As the Dido sound-alike finishes the final “How can i change the world, if I cant even change myself ?”, you know the show is over. Not because it’s the best song though. No, the final big clue is the fact that the band all move forward to the front of the stage, stand hand in hand and bow. That’s not for us though and instead I find myself standing out side this modern looking restaurant, waiting for the annual group photo. It’s the 4th edition of our Camping with the Stars weekend and I´m here with Trudi, Normal Marianne, Workaholic John, Vegetarian Edith and Patricia, who normally goes by the title of “my oldest friend”. This very good restaurant has been chosen for the simple reason that it looked to be within walking distance of a camp site (it wasn’t) and although it was a place nobody had heard of beforehand, we all left here 5 hours later with big smiles on our faces. With some summer still in the air, we sat outside on the terrace for our very good nibbles and first 2 courses, and then made our way inside, to a round table for the final 4. This was all handled with ease by the relaxed, professional and friendly staff. Despite slightly overcooking the 4th course Zeeduivel, this was actually one of the very best 1* restaurants we had visited and I enjoyed this more than De Leest or Oude Sluis, which had featured in previous camping weekends away. The cooking style is complicated, with lots of flavours, tastes and textures, but they work well together and they do add in some more classic touches – the 3rd course fried goose liver was served with lovely balls of potato that had been slowly cooked in goose fat, a tasty sauce of watercress and some summer truffle. Yum. Best dish for me though was the first which featured a well cooked langoustine, a clear and deep flavoured tomato bouillon, confit cod and inktvis. Luckily they served lots of hot bread as it saved my licking the plate clean. Not all the girls drink as much as John and I, so we skipped the wine arrangement and ordered some bottles from the interesting and somewhat classical wine list. With coffee, aperitif and all the other little bits and pieces the bill came to 856 euro. A lot of money, but it was definitely a price worth paying. One last word of warning to any of the gentlemen who might visit here: Toilet spray is not be used as a perfume…got that John ? Ok. The lights are on, the PA system is playing some old records and this concert is definitely over. The autographs are signed and retirement begins. Well, at least until the comeback tour of course..
The big thing that bands and chefs have in common is repetition, While the chef can get around this by having daily specials, for bands it seem to be the encores, where they play either an old b-side, a funky cover version or even a new song. And its in that spirit that the girls and I ended up here for the first time ever. I had heard from pizza lovers that these were probably the best in town, and its clear why. The crusts are ultra thin and ultra crispy. Thats a plus in my book, but even better are the toppings. We had 4 different vegetarian pizzas between us and they were great. My 4 cheese, was the same a many on town, but the Vegetariane featured chunks of real veg and both the Gaspare and Aubergine were covered by lots of fresh tomato and herbs which sent a "eat me quickly" message to our stomachs. Had I been on my own, I definitely would have ordered a 2nd. I managed to show some restraint though and instead we shared a Tiramisu between us, which was light and pretty authentic. With coffee and a few glasses of wine each, the bill came to 82 euro for 4. That makes this a cheap meal and while I have moaned about how cheap pasta and pizza places are forcing "proper" restaurants to close, this does not belong in the same category. The decore may be a bit old, brown and shabby, but this is indeed a real restaurant, that serves exactly what customers want (every table taken on a Tues night) at a very high standard for the money. Will be back soon to try the pasta, but first we have to wait for the final encore...The volume is turned up to the max, and the opening strings of Salva Mea start...
So the crowd is screaming "more", the feet are stamping and, just as you expect, the band are back for the encores. The bells chime, Maxi complains "I can´t get no sleep", and I sit out here in Rotterdam, with a large box at my feet, and take in the vibe of the city. This was always a nice place to come when the sun was out, but while the decor is still modern and bright, the restaurant is slowly being strangled to death by the arrival of all these pizza, pasta and cheap eating places that have come to this end of centre. My 3 courses here on Tues night came to 73 euro with wine and water, which makes it expensive for the area. People who want quality items like fresh fish and good service, will of course pay for them, especially me. But this was not quality. As the only customer for almost the whole time I was there, the service was fine, but the big problem was the food on the plate. The apple salad with the starter veal was flat and the 2nd course Louisiana Coquelete turned out to be a crispy chicken nuggets in a potato and mustard soup. Crispy and soup don’t mix and the flavours combinations didn’t work either. Main was a cod, which was not of the highest quality, and vegetables that looked to come from a microwave packet mix. Good sauce though. Compared to previous visits this was very disappointing and the root cause of the problem is obvious. The chef/waiter duo here have split and we now have one person performing both the chef and waiter roles. This really is a hopeless task and while there is meant to be help at the weekend, the focus on 2 jobs at once means the food is suffering. Sad indeed, but hopefully some extra staff can be employed as it still is a place with potential. Still the crowd is going mad in my head, Maxi is bowing and saying goodbye again...Will there be time for just 1 more song ?
So this it: the last ever IENS review. After 12+ years of sacrificing myself for the culinary masses, I´ve decided to follow the example of Lennox Lewis, and retire at the top. A last review needs a fitting location and a song though, and neither were difficult to come up. I have a long list of names I have not yet visited yet, but this had to be the setting for my farewell. As well as being local, it showcases all that is good about horeca. Its a small team of young, dedicated and passionate people who are trying to make the best of things in difficult times. The presentation has always been good, there was a balance and a depth of flavour in my meal here on Sat that was missing from earlier visits. I only came for a late afternoon snack, but ended up sitting out on the terrace for 5 hours and worked my way through 5 different dishes. All 5 dishes were great, but the scallop tartare and a wonderfully cooked cod were probably the highlights. Complicated dishes of course - thats the modern style - but I thought it was similar in quality to the star restaurant I ate at in Den Haag last month. With great choices of wine per glass and a fair price tag, this has all that features that are needed for a great night out. Hope they continue to prosper. Thats it then. Time for 1 last song before I go,,,only 1 choice, so take it away Maxi. "this is my church".."this is where i heal my hurts"...Oh come on, you must know the rest.
