in meeting their stated aims. On Sunday the 26th of January, the annual Alliance Gastronomique event was held at the Hotel Okura in Amsterdam. This event celebrated the new culinary year in considerable style in an exclusive and elegant

location, the 902 square metre Grand Ballroom of this renowned five star Amsterdam Hotel. The Okura is itself home to three Michelin star restaurants, and was the venue for a glamorous and exclusive culinary trip throughout the Netherlands. Over 1500 visitors were treated to a number of fine dining surprises from some of the most talented chefs in the country. There were far too many culinary treasures to mention, below an example of some of the dishes that were served during this event. – A Ravioli of North Sea crab served in its own jus. – Pheasant served with artichoke and almonds. – Quinoa salad, cod with oyster cream and lemon – Swordfish, mackerel with yoghurt and tomatoes As well as superb food, the sommeliers

from the Alliance Gastronomique group also put together a superb collection of wines to accompany the delightful delicacies on offer. The event may now be over, but it is possible for you to choose the Alliance group restaurant of your choice by visiting their website below. alliance.nl

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Discover Benelux | Special Feature | Rotterdam

Rotterdam's skyline has been drastically changed by De Rotterdam

R O T T E R D A M :

A glimpse into the city For decades Rotterdam has widely been regarded as the architectural capital of the Netherlands. This architectural growth can be attributed to the destruction wreaked during World War II; with the majority of the city in ruins, 1945 simultaneously posed a huge set-back and marked a new beginning. TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PHOTOS: ROTTERDAM MARKETING

As with any city, the modern day skyline that we see, with its creative architecture shaping the horizon, reflects a long and sometimes destructive past. Modern day Rotterdam, with its ground-breaking architecture was born out of the devastation of World War II. After the horrendous attack on 14 May 1940 by the German Luftwaffe, the city centre was flattened and 30,000 of Rotterdam’s residents lay dead in the rubble. Plans to rebuild the city began to take shape even before the war had ended. Town planners were faced with the question of whether to simply reconstruct the original buildings or to redesign the whole city from scratch. Lichtenauer, General Sec-

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retary of the Chamber of Commerce in Rotterdam, declared the city’s intentions of “going to renew and modernise the city.” It was therefore decided to create a new urban image for the city, modern and befitting of one of the world’s most important ports. An insightful and forward thinking act, thinking about the future of Rotterdam rather than its past, the rebirth of a town typified. The city centre was once home to many working families, but these were now moved to new residential areas outside the immediate centre, leaving space to develop open spaces, ensuring trade and commerce had prime positions.

Another idea was to move the port further out of the city, opening up masses of potential space, as the city looked towards metropolises such as New York and London for inspiration. Today, referred to as ‘Manhattan on the Maas’, the Wilhelminapier area is now a hotbed of eye-opening architecture, restaurants, cultural facilities, hotels and stylish offices. Connected by the 802m long Erasmusbrug, a sweeping and visually-stunning bridge built in 1996 by Ben van Berkel. On the Wilhelminapier side of the heavilyused bridge, the largest multi-purpose building in the Netherlands has just opened


its doors. Called De Rotterdam, it took four years to building and even longer to design. Created in a less than ideal financial climate, the recession actually worked to the advantage of the architects; shrinking the contractors’ fees. The De Rotterdam building is Rotterdam’s own ‘vertical city’, welcoming 10,000 office employees and visitors daily, reaching its objectives of urban density and diversity. Additionally, the building has 1,000 visitors to its cafes and restaurants, 350 hotel guests at the very plush nhow Rotterdam designed by Rem Koolhaas and OMA, several thousand conference and cultural visitors as well as residents who reside in one of the building’s three structures. The materials used in the building are today quite common, following the trend set by Rem Koolhaas when he first used them in the early 90s. This industrial edge typifies the building as Koolhaas’ design was first recognised by the architectural world in 1992 with his Kunsthal Rotterdam. Now reopening after seven months of drastic renovation, the Kunsthal has called upon Koolhaas’ OMA firm to continue their work. Visiting Rotterdam you will be struck by the skyscraper-esque modernity which adds a very contemporary, glossy sheen to the city. In reality, these glass-fronted buildings

