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

CLEEFF – A neighbourhood haven

I hate to admit this, but I have been to CLEEFF three times in the last 36 hours. I love this place to the point of becoming a café regular or stalker.

cleeff 2

photo:  www.bijzonderplekjes.nl

CLEEFF is situated on the corner spot that was previously occupied by a chemist (apotheek). The café is bright, due to large windows and the use of light colours. Bonus for everyone – is the children’s room at the back of the café!

The food menu is creative, inexpensive, fresh – and based on the delicious warm smoked salmon + beet + avocado+ horseradish cream sandwich (€6.50) that I enjoyed yesterday – is going to make many health and taste conscious customers happy.

I also love that coffee and other warm beverages are served with a heavenly bit-size piece of home-made chocolate fudge.

cleeffThis place has been opened for a few months – and is already popular with the local Kleverpark residents. Open workdays from 8.30am-6.00pm (hooray!! a breakfast venue!!) and on weekends 10am-6.00pm (hooray!! long lunch + wine), with free WiFi and table service – CLEEFF has made it to the top of my daytime eateries.

Address:  Kleverparkweg 13, Kleverpark, Haarlem

 

The Roast Chicken Bar & Egg Store

It is Mother’s Day and the family decide that they should take me to dinner to celebrate. It is a gorgeous 24 degree, sunny evening and many Haarlem families seem to have the same idea. Luck is on our side – as we find an available outside table at The Roast Chicken Bar on the Turfmarkt. From here we can enjoy the activities happening on the Spaarne River, with the background sounds of the girl duo performing at the restaurant.RCB

So to clear things up. During the day, this old garage venue is The Egg Store – specialising in egg dishes obviously. In the evenings the eggs disappear and the venue becomes The Roast Chicken Bar with grilled, half or whole, chickens served with a variety of side dishes. The Roast Chicken Bar also offers a very impressive variety of g&t menu, which I will be making return visits to rate!!

The venue is hipster, the servers are young, friendly and know how to make the customers happy, and the food smells delicious. For five people (including an 8yr old) – we devoured one whole grilled chicken (€19) with sides of fries, coleslaw, bread, corn and pineapple-mustard MENUcompote. We needed to ask for plates, as most of the customers where happy to just eat from the serving dishes. It is that kind of relaxed, almost picnic-in-a-restaurant, kind of place.   The chicken was tasty, the coleslaw pink from the beets, the fries moorish, and the bread a little hard.

Our total bill came to €45 – which included five non-alcoholic drinks.
Recommended as a fun eating place to go with a group of friends or the family. chicken

Dubronik: Old Style Croatian Cooking

Three years ago we enjoyed spending two weeks on the Croatian island of Brac. The beaches and landscapes were splendid, but the food and local wine was unremarkable. So I was a little curious to investigate what it was that local Croatian restaurant Dubrovnik http://www.dubrovnik-haarlem.nl/ possessed that resulted in reaching its 40th birthday.The restaurant is a little away from the Grote Markt and across the street from local sex-shop CocoNuts. The interior is rustic – with wooden walls and beams, red carpets, old style lighting, many faded pictures, knickknacks – and surprisingly good acoustics meaning that can talk at normal volume, and not hear to the conversations going on next to you.

dubrovnik

FOOD
Plaat Speciaal (€14.50): a barbecued meat platter consisting two raznciji(a roll of minced meat), shaslick (meat on a skewer), and a veal steak. Good serving, nicely presented, but needing some spices to liven it up.
Plaat Assortie (€17.50): the barbecued fish platter – with two large prawns, two small octopuses and a grilled trout. Delicious – but again could do with some zest.
Both dishes were served with a salad, rice, fries, and sauces.

fishdish

OVERALL
The décor of the restaurant suggested an old style eastern European eating experience – and this was indeed the case. Nothing fancy, but good ingredients served by the two Spanish waiters with old school manners. Wine was house red or white, apparently Croatian, served by the glass or carafe. The red was an easy drinker.  Our bill for two main meals and 1litre of red wine came to €57. Recommended for anyone looking for a decent, but not decadent feed, away from the usual fare available around the Grote Markt.

meal

Ohm – oh, mmm

ganesh

For the last five years I have walked past Ohm – a tiny restaurant on Haarlem’s busy, restaurant strip on Langeveerstraat. During this time restaurants on this strip have come and gone, yet Ohm continues to hold its position. Ohm never seems to be busy and most people I asked have never heard of it. It was also the only place I could get a same day reservation for 7pm on Friday night.
Ohm offers a menu of both Indian and Surinamese dishes. The restaurant décor is Indian-style, including a small statue of Ganish overlooking our table. On this particular Friday night the atmosphere was relaxed, almost quiet with a total of six people dining during our 90minute visit.

Food
We started with papadums (€1.50) and pakoras (€4.75). Staple dishes served without flourish.
Main meals were served with basmati rice.
Lamb Danshak (€14.50) – lamb pieces cooked in a lentil curry sauce. Lamb pieces were succulent. Curry sauce was mild and homely.
Palak Paneer (€11.50) – paneer blocks in a creamy spinach sauce. This dish is a personal favourite. Ohm’s version met basic expectations of this vegetarian staple.

Overall
Our total bill, including a bottle of french chardonnay, came to €46.25. The food was fine. The restaurant was comfortable. The service was friendly – although absent were the usual touches found in many Indian restaurants like warm plates and a heated tray for dishes. Cheap and cheerful eating, although not somewhere to head to for a special evening out or for a culinary adventure.

ohm

To Amuse – for that Special Treat

A fancy occasion, my birthday, needed a fancy restaurant and so on Friday evening we found ourselves being welcomed at To Amuse (http://www.toamuse.nl/). The restaurant is housed in the beautiful art deco building, previously home to the Douwe Egberts café and store.
Our table was located on the upper floor, which enjoys a little more space than the bustling ground floor. Décor is elegant with the lead lighting in the front windows adding a special warmth to the atmosphere.
Service is friendly, polite and professional. We were welcomed at the front door, escorted to our table and offered an aperitif – a smooth service that continued to meet our exp

FOOD
To Amuse offers the choice of a daily four course set menu (€39.50), or, an extensive selection of sharing plates (think tapas), main meals (entrée size), desserts – from which you can pick and choose depending on the size of your appetite. We decided to experiment.

to amuse

Photo: maakelaarhaarlemcentrum

Sharing Moments:
Grilled Vegetables with Citrus Dressing (€7.50): deliciously roasted pieces of parsnip, beetroot, portabello mushroom, red pepper, pumpkin, zucchini, carrot and eggplant dressed with slight lemony sauce.
Croquetas Caseras (€3.95): mini croquettes filled with manchego cheese and pata negra (spanish ham) and chicken. Tasty morsels.

Main Meals:
Couquille Saint Jacques (€15): two scallops + two sweet potato beignets served with steamed spinach and a pumpkin cardamon sauce. Heavenly in the mouth – but a disappointingly tiny serve!
Brill fillet (€12.50): with potato rosti pancake, cheese and roasted tomatoes softened in a butter sauce. Wonderful combination of flavors with the fish perfectly cooked.

Still hungry we ordered two further Sharing Plates:
Tears Spareribs Pata Negra Varken (€9.50): three boneless spare rib slices marinated in the house bbq sauce. Tender treats.
Crispy Flatbread (€4): long slice of flat bread adorned with tomato and garlic butter. Crispy accompaniment to the ribs.

OVERALL
Our total bill came to €97.85 and included a bottle of South African Sauvignon Blanