Raecks Wine Bar

Opened recently Raecks Wijnbar was a keenly anticipated addition to the many beer venues in the surrounding two streets. Previously finding a glass of decent wine was difficult unless you were prepared to walk that extra 100metres to the Grote Markt.

The Raecks Wijnbar concept is self-service.  Customers are given a card that requires them to add credit in €10 minimum increments, before allowing open selection to the wine dispenser.  The selection choices are available in three sizes:  taster, half and full glass sizes.  The choice of wines is fantastically broad with wines of all sorts coming from new and renowned wine growing regions. Undoubtedly something to please every wine palate and almost every budget.

So, after an afternoon spent with a group of close friends talking and sipping delicious wines with the sunshine warming us through the large windows – we came to the following conclusions.  Wonderful selection of wines; self-service idea means that you end up paying or drinking more to use the money you have put on the card (human nature hates to lose such a challenge); and that the addition of gratis nibbles and carafes of water would be a welcoming gesture. Overall, a good addition to the neighbourhood.

Adress:  Raecks Wijnbar, Raaks 1, 2011VA HAARLEM. (tel:  +31 23 532 6629)

raeks wijnbar

Photo credit:  @JNienhuys

Mr & Mrs

Finally, after weeks of unsuccessfully trying to reserve a table at a decent time, we finally found ourselves at Mr & Mrs with a booking for two on a Friday evening at 8pm.  The restaurant is on the Lange Veerstraat surrounded by three of my favourite restaurants in Haarlem:  The Olive Tree House, Bastiaan Jan and Effen Grijs.  I had very high expectations!
Mr and Mrs is tiny.  The tables are close, the kitchen located at the back of the restaurant, and the bathroom down some very steep stairs in the cellar.  It is also extremely noisy, making it difficult for us to understand the waiting staff, and vice versa.  The staff are professional, but the push to sell more wine and water made for some tension.

DISCLAIMER:  I do not like the trend (apparent in at least six Haarlem restaurants that I have visited recently) to serve small servings of highly decorated food combinations.  I do not like being unable to identify the taste the main ingredient of the dish I selected.  I do not like food foam or tiny fish flavoured meringues or deep fried flowers on everything I order.  I also don’t like being served a dish with so many flavours mixed together that everything tastes like fish pate.  Finally, I don’t like wait-staff that fill your wine glass every time you take a sip of wine.  So onwards…

FOOD:
Our dining adventure began with an amuse bouche:  parsnip soup with a mozarella cheese foam.  A good start to whet the appetites and soon followed by fresh bread slices and herb butter.entree
While my partner ordered a four-course chef’s surprise menu (€38), I opted for dishes from a la carte menu – beginning with two cold dishes and followed by a warm dish.  There was some confusion when my cold dish came out and the wait person asked whether I would be ordering another cold dish before my warm dish.  Further, I was not sure which of the two cold dishes that I had ordered had been delivered to me, – but thought I would easily identify the dish based on the fact that one of my choices was octopus and the other scallops.  I was wrong.  I had no idea about what I was eating, although it was pretty.
My partner enjoyed his first dish, which had an identifiable striped mackerel slice as the base layer.
The warm dish I ordered included a succulent slice of calfs succade and a scoop of mashed purple potato, decorated with a garlic and macadamia jus.  Delicious.  I would have loved to have this a main meal.
maurice mainI am unable to describe the following three dishes my partner was served.  They were surprises from the chef and unavailable on the regular menu.  As before, lots of colour, too many flavours, aesthetically pleasing.
For dessert, I chose a yoghurt, lemon, roses, rhubarb and mint plate.  I was disappointed that the yoghurt was served in frozen cubes and that the plate was decorated with colourful bits and pieces that were not distinct or large enough to satisfy the taste buds.

