The Mechelen Hundred

Portraits of a city's people, today

Nestled between Brussels and Antwerp, Mechelen has often been overshadowed by its larger neighbours. Yet teaming up with the City of Mechelen, our line-up of 100 of the city’s most prominent people, places and projects proves the extent of its potential. From artists and creatives to critical thinkers and fighters, these are the powerhouses driving Mechelen forward one step at a time.

Mehdi Mathlouthi

Mehdi Mathlouthi

Food and people lover at M-Eatery and New World (1983)

Can you describe what you do?

My day starts off slowly, checking my mails with some Marvin Gaye playing in the background. After that, I shift into full gear as I head towards my job at New World, a brand marketing company that focuses on connecting people with brands through unique experiences. In the evening, I join the passionate crew at M-Eatery, our gourmet meat restaurant just outside the city centre. I love working there, providing the ultimate taste experience to our guests together with a bunch of crazy people who somehow form a ultra-tight and disciplined team. As you can tell, I am a people’s person. I love to engage myself with and for people.

How do you perceive Mechelen? In your view, what kind of city is it? Its people, its cultural landscape, its vibe? How does it compare to other, similarly-sized cities?

Mechelen, our fair city! I can’t imagine a better place to live in. There is so much going on here: buildings and parks are cleaned up and renovated, there are more and more great initiatives and restaurant and bar concepts starting up. Also, lot of attention is geared towards culture and arts, which is primordial for a city that has such a rich cultural heritage. And most important of all: there is an infectious enthusiasm about it all amongst the residents. Fifteen years ago, a bunch of friends and I started the organisation ‘Bruistablet’ as a response to the crankiness we saw all around us. Nowadays, I think this has been successfully replaced by a healthy sense of chauvinism!

What would you say is Mechelen’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

I think our biggest advantage at the moment is this drive to make the best of our city, regardless of our limitations. There is an urge to try anything at least once, even if it has little chance to succeed. Our strategic central location helps of course. Who wants to spend hours in traffic on their way to Brussels or Antwerp? In Mechelen there’s a great balance between work opportunities and good living, so more and more people but also companies are looking to settle here. We have everything a metropole has to offer, but on a smaller scale.

How has Mechelen contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

Mechelen plays a major part in my life. Not only is it the place where I live, but all the projects I am involved in are based in and around Mechelen. New World has its office right in the heart of the city, and our storage is strategically placed near the highway entrance. M-Eatery is near the station, a neighbourhood that is up-and-coming. We organise a yearly Winterbar called Mirage in the courtyard of the city hall, and last but not least: soon we will launch a new concept called ‘TASTE-M’ at the base of the St. Rumbold’s Tower!

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

Nobody’s perfect of course, and that goes for our city as well. But I actually think that’s a good thing! It would be so boring without any challenges left. We have to continue this constructive flow, but always with an eye and a heart for the people, including the less fortunate in our society.

To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Mechelen?

I like to point out-of-towners towards the Vismarkt, via a stroll on the romantic Dijlepad. The wide range of choices here go from a quiet beer at Het Ankertje, a cocktail at the bustling Bar Popular, to local brews at the Kuub.

The next day, would pass by the local market for oysters and champagne at Luc Vis, and afterwards a healthy lunch at Stassart 11 or some tasty tapas at PINTXOS. Last but not least: chocolate lovers should definitely go for a creation workshop at Choc’In, incidentally put on by my wife.