Top Table: DANIELI IL DIVINO, ANTWERP, BELGIUM
Saturday 28 August 1999
Beukeanlaan 12, 2020 Antwerp (00 32 382 537 38)
View and clientele
On a table by the plate-glass window, two ravishing blondes in tiny black dresses were playing with the bejewelled hands of their dome-headed companions. They were laughing and drinking a bottle of Dom Perignon every 15 minutes. The bar resembled a James Bond party circa 1963. In the park, a jazz band was playing.
Danieli is part of a Flemish castle - the Chateau Brand - turned into a temple of Tuscan food, with huge rooms and bare walls. I felt as though I was eating in a holy place; the spirituality hit me even before we'd started on the wine.
High. The lofty ceilings and sense of space gave our little table a feeling of intimacy greater than any cosy dining room. Two couples in their fifties were feasting on wild boar by the back wall, the husbands looking besottedly into their wives' eyes.
The clothes on the model-types were casual, but were all by Gianfranco, Giorgio and Gucci, and none of their handbags were last year's.
Cinghiale (wild boar) abounded as it was in season in Tuscany; you could have it as carpaccio, with red wine in a pasta sauce, or casseroled. Other Tuscan specialities were bistecca fiorentina, served sliced with rocket, parmesan and pepper and grilled vegetables basted with olive oil.
The best collection of Brunello, Tuscany's finest wine, I have seen outside the enoteca in Montalcino. We had a 1990 from Madonna del Piano, which had astonishing richness and layers of earthy, roasted, herby flavours. It was BF 3,000 (pounds 50) and developed from being a nice, fruity wine before the meal to a powerful character afterwards. I would trade my house for another bottle.
The wine waiter looked sniffy when I told him our bottle was corked, and even sniffier when I said the same about the second. Then the manager tasted both and declared me right.
Cheaper than expected: with the wine and Grappa di Barolo to finish, the meal for two cost BF 7,000 (pounds 117).
Oh yeah, and the food
My insalata tricolore was so full of creaminess, herbaceousness and ripeness it was hard to believe it had been prepared north of Siena. The boar was rich, gamey and tender, tasting like what I'd hope to catch if I could hunt the woods with cacciatore from the village, roasting it that night with herbs from his garden.
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