OVERALL:  This type of dining experience will please many diners.  Unfortunately, I am bored with dishes decorated with prepared tidbits that camouflage slivers of the main ingredient.  The service was professional, but not particularly warm.  Our bill:  €107 for one bottle of white wine (€32.  Beware the wine list is small and expensive), one bottle of sparkling water, a 4-course chef’s surprise menu (€38), one warm dish (€12), one warm dish (€13), and one dessert (€7). desserts

Flores:  Dining in the Indischebuurt

This weekend we used the last of our AH restaurant actions and ventured to the floresIndischebuurt to go local.  Flores is a small, unassuming restaurant located in one of the side streets close to the end of the Cronjestraat shopping district. The interior is simply decorated, without tablecloths or fancy artwork, yet somehow feels welcoming to guests. The all-male wait staff seemed relaxed,  yet adequately managed to met our needs.

The AH menu was disappointing.  Two choices for entrée, for main meal and for dessert – for a price of €34.50 per person. Based on our new knowledge, I recommend giving the deal a miss and ordering from the wider selection available on the normal menu.

FOOD:
Entrée
We both decided to order the carpaccio – which was tasty and generously decorated with pesto, parmesan slivers and pine-nuts.
Mains:
Salmon with a pesto coating. My first complaint is that even before the meal was served, the smell of the fish coming out of the kitchen was obvious.  The salmon was not fresh, the pesto coat was dull, and the aroma was a little nauseating.
Beefsteak slices covered with a brown sauce and lightly decorated with green vegetables. Like cafeteria food, this dish was edible but suspicious due to being camouflaged by the gravy.


Dessert:
Crème Caramel – one of my favourites, this dessert met my expectations.  Accompanied by a scoop of cinnamon ice-cream and a brandy snap.
Cheesecake served with blue berries, cream, ice-cream and a brandysnap. A well-presented plate with a lovely combination of flavors.

Overall the experience was satisfactory, although the old salmon was a huge disappointment especially on a day when fresh fish is available on the local market. The total bill included a 2 glasses + one bottle of South African wine and with a saving of €34.50 from the AH deal came to €68.

XIXO Gastrobar Vietnamees

Reviewing a restaurant in its first week of opening is setting the stakes very high, but discovering a new Vietnamese restaurant in Haarlem was an eating experience I didn’t want to delay. Friday night and two of my children happily joined me at XIXO Gastrobar Vietnamees on Kleine Houtstraat.viet1

As the first diners of the evening we were made very welcome by our capable and friendly waitress. The décor in the restaurant is simply stylish. The menu has all the Vietnamese favourite dishes and the smells from the kitchen definitely brought back memories of our times in Vietnam.

FOOD
Beef Pho – I have tried many versions of this classic Vietnamese noodle soup dish in the Netherlands and am usually disappointed. This pho dish had the correctly combined soup flavours, succulent thinly sliced beef, and expected accompaniments (noodles, herbs, bean sprouts, lime, chilli). I’m not a beef ball fan, yet acknowledge that the balls are included in many restaurants in Vietnam. Due to my spicy palate, I asked and was given the sauces I needed to make the soup exactly what I wanted. I would like to have more fresh herbs available to add to the soup.
BBQ Beef & Noodles – Very delicious slices of barbecued beef served on a bed of nut and rice noodles, with a salad and separate bowl of fish sauce based dressing.
BBQ Pork & Noodles – The pork had been marinated and minced and barbecued on a skewer. The pork skewer was served with the same accompaniments as the previous dish – and included a sliced spring roll. Aromatic, fresh and tasty.

SUMMARY: We were also treated to a plate of barbecue spare ribs by the restaurant. Total bill included one glass of wine, a bottle of water, a bottle of lemonade = €44.50
We will be returning to XIXO and hope that in the months to come they continue in their mission to serve authentic Vietnamese food to Haarlemers.

Facebook link only: XIXO Gastrobar Vietnamees

Olive Tree House

Saturday evening and Olive Tree House was fully booked.  Simply decorated with large photos of old olive trees decorating the walls, the restaurant has a warm ambiance that is enhanced by the delicious aromas coming from the open kitchen.  The staff were delightful – attentive, friendly and easily managing the needs of the guests.