Photo: NBTC

Discover Benelux | Special Feature | Rotterdam

are miles from the dizzy heights of Dubai or Shanghai, but they do stand in stark contrast to the rest of the city’s glorious, wide open spaces and waterways. For centuries Rotterdam has been one of Europe’s most important ports, functioning as a vital trading area with access to the sea. Today pharmaceuticals, banking, creative, and the hi-tech and science industry provide the city with its capital. With the rapid developments of modern infrastructure has come high-speed train connections to Amsterdam, Amsterdam Schiphol airport and Brussels. The central station, designed by benthem crouwel architects, MVSA and west 8, is super smart and spacious, today accommodating 110,000 people a day and designed to cater for 323,000 travellers on a daily basis by 2025.

The post-war modernist architecture was studied by, and has acted as inspiration for many of the Netherlands’ current architects. Since the 1980s and early 1990s the world has looked to Rotterdam as a cradle of architectural talent. With the likes of such driven, young architectural firms as LOLA and OOZE, the cityscape is still evolving, ever forging this new identity. The Kunsthal, which reopened on 1 February 2014 is now showing a selection of incredible and moving exhibitions. After an official opening by the King of the Netherlands, The Second World War in 100 Objects runs until 5 May, while an exhibition dedicated to charting the progression of women’s shoes (1 Feb – 11 May) delights fashionistas and the curious alike. www.kunsthal.nl

The new entrance hall at Kunsthal Rotterdam. Photo: Ossip van Duivenbode. RIGHT: Vivienne Westwood, Court shoes, 1993 © 2013 Bata Shoe Museum, Toronto, Canada.

Issue 3 | February - March 2014 | 37


As unbelievable as it sounds, Stefan van Sprang’s food tastes even better than it looks. TOP RIGHT: A justified winner of the title of The Netherlands’ Best Terrace with its prime location in Amstelveen. MIDDLE RIGHT: Aan de Poel’s owner and head chef Stefan van Sprang deserves his two Michelin stars.

R E S TA U R A N T O F T H E M O N T H , T H E N E T H E R L A N D S

Aan de Poel - Fabulous food on the terrace TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PHOTOS: TERBORGH PHOTOGRAPHY

At 35, Stefan van Sprang set up his own restaurant and received his first Michelin star. Not long after, with a second star to his name (“two is a great number”), he published a beautiful handbound cookery book with photos taken fresh at the restaurant Aan de Poel in Amstelveen. Van Sprang bought the restaurant in Amstelveen in a bit of state but immediately saw the potential, and today with its chic interior and unarguably well-deserved title of the Netherlands’ Best Terrace, van Sprang says modestly: “What we have now is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” The benefits of owning his restaurant are obvious for van Sprang: “Now I’ve got the freedom to choose the dishes and I have close contact with the guests so I get to

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meet fantastic people.” As he prepares an ambitious 4-course lunch (“Oh this? It’s nothing, we offer 6 courses every evening for dinner”), he takes a brief moment to explain: “For me it’s completely normal to explain the menu to everyone, I always do it at the table. Today we’re serving a winter salad with smoked eel, lobsters and a shallot sauce, then there’s pizza – I can’t get enough pizza – but this time with truffle and scallops, then the main is beef stew with coconut and leek – it is winter after all.” Waiters may be scarce on the restaurant floor, but the trained sommeliers more than make up for the absence. “I want all my staff to be wine experts – that’s the future,” says van Sprang excitedly. Guests see a complete change in the menu every three weeks. “I’m so impatient that I have to change it regularly, and

we have loads of returning guests so I want to keep it fresh.” Combining his passion for food with art, the book was a natural progression for van Sprang who spent three years working on it. While it has stunning photographs of the creations and their ingredients, this is not your typical cookery book, but instead more of a coffee table book to be admired. With such a drive for to share his food, van Sprang is the embodiment of a Michelinstarred chef whose lust for cooking is insatiable. Reservations for weekend dinners are recommended, but weekdays tend to be a bit quieter. The restaurant is also licenced for weddings. The three-weekly 6course menu costs 78 Euros. The 6-course Favourites menu (Evergreens) is 89 Euros.

www.aandepoel.nl


La Vilette with its traditional decor serves delicious Belgian specialities in the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere.

