The bar at August Antwerp forms a pleasing rotunda around the former chapel’s altar alcove, placing it at the aesthetic centre of the artfully desaturated former cloister. Golden stained-glass reflections and bulbous lamps in Vincent van Duysen’s dark bespoke fittings illuminate the white marble countertop.
The mood is demure. Everyone is at dinner, leaving the bar to the dedicated few who skip it all in favor of a prompt digestif. The barkeeper is working a solo shift. His heavy-set frame, colourful tattoos and overall unkemptness add a welcome edge to the slightly too sober sage-green staff uniforms. Drinks are processed expertly and not without flair, in a mesmerizing swaying choreography between freezers, cutting boards and the stately, four-story bar shelf.
Bites appear on the counter: Sardines in oil, capers and shrimp croquettes, crispy fried bread, Bellotta ham. Their inherent naughtiness is effectively balanced by August’s soft architectural dignity and the flawless etiquette of its patrons, who nonchalantly handle advanced seafood and amber-hued alcohol in civilized ways.
From the dining-room, an older man in a brown glencheck sport coat and an angular moustache approaches. After some deliberation and sweeping gestures, first a ladder, then a stately bottle of scotch is procured from the topmost echelons of the shelf. Informed about its price per glass, the gentleman carefully puts down the bottle and elects to go for something more quotidien.
A well-appointed middle-aged couple finally empties their margaritas, finding each other’s eyes and their room key with some determination. As they leave, two scooped-out maracuja shells are filled with vodka and ignited, a subtle act of riot and mixologist pyrotechnics that is left uncommented by everyone.
August Bar, Zuid, Antwerp.