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

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

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!!

Cups and Leafs – Tea for Two

logo_websiteLunch on a rainy summer Monday was a good reason to visit Cups and Leafs – located on the corner of Zijlstraat and Gedempte Oude Gracht in Haarlem’s main central shopping area. For myself and my lunch partner, this was our first time to Cups and Leafs, which opened for about six months.

The tea house/café interior is well-light, spacious and tastefully decorated with tea memorabilia of an Asian influence – credited to joint owner and tea expert Xiao who originates from China and a strong culture of tea drinkers. I arrived a few minutes early and was welcomed by Xiao with a tiny cup of tea. Unfortunately my lunch partner missed this lovely welcome ritual as she arrived at the same moment that a small group of new customers entered the café.

FOOD: The menu is expansive offering breakfast, wraps, salads, sandwiches, cheese-tea combinations, dim sum items (mainly dumplings), muffins, cakes, coffees and a plethora of black, white/yellow, oolong, green, herbal, flowered, flavoured, iced, frothed – and traditional teas seeped to strict guidelines that enhance the individual characteristics of each tea.Cups and Leafs

I chose a fresh lemon and ginger tea, more of a warm drink without actually tea, which was refreshing and matched the weather perfectly. I opted for the Japanese bbq beef wrap with beef, mixed salad, coriander, red peppers, black sesame seeds and a sauce. Although it didn’t remind me of any Japanese flavours, it was fresh and tasty.

My adventurous friend decided to try the blended chocolate black tea, presented to look like a chocolate sundae complete with whipped cream. To eat, she enjoyed a chicken bacon avocado multigrain roll – minus the bacon as it was unavailable at the time of ordering, and a side order of dim sum dumplings. She reported being happy with her choices and that she enjoyed her lunch.

SUMMARY: Great space, friendly but somewhat slow service, a wide menu of fresh foods with an Asian slant making Cups and Leafs a special venue to enjoy breakfast, lunch or a pick up cup of exotic tea with something sweet, dimsum morsels or cheese. Total bill: €26.

The Gin Sum Club

g&tAfter much anticipation, The Gin Sum Club(TGSC) opened its impressive doors eight weeks ago. Located on the corner of Zijlstraat and Gedempte Oude Gracht, evidence of the previous tenants, Rabobank, adds charm to this otherwise totally morphed building. New to Haarlem, the interior of GSMC is perhaps something you could expect to find in London, NY or Berlin. Slick, upmarket and urban.
Having made a reservation for Saturday, our party of four were seated at a table adjacent to the open kitchen – a comfortable, but very noisy position. The staff are well-versed in selling the restaurant vision and describing the menu. The blurb about a vision of sharing meals instead of traditional one plate-one customer dining – is a growing restaurant trend in Haarlem – and something that often (in my humble opinion) results in a very expensive evening with the need for a snack on the way home.

FOOD:
We ordered five plates from the dim sum menu: Veggie Gyoza (€7.50) with truffles and gsc4mini mushrooms; Crispy Chicken Gyoza (€5.25); Thod Man Pla Dumpling with lemongrass and ponzu (€6.75); Spring Rolls with duck, shallots and hoisin sauce (€8.25); and Fried Wontons filled with smoked eel and duck liver (€9.00). All dishes provided four pieces, were delicious and made on site. Accompanying sauces were correctly matched to the ingredients. Presentation was beautiful.

From the sharing menu, we enjoyed a Japanese style salad of yellowfin, dashi, cucumber, and citrus flavours (€13); Rendang gsc2Steak Tartare with ginger and Asian vegetables (€13); and Pork Belly with prawns and kimchi (€13). Again – all three dishes were delectable and aesthetically pleasing – yet being the size of an average entrée only provided each member of our group with small spoon size portion to taste.

DRINKS:
The gin menu is the focus of TGSM with 40+ types of gin (ranging from €5.50-€11.50 per serve) and 18 types of tonic (€3.25-€4.75) and a plethora of garnishes to match the whims of every guest. All gin drinks are served in a tall glass with a stirrer holding a small piece of dry ice – that fizzes and emits a cloud of smoke when the tonic is added. This is a magical effect!
TGSM also offers a menu of cocktails, beers, wines and non-alcoholic drinks.

OVERALL: Our total bill came to €168. This included a bottle of sparkling water, 8 g&ts, 5 dim sums and 3 entrée-size share dishes. Yes – everything was delicious, the service was very good, and the venue was amazing …. yet we were all felt a little underwhelmed. On reflection, the reason being that we had expected a restaurant experience – and although TGSC has a restaurant, it is more bar/club than restaurant. The leather chairs that furnish the ‘lounging section’ are perfect for comfortable conversation while sipping on a fancy g&t and nibbling on dumplings. Next time, we will eat first and come later to enjoy and indulge what TGSC offers.

tgsc5

photo:  www.iens.nl