Another Tuesday and another birthday. This time Mar got to pick and she decided that an evening sitting near the water at this new restaurant was slightly more appealing than a trip on a boat. With a bit of heat in the air a lot of other people had made the same decision and so it was a good test to see how this place could cope. Ok, so it was not perfect, but for any eetcafe there are a few things you need to get correct as soon as possible. Firstly, the service has to be good. And it was, Very efficient, friendly and when the inevitable delay occurred between the first and 2nd course, a free glass of wine appeared - a nice touch that a lot of other places in town could follow. 2nd important element is the quality of the fries. They come with all the main courses, and they are great, Hot, crispy and served with a good truffel mayo dip. Rest of the food is fine and the market seems to be upper eetcafe segment. Not perfect yet, but promising. As well as a terrace, a bar and an eetcafe part, this multi-functional venue also has a very smart looking restaurant. With the good weather it wasn´t being used, but talking to the staff they tell me that the same menu from the eetcafe part is going to be served here. Seems an odd decision to me and hopefully a separate, luxury menu will be introduced over time. All in all a nice addition for Leiden. Its not going to challenge the top places in town in terms of quality, but its going to give a lot of people a lot of pleasure. Can´t wait for the club nights.
Ever since I started eating at the old 4 Seasons and Eten in Rotterdam 10 years or so ago, I´ve been a fan of the Asian Fusion style. There is something sexy and exciting about the mixing of East and West, but with more and more restaurants cooking this food, its becoming harder and harder for the wow factor to appear. Last nights 4 courses were all very good and showed an understanding of what this style of cooking is all about, but missed the sparkle of the 2 most recent places I´ve visited. I tried 3 of the starters and 1 main (chicken of course) and my favourite was the buikspec marinated in cola, served with a cola and lime foam. The coke always helps keep the meat succulent (we use it for cooking chickens on the BBQ) and here was no exception. With a good 4 glass wine arrangement and a glass of sherry to start, the bill came to 92 euros. Thats not bad, but QPR is always high in Fusion restaurants and while the food may be worth an 8/10, I can eat as good elsewhere for less, so 1 point off. Nice to see quite a few tables being used on a week night without any special offer or deal. Shame that john and Anny are no longer involved though - the place could have done with some of their wonderful personal touch.
It must be confusing with all these offers, especially here. While one site trumpets 5 courses for 55 and another 3 for 30, the main thing to know here is that the normal prices are so modest for a 1* place, that the deals become a bit meaningless. Last nights was an example: we booked the IENS deal ( 3 courses for 30 euro), but if you read the small print a * place can ask 10 euro more. So does that make it 30 or 40 ? Neither. When the bill came at the end of the night the 3 courses came to 36 euro, which is the normal price. I´m sure a few people are gong to come this week and feel tricked and unhappy about the extra 6 euro, and maybe they will argue and get it removed, but us ? Course not. 36 euro for 3 courses of this quality, with a few snacks to start, and amuse and endless chinese bread (odd stuff) is a bargain. The food is very complex and modern, in the Sergio style, and a real fusion between east and west. We´d booked 1 vegetarian menu, but as Edith could not make it, I munched my way thru the veggies (of should I say Tofu´s) and there were lovely, particularly the aromas, which drifted up from the plate and wrote a great big "eat me now" on my tongue. Yum Yum. I used to come here a lot in the old PUCK days, and it seems like they have crammed in more seats which creates a bustling atmosphere. Highly recomended, whatever price you end up paying.
You can understand Sergio´s problem. He may be a creative genius and have 3 stars, but how can a man like him be expected to react to an invention like "Pizza Gezond". He can´t and I´m sure thats why he is quitting at the end of the year. Similarly you can see why 2 other 2* places have thrown in the quality towel, Sure fine dining is nice, but the 3 of us ate 2 courses here last night for 54 euro. Its not "wow" food, but for the money its fine and you get good, slick service. While certain parts of top horeca are struggling with various offers, this segment continues to thrive. Fun, as always.
Sometimes you need to be careful and you can´t rush things and after coming here for the last 5 years without actually ordering any food, it was time to make a change and eat as well as drink. With a card thats primarily aimed at people who want to snack during the day, the choices are limited, but I managed to order a cheeseburger and wedges, while between then the girls ordered wedges and kaassoufle (the daily special'), lasagne and a salmon salad. Not particularly expensive, but not the sort of food you take a detour for. Nice burger though. For desert we sampled all 3 of the cakes, with carrot being the clear winner. Yummy. With the sun out this is a nice place to come and pass the evening away. Won´t be on our list of regulars, but if you find yourself here when the good weather finally appears again, then you will have a fine evening
hard to beleive, but 3 courses, of almost Michelin Star level food, with a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian, costs an a recession busting 26 euros here. Each extra dish - you can have up to 8 courses - costs a very fair 8,50. Add in the fact that the chef has a wonderful understanding of how to balance a dish and how to use the "less is more" form of cooking, then you have most of the elements needed for a great night out. Its not all kisses and hugs though. Bread is an extra 4 euro (fine, but you just know someone is going to complain about it), the wine list is very short (order a bottle of the Chardonnay or the Gros Messang) and the out of the way location means somebody is probably going to have to drive. Still, these are minor when compared to the quality of whats on offer on the plate. There are lots of modern techniques on show and while there may not be some of the luxury ingredients you get elsewhere, all the dishes worked. Highly recommended and a shame that its not a bit closer to Leiden.