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)
Photo credit: @JNienhuys
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…
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.
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.
I 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).