R E S TA U R A N T O F T H E M O N T H , B E L G I U M

Raise a glass to La Villette TEXT: ANNA PARKIN | PRESS PHOTOS

Belgian’s national drink is ubiquitous at La Villette, providing a flavoursome enhancement to everything from the steak to the crème brûlée. Not to mention a selection of over 40 Belgian beers itching to be sampled at this traditional taverna. Located opposite Sainte Catherine Church in the charming Place Sainte Catherine, La Villette is the epitome of Belgian tradition with its chequered table cloths, wood panelled walls and chalkboard menus. But don’t let the quaint appearance of this stucco-fronted building fool you. At the helm of La Villette for over 17 years, Adrian Cirjan prides himself on the restaurant’s unique blend of tradition and originality. The restaurateur has a particular penchant for steak aux fromages belges à la Gueuze (steak with Belgian cheeses and

Gueuze – a beer noted for its dry flavour which is often dubbed ‘Brussels Champagne’). “I love all the dishes on our menu but this one is my real weakness,” he admits. Another house speciality Cirjan can’t resist is crème brûlée à la bière de Chimay, where a French classic is given a Belgian kick with the addition of beer from the Chimay Brewery in Wallonia’s Hainaut province. “Cooking with beer makes the dish lighter and full of flavour,” he explains. And when it comes to choosing the best drink to accompany your meal, Cirjan recommends opting for the subtle flavours of an authentic Trappist beer, brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery. But it isn’t all beer, beer, beer. For something stronger, old Dutch gin, known collo-

quially as ‘Witteke’ is the digestif of choice among diners. Meanwhile, house specialties include home-made crème flambée with Calvados, seasonal mussels with escargot sauce, Ostend shrimp croquettes and grilled black pudding brochettes. “As well as a warm atmosphere, remaining both original and authentic at the same time is important to us,” explains Cirjan. And it’s this ethos which has served the restaurant well for all these years. While dining fads and trends come and go in this cosmopolitan city, Cirjan remains certain his own unique formula will continue to attract tourists and gourmet locals alike. “What’s the secret to our success? Selfconfidence!” he beams. www.la-villette.be

Issue 3 | February - March 2014 | 39


Discover Benelux | Business | Column

Steve Flinders

Meetings, bloody meetings TEXT: STEVE FLINDERS | PHOTOS: NBTC / COURTESY OF STEVE FLINDERS

How much time do you waste in meetings? When I ask managers from companies with household names – companies hungry for profit, keen to shave costs, thirsty for greater efficiency – they tell me “20% or more.”

cancel it. What kind of meeting is it? – to brainstorm? make decisions? provide information? exchange information? It’s very frustrating when you think you’re there to brainstorm and someone else just wants to tell you stuff.

Work out on the back of an envelope the cost of this waste to your organisation – it must be millions! In one management exercise I led, we saved the company £10 million simply by getting meetings to start on time.

1 Preparation - Is everyone ready? Have you circulated a clear agenda? Do you all have the information you need? Is the room booked? Who should be there?

3 People – the roles. Who’s the chair? the minute taker? the timekeeper? the person leading on point 3? Make all this clear and also think about how different people like to communicate. Introverts regard many meetings as conspiracies by extroverts to celebrate the sounds of their own voices while paying no attention whatsoever to the quieter people present. The quiet ones have something to contribute too, if they are given the chance. So be aware of the different communication styles and expectations in the room.

2 Purpose - Do you all know why you’re meeting? If there’s nothing to discuss,

4 Process – the rules. This is the most neglected area and the one where cul-

For better meetings, think about the four Ps:

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ture has the biggest impact. Do we start on time? When do we finish? – When I worked in France, I often had no idea when the meeting would finish. Is it OK for people to talk at the same time? – taking turns is better for people working in a foreign language. Do we turn off our mobiles? May we disagree with the chair? Are we a democratic group? All this needs to be acknowledged and agreed. Finally, add a final item to every agenda: How did we do? Spend five minutes discussing the effectiveness of the meeting you just had and your meetings will get progressively better. Sounds odd – but it works, I promise. Steve Flinders is a director of York Associates (www.york-associates.co.uk). He supports people who work internationally through training and coaching. He’s also a member of the steering group of Coaching York which aspires to make York the coaching capital of the UK (www.coachingyork.co.uk): steveflind@aol.com


