Luxury Hotels

ANTWERP – 2

The local-event group that was to cocktail outside, at Antwerp’s divine Botanic Sanctuary, were then to move inside, to dine in the property’s chapel. That’s it, above, deconsecrated but still with breathtaking stained glass and acoustics that bring top maestros to tears, is used for organ recitals, regular concerts and dinners for meetings. The chapel is being explained by Xavier Le Cerf, an Antwerp-born passionista who is Botanic Sanctuary’s Spa Director, plus musicologist and art curator. His story-telling ranges from why a red-white-and-black block painting in one restaurant had to be extended to why four black heads peeping out of grass are at different heights – see below.

But his stories stop when he’s setting and assessing the Vitatec machine (it has its own room in the new-build three-floor wellness centre – fitness, spa plus Olympic pool with blazing fire at one end). Botanic Sanctuary is serious business, from every point of view. And worth every precious minute.

Girlahead can attest that being electrically connected, via one’s ankles, to a Vitatec global diagnostic machine at 7.30 am for a 14-minute assessment of no less than 600 sound beats in the body is a great pre-breakfast exercise. When you are then assured all, or most, of your organs are working, move to Botanic Sanctuary’s breakfast room, 600 years ago a nursing ward in what was the healthcare centre of Antwerp. Of course run by monks and nuns.

Dotted around the entire whole are eight restaurants, with four Michelin stars between them. 80% of diners, all meals, are not staying in the hotel. You can see why people drive from far and wide for this food.

Lunch at Hertog Jan, for instance, might well include local white asparagus, charred on a charcoal burner brought to your table by co-owner Joachim Boudens. He then spoons Belgian caviar on top. It’s as creamy as the caviar tart that awaited in your room. One bite of heaven. After that, take a short postprandial walk in the Gardens around. Yes, there are those four heads, below. Girlahead can’t wait to return.