FOOD
After sitting, we were brought a carafe of mint/lemon water and a selection of bread with a dipping bowl of olive oil/balsamic vinegar.scallops
Entrees:
Grilled Scallops (€14.50) – perfectly cooked scallops served on a marinated salad of carrot, mushroom and zucchini and decorated with truffle (grated and oil).  All entrée descriptions looked delicious, but for us this was the winner.  Beautifully presented and delectable.
Mains:
Fresh Fried Calamaris (€18.50) –  in a delicate batter and combined with marinated grilled peppers.  This delicious mix of octopus and peppers was dressed in a basil pesto and served on a potato cake.  Wonderful combination and the best calamari I have tasted ever.
Roasted Lamb (€21.50) – succulent pieces of lamb, accompanied by artichoke hearts and mixed in a sauce of lemon juice, greek yogurt and herbs.
Desserts:
Bougatsa(€7.50) – this traditional greek pastry decorated with cream and cinnamon.  Light and moreish.
Greek Yogurt (€8.00)and Figs cooked in brandy – delicious combination of flavours and a wonderful end to a meal.

SUMMARY:  An amazing dining experience with delicious food and great service. Our total bill with a beer9€3), a glass of wine(€4), a bottle of Mancura (house) wine (€20) and a AH voucher for a free 3-course meal came to €72.50 (without voucher: €105.50).

lambfigs

The Wolfhound: A family walks into a bar…

Sunday night and a family dinner at The Wolfhound Irish Bar and Restaurant to celebrate the end of the school holidays and the return to school!!  For the uninitiated, The Wolfhound can be found at Riviervismarkt 9, on the northside of Haarlem’s Grote Markt. Our table was located in the stone and wood basement, reminiscent of places recently visited in rural Ireland.  Cosy and almost empty at 6.30pm on a Sunday, yet a terrible noise factor due to speakers being too close to the table. Staff were friendly and helpful.

FOOD:
The menu is heavy on meat.  This pleased the three male family members who instantly decided to order the ribs. Less choices for the vegetarian or health conscious diner – but then quinoa in an Irish pub would have been somewhat suspicious.
RIBS:  marinated in cola and honey.  Large portions, sweet, succulent and delicious.  Served with a side plate of fries and garlic sauce.  ribs
SCAMPI:  Mmm!  Tasty battered scampi served on a bed of fries and accompanied by garlic +chilli mayonnaise.
CHICKEN BURGER:  Flavoursome chicken fillet cooked in a chilli+oregano+paprika batter, served on a brioche bun with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle and garlic sauce.  A cup of fries and small tube of garlic sauce completed the meal.
VEGETABLE BURGER:  This appetising burger  was made of chickpeas, kidney beans and goat cheese.  Accompaniments were the same as with Chicken Burger.  Fries were replaced with sweet potato fries for an additional €1.

SUMMARY:  Tasty heart-stopping food, well-presented, great service, loud but comfortable venue.  Total bill:  €106 including five bottles of soda water and one large Murphy’s beer (2x mixed bread plates and jug of water free).  From a prior visit to The Wolfhound, I can also attest to the fact that the beer on tap is excellent!

Effen Grijs – Wow!

This week we visited Effen Grijs – as part of the AH restaurant deal arrangement (pay for one three course meal and the second is gratis). Although asked what we did not want to eat, we were not given a menu and left to the whims of the chef. Thank God. The meal was absolutely beautiful!! Entree was thin slices of swordfish topped with caviar, capers,chervil and samphire. Main meal was a divine slice of slow roasted pork with a red endive mix salad. Dessert was based on the summer taste of peaches, complimented by yogurt, ice-cream and compote. The chef is an artist. The serving staff are professional. The interior is simply elegant. Total cost including a bottle of Spanish tempranillo, two glasses of prosecco (yes we were celebrating!), two three course meals (one gratis but with a€5 surcharge for the cheese platter instead of the dessert) = €70. Highly recommended!!