Discover Benelux | Business | Column

What communicates? How do you say “long vehicle” in Frisian? I haven’t a clue. I’m guessing you might not, either. TEXT: JOSIAH FISK | PHOTOS: COURTESY OF JOSIAH FISK

But here’s the thing: we don’t actually need to know. Not even if we wanted to communicate to everyone in Friesland — or for that matter, everyone in Benelux — that the truck we’re driving is extra-long. What’s the secret? Visual communication. Instead of using words to say that the vehicle is long, we can show it by a simple picture, or icon. (The cute little “extra long” dachshund is an icon I spotted recently on a road in Belgium. It’s smart, fun, and clear.) Most of us encounter icons daily – on computers, automobile dashboards, household appliances, and of course on the road. We don’t think about them very much. And that’s exactly the point. Good icons can communicate functional meanings quickly and efficiently. They can effortlessly bridge multiple languages, and many cultural differences as well. But isn’t such a rudimentary technique something of a compromise? Surprisingly, the answer is no.

Good icons can be truly universal. No matter how many languages we know, most of us are still perfectly happy taking in information by image.

do better if you are less attention-getting. A good icon is a quick, intuitive communication. We get the message so fast that we move on without a second thought.

This leads to an interesting truth: when a good icon can do the job well, words are not the best solution for any segment of the population — not even those who are fabulously adept at reading.

In Benelux, where so many languages and dialects exist within a compact area, there’s an obvious incentive to use icons. Clarity, as with any communication, is key here.

You may notice I keep saying “good icons”. That’s because, as most of us know to our frustration and dismay, there are such things as bad icons. These are the icons that you find yourself staring at blankly, your mind desperately grasping for any conceivable meaning. Or even worse, they’re the icons that seem to be a perfect fit for any number of possible meanings.

Something fun to think about as you drive the icon-rich highways of Benelux. Josiah Fisk is the head of More Carrot LLC, a clear communications company with offices in Boston and Luxembourg.

Paradoxically, the bad icons are the ones we do notice. That brings up another interesting truth: while we tend to assume that effective communication begins with getting your audience’s attention, in many types of function communications, you’ll

Josiah Fisk

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Discover Benelux | Business | Calendar

Benelux Business Calendar TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PHOTO: NBTC

2014 is certainly already shaping up to be the year for Benelux. With Noord-Brabant in the Netherlands and Flanders, Belgium both selected as the European Entrepreneurship Regions of the year, a celebration of their dedication to SMEs, their well-deserved selection highlights key features of their policies. Brabant is ranked among the top 20 most innovative regions in Europe (European Innovation Scoreboard) and the Flemish administration is making considerable efforts to develop and support entrepreneurs in its region. The events in this calendar are ideal opportunities for networking, sharing ideas and gaining insight into other fields of business. Young Professionals Networking Night 19 February 2014 BECI, Brussels, Belgium Combining dynamic speed networking, talks and new faces, this is a cross-chamber event inviting members from no fewer

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than nine international and national Chambers of Commerce across Belgium.

gian-Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce), as well as the Netherlands pavilion.

So what?: How to sell your story to the media 27 February 2014 ING bank, London The Netherlands-British Chamber of Commerce has teamed up with Julian Rea, director of the financial and corporate communications agency CitySavvy for a seminar on handling the media and using them to your advantage. Pre-registration is necessary.

MIPIM 2014 11-14 March 2014 Cannes, France The international real estate show for professionals, with Debussy Hall housing the Belgian Pavilion. Three days of discussions, events, exhibitors and networking opportunities for those with a vested interest in development.

Ecobuild 2014 4-6 March 2014 ExCel, London An invaluable event for those active in sustainable developments, offering businesses a platform for meeting relevant business partners. The world’s leading event for sustainable design, construction, energy and the built environment. At the event will be a BeLux pavilion (organised by the Bel-

Disruptive leaders are good for business! 13 March 2014 American Chamber of Commerce, Luxembourg Everyone approaches businesses and management in different ways. Is there one correct way? Join the Chamber for a “nontraditional look at the leadership skills of two very different CEOs.”


Discover Benelux | Culture | Column

Anouk K.

