Parels: Not the jewel it could be

A Saturday night arranged by friends who had discovered a coupon for Parels (€25 for 3 courses)– found us eating in a busy restaurant situation along the Oude Groenmarkt. Parels has an outdoor terrace, small bar and narrow inside section – and at a guess, is able to seat 100 guests. Service is provided by young staff with flipping ponytails and too much attitude.

FOOD:
Entrée:
Tuna sashimi: beautifully presented, with a sesame-dressed seaweed salad. Soya dipping sauce. Wasabi was missed – albeit needed to compliment this plate.
Carpaccio: this dutch restaurant standard was up to par.
Smoked Salmon Tartaar: Aesthetically pleasing, yet lacking in real flavour.

Main:
Prawn kebab: one kebab with eight marinated and grilled prawns. Served with salad (same as entrée salad decoration with extra leaves added) and fries. Delicious prawns.
Beef steak: with high expectations, this steak again proved that Dutch restaurants are poor competitors in the beef world!
Sole: served with salad and fries.

Dessert:
New York Cheesecake: served with red berries sauce and yogurt ice-cream.
Lemongrass and Coconut Parfait: looked beautiful but tasted like a cup of cream.
Scroppino: dessert drink – again missing flavour.

Overall: Very average dining experience. Staff a little sloppy. Male toilet unacceptably dirty. Food – nothing amazing. One bowl of fries as the stated accompaniment for three main meals was tight; salad re-hashed for mains was disappointing; steak substandard; desserts boring. Although the total experience was parallel to dining experiences offered at other restaurants along this busy strip, – and good value at €160 (including wine) for four people, Parels can not be recommended for anyone seeking looking for a gustatory treat. http://www.parelshaarlem.nl/

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Bruxelles – All good things Belgian

Last night we returned to a favourite eating spots and were surprised to find Bruxelles (http://www.cafebruxelles.nl/home/) with tables to spare. The reason – sunshine in September! Hence the upstairs terrace of the restaurant was open (and full), the interior space a third occupied, and the bar totally customer-free. A delightful surprise for us.

Bruxelles restaurant sits at the top of a slanted, steep stairwell – in a narrow residential street in Haarlem Centrum. The bar is a popular place for enthusiasts of Belgian beers, and can be extremely busy on weekend evenings. Adding to reasons to be popular, Bruxelles has a daily special dish (€6) that makes draws in the locals.

Bruxelles has a sister restaurant on the beach at Zandvoort.

FOOD

As per our own personal tradition, we started with a round of trappist beers as entrée. No complaints.
For a group of three we choose to share:

Ribs – Generous portion that was succulent, delicious and cooked just right. Really a surprise find for a Haarlem restaurant.
Salmon: Perfectly cooked and seasoned.
Vegetable Pie: a high pie slice (approx 10cms) filled with colourfully layered vegetables and wrapped in puff pastry. Impressive looking dish that would benefit from added spices and herbs.

All three dishes were decorated with slightly different fresh salads. A large bowl of belgian fries was accompanied by a dish of sauces (chilli, mayonnaise, ranch – not homemade).

Overall: A satisfying meal, average service, bargain price (3 belgian beers + bottle of house sauvignon blanc + 3 main meals = €69), Bruxelles never disappoints by promising something it isn’t. The restaurant and bar remain on my list of good places to eat, drink and socialise in Haarlem.

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Wolkers: A new favourite place!

I really like Wolkers. Twice this week I visited and both times I enjoyed the experience. The space basks in the afternoon sunshine, the staff are warm, the coffee is strong, and the food delicious. Free wifi, views of the Spaarne water traffic, chillin’ music – and an easy menu of pimped up staples…. a perfect place to pull up and read a book – or, to enjoy a long lunch with friends.

Wolkers:  Gedempte Oude Gracht 139, HAARLEM

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BastiJan – Absolutely Delicious!

Another Haarlem restaurant that I have walked by hundreds of times without being enticed to enter, usually because BastiJan seemed to be full. Last night we booked a table for two, enjoyed a delicious four-course chef’s surprise menu – and understood the popularity of this unassuming restaurant.
A nice touch to begin the evening was the welcome by staff as we entered the restaurant. Decorated in a quasi art-deco style, there is adequate spacing between tables to allow for conversations, and lighting conducive to making the space “gezellig”.

FOOD
The four course meal began with complimentary tasters: prawn cocktail, marinated olives and basket of warm bread with herb butter.
Entrée:   Slices of wild boar over a mound of bulghar, tomatoes, grapes and pecans. Absolutely delicious.
Soup: Cream of sweet potato – delightfully spicy, with sweet pea shoots and home-made flat bread adding to the presentation and taste.
Main: Swordfish steak with baked peppers, tomatoes, chickpeas, bokchoy. Generous portion of perfectly cooked fish – complimented by chosen vegetables.
Dessert: Plate from heaven: crème of tia maria; rich walnut brownie; rhubarb drippings; and cinnamon ice-cream with laced caramel cookie. Looked as amazing as it tasted.

Overall: Presentation and taste of all dishes was first-class. The staff were knowledgeable, friendly and professional. Opting for the chef’s surprise menu was the right decision: €29.50 per person (total bill= €87 including one bottle of wine, two glasses of bubbles). The chef did indeed surprise with his culinary talents. We look forward to indulging again in his talents on our next trip to BastiJan.  http://www.bastijan.nl/

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