antwerp: the jane restaurant opening

© the jane / photography: richard powers

few people take gastronomy as seriously like the belgians do, and it's no wonder the country boasts a sizeable number of lauded dining spots where sumptuous food comes with an equally impressive yet often staid setting. but it has taken a ballsy dutchman to shake up the local scene with a rather stunning new establishment that has been fully booked since it opened. for many years chef sergio herman ran a renowned restaurant just across the dutch border, and he went on to gain three coveted michelin stars in 2005. a creative adventurer at heart, herman felt he needed a new challenge, closed down the lauded eatery and relocated to nearby antwerp where he opened an imposing culinary temple on the outskirts of town.

dubbed the jane, it's located in the former chapel of an early 19th-century military hospital, and the location is an integral part of an urban redevelopment plan for the surrounding area. originally built as a house of prayer, the chapel has a soaring dome ceiling and huge windows, and the challenge was to transform the solemn character of the place into a welcoming and modern setting that would not only fit a restaurant, but also one that would also honour the building's history. herman and partner chef nick bril collaborated with a small group of friends to take on the project. dutch architect piet boon designed a functional yet elegant interior, using materials that ‘age beautifully’.

the decision to only restore highly necessary within the chapel heightens authenticity and adds an interesting visual contrast. the original altar has been removed and is now home to a glass-encased kitchen which allows guests a first-hand peek of the action inside. the ground floor restaurant features intimate seating areas along walls with padded panels, while additional seating arrangements have been placed in the center below a gigantic chandelier. this low-hanging, spiky eye-catcher of sizeable proportions has been designed by beirut-based light design agency .pslab and features more than 150 lights. the frivolity of the object corresponds beautifully with the playful glass window designs by studio job.

a colourful collection of contemporary objects portray a modern translation of the biblical good-versus-evil story of the old stained-glass windows. the jane's ground floor restaurant serves three set menus with a cosmopolitan palette of flavours, paired with an elaborate wine which includes all the great classics, as well as a selection of organic wines. situated on the mezzanine floor is the upper room bar, a secluded spot with its very own dj booth and a great view of the lower premises. seated around a small open teppanyaki-style kitchen, guests can pick small dishes from a concise gourmet menu, in addition to cocktails, wines and - mind you, this is belgium - a range of special beers. denim brand g-star adds up to the happening vibe at the jane as they've created the specially designed apparel of each of the staff members. location: paradeplein 1 [zurenborg].

© the jane / photography: richard powers