Inside a microcosm TEXT: ANOUK K. | PRESS PHOTO

Six degrees of separation may work on an international level, but when applied to Luxembourg it can easily be reduced to two. With a population of half a million, most people know each other or have acquaintances in common. Welcome to the small pond. There is no such a thing as anonymity in Luxembourg, neither in the small villages, nor in the capital city. Whenever I leave the house even for banal things such as grocery shopping or to fill up the tank, I have to be prepared to run into co-workers, former teachers or class-mates, friends of my parents, you name it. When it comes to dating, your relationship history will be an open book. For the rest of your life. It sticks like a tattoo. So choose your designs carefully. People see, hear,

and repeat. And we do love our gossip. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t. It’s only when I travel that I get a taste of what it is to be anonymous, go out and see thousands of people that I will probably never see again. And even then, in the concrete jungle that is New York, I have bumped into Luxembourgers several times by chance. On flights to and from Luxembourg, nine out of ten times, I will be flying with someone I know. It’s really cool when it’s people that you like seeing again. But it can also be awkward when it’s someone you’d rather avoid.

happened to be your class-mate and together you run into him in a bar. It’s a small world after all, especially in Luxembourg. Leading a double life, having a secret affair? Well, good luck. Be prepared to walk on very thin ice and plan carefully. And even when you thought that you had it all covered, I would advise you to wear your sunnies just in case. Anouk K. was born in Seoul and shortly afterwards adopted by Luxembourg parents. She has been documenting her life and travels on her lifestyle blog: www.luxessed.com since 2012.

Back to dating, it’s not unusual to learn that several years later your friend picked up your sloppy seconds, that two previously unrelated individuals are now a couple, or that your friend is interested in a guy who

Issue 3 | February - March 2014 | 43


Discover Benelux | Culture | Out & About

OUT & ABOUT While the days are gradually lengthening, there is still a slight chill in the air as we approach March so we’ve compiled a list of events to warm you to the core. TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PRESS PHOTOS

The Art of the Brick

sign studio Moooi. With products to delight, inspire and enthrall, lamp shades, rotating heads, his breakthrough Knotted Chair and the stunning egg shell vases, set yourself a whole afternoon aside for a head-turning excursion to the Stedelijk. www.stedelijk.nl

Naturally, keeping active is high on the agenda, as is the odd visit to a museum or two. Art and design lovers will be excited about the opening of the Borremans’ retrospective at the beautiful BOZAR in Brussels and the Stedelijk’s Marcel Wanders: Pinned Up exhibition, while those with a passion for water should head to Enkhuizen to see how the Netherlands dealt with flooding in the past. The effects of a flooding disaster Zuiderzee Museum, Enkhuizen, the Netherlands 23 November 2013 - 22 March 2015 The dramatic aftermath of the floods of 1916 is displayed across three rooms at the Zuiderzee Museum. 1916 saw the deaths of many residents and caused widespread devastation in the area. How does the Netherlands cope with its coastline? How have their flood defences developed since this distressing year?

44 | Issue 3 | February - March 2014

www.zuiderzeemuseum.nl Marcel Wanders: Pinned Up at the Stedelijk Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Netherlands 1 Feb 2014 – 15 June 2014 The basement of ‘the bathtub’ plays host to some of the most amazing design products from the last two decades that we’ve ever seen. All designed by the inspirational and charming Marcel Wanders of the de-


Discover Benelux | Culture | Out & About

acoustic treat of an evening. stadhaus.lu

Ruud van Empel retrospective Het Noordbrabants Museum, s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands 15 February 2014 – 8 June 2014 While you are checking out Breda-born van Empel’s iconic photographs of innocent children and vibrant nature, it would be sacrilege to miss out on the work of Brabant’s most famous painter Van Gogh which form part of The Story of Brabant exhibition. The diversity of work shown at this museum is testament to the tremendous talent which comes out of the lowlands. www.hetnoordbrabantsmuseum.nl Les Frères Taloche 23 February 2014 Centre Culturel Regional Differdange, Luxembourg Belgian-born brothers Vincent and Bruno have been delighting audiences across Europe since 1992 and now return to Luxembourg as part of a much larger tour of France, Belgium and Germany. A hit evening of entertainment to be enjoyed. www.stadhaus.lu Discovery Zone Luxembourg City Film Festival 28 February 2014 – 9 March 2014 Various locations, Luxembourg City, Luxembourg Showcasing the best new films from the global cinema scene, as well as the hottest new home-grown talents, this 10-day long film festival will have each screening filled to the rafters with cinephiles. www.discoveryzone.lu The Art of the Brick 22 November 2013 – 21 April 2014 Brussels Stock Exchange, Brussels, Belgium Ever wondered just how far you can take the creativity of Lego? US-born artist Nathan Sawaya has created more than 70 pieces of wonderment which are now on show at the Stock Exchange in Brussels. A fun exhibition to take the kids to, but we’re certain that both the young and old will leave inspired. Building blocks at the ready! www.expo-artofthebrick.be

Flanders Horse Expo Ghent, Belgium 28 February 2014 – 1 & 2 March 2014 Any fan of our four-legged friends will surely be attending the 7th edition of Benelux’s biggest and grandest horseshow. As always there is a whole plethora of horse and pony related exhibitors showcasing the latest and most luxurious horse products, as well as a range of competitions, entertainment in the form of a Wild West spectacular, and advice on tap. www.flanders-horse-expo.be Carnival Parade // Cavalcade Diekirch, Luxembourg 2 March 2014 With over 50 floats, the town of Diekirch celebrates its annual 2km carnival parade in a stampede of floats, face paints and festive glory. Led by the donkey as the town’s mascot, you can expect a fun-filled day out at the carnival which is now in its 35th year and attracts thousands of lively spectators every year. www.cavalcade.lu Khalifé - Schumacher – Tristano Aalt Stadhaus, Differdange, Luxembourg 15 March 2014 Pascal Schumacher and Francesco Tristano, the “Rising Star” of the the European Concert Hall Organization, together with percussionist Bachar Khalifé take to the stage to lead a musical odyssey, with a fusion of classical and experimental, composition and improvisation. A visual and

CittA Antwerp Urban Trail Park Spoor Noord, Antwerp, Belgium 16 March 2014 8,000 start places sold out in record time for the second staging of this already noteworthy race. The chance to run through previously undiscovered buildings in the city does not arise every day, so it is no wonder that so many urban runners were keen to take part in this exciting 12km run. Scaling buildings and statues like no other run, and even entering the famed MAS museum, this urban trail might not be easy on the legs but it will certainly be a treat for the eyes, just remember to look up! www.sport.be/antwerpurbantrail/2014 The Broken Circle Breakdown Bluegrass Band Ancienne Belgique, Brussels, Belgium 26 March 2014 and then on national tour in Belgium Americana-infused country music sung by Belgium’s hottest film talent and Oscar hope with lyrics sweet enough to make you swoon. If you’ve seen the film then the emotions will all come flying back. We cannot recommend this enough. www.abconcerts.be

Runner’s World Zandvoort Circuit Run Zandvoort, the Netherlands 30 March 2014 With thousands of recreational runners and a top class national and international field lining up for the 12km closed-circuit race on the Zandvoort racing track, there are also separate men’s and women’s 5km races, as well as children’s races. Running on a speedy automobile racing circuit is certainly not an opportunity that comes up every day so fast times are a certainty! www.zandvoortcircuitrun.nl

Issue 3 | February - March 2014 | 45


Discover Benelux | Culture | Column

But British Food? TEXT: ANNE FABER | PHOTO: CACTUS

When my cookery show started airing in Luxembourg last autumn, I encountered a lot of initial scepticism. The most common reaction: ‘But British food?!” Interview after interview, I defended British food, talking about the foodie renaissance Britain is experiencing, explaining how Brits are now truly embracing their regional produce and rediscovering traditional recipes, often bestowing them with a modern touch. In fact, it made me realise that Britain and Luxembourg are not that different at all – at least not when it comes to food. Luxembourgish food has not had the best reputation (if any) abroad. Even though the country boasts the most Michelin stars per capita, it is not a well established culinary destination. Most restaurants tend to focus on French or Italian cuisine – but very rarely do Luxembourgish dishes appear on mainstream menus.

46 | Issue 3 | February - March 2014

You see, Luxembourgish food is quite stodgy - comfort food you’d tuck in after a day in the mines or the fields. Potatoes, pork, beans and bread, the main players of our national cuisine – not very sexy ingredients. But these days something is happening on the Luxembourg gastro scene. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that Luxembourgish food has become hip, but it’s definitely starting to shake off its dusty image. A place called ‘Kniddelkinnek’ (dumpling king) has started specializing in Luxembourgish dumplings (Kniddelen), which are comparable to thick spätzle. The restaurant is so popular due to its innovative take on this Luxembourgish classic, choosing the sauce for your Kniddelen to be snuggled in. Many ditch the traditional butter sauce with bacon and onions, opting instead for the likes of a wild mushroom sauce. At the other end of the spectrum is Ben Weber’s restaurant Gudde Kascht. The budding

young chef, who won the Culinary Olympics (IKA) in Germany last year, cooks solely with local Luxembourgish ingredients. The beautiful dishes emerging from his kitchen are elegant, modern reinventions of Luxembourgish classics. The latest manifestation of this new-found foodism is the new ‘Mastercook’ on RTL, searching for the country’s best home cook, by setting the contestants new challenges every week – always involving Luxembourgish produce and recipes. As a competition judge, I can reveal this much: Luxembourgers can definitely cook, especially when cooking classic dishes from their homeland. Anne Faber is a Luxembourg expat who’s been living in the UK for 10 years. Her cookery TV show, book and blog focus on the best of British food – sometimes with a Luxembourgish twist.

anneskitchen.co.uk


Discover Benelux | Culture | Book Review

The Amsterdam Confessions of a Shallow Man TEXT: EMMIE COLLINGE | PRESSS PHOTO

After a chance conversation with a Dutch friend, Discover Benelux stumbled across the blog of Simon Woolcot, an amiable British ex-pat who settled in Amsterdam a little under a decade ago and now writes an entertaining and somewhat cynical blog about his ex-pat life. As Woolcot initially garnered some appreciative chuckles from his friends to whom he sent “infrequent summaries about weird and funny things that happened to him,” he embarked on the at-times-mildlyoffensive but always in good humour blog which has now evolved into no less than two books: The Amsterdam Confessions of a Shallow Man and The Shallow Man Guide to Dating the Dutch. The first book arose from an accusation of shallowness – something Woolcot fervently denied until he was challenged to keep a

diary. “In the book you’ll encounter a shallow man, who lives for fine dining, fashion and women,” Woolcot chuckles. “The book spans thirty days, running through each of the seven deadly sins in the life of a shallow man.” While mildly picking fun at the habits of the Dutch, does the author set out to be offensive? “No, not at all. I absolutely love Amsterdam and the Dutch, otherwise I wouldn’t still be here after nine years. Only Paris and London beat it when it comes to fine dining – they’ve improved hugely since I arrived. At the beginning it was so bad that it drove me to cook!” The Amsterdam Confessions of a Shallow Man is now available on AMAZON and BOL.com amsterdamshallowman.com

Beneluxer: in their words Marie Pedersen is originally from Denmark, but grew up in Luxembourg and currently lives in London where she run the design label Silk & Burg. What I miss most about Luxembourg: I miss the amazing views over Clausen from the city centre. I love seeing them change with the seasons, but they are at their most beautiful in the Autumn. I also miss the wonderful running paths in the forests and of course my family and friends.

most of the products by hand and sell my products in a couple of local shops. I love that Hackney has such a strong local community, despite being in a large city.

What Luxembourg has that the UK needs: Shorter commutes and Gromperekichelcher! Where I feel most at home in the UK: Hackney in East London. I have lived in the area for nearly 15 years, which is longer than I've lived in any other place. I now also have my studio here where I screen print

What I'm looking forward to in 2014: I'm really looking forward to designing some new products for Silk & Burg. I've had the ideas brewing for a while now, and I can't wait to finalise them. I'm also very excited about two upcoming holidays to Istanbul and Copenhagen, which I think are going to be very inspiring. Silk & Burg's best known product is the Gromperekichelchen Recipe Tea Towel, other products include limited edition prints, cushions and serving trays. Most of the inspiration is drawn from heritage, whether it be Luxembourgish, Scandinavian or British. Follow on Twitter: @silkandburg

Marie Pedersen. Press Photo

www.silkandburg.com

Issue 3 | February - March 2014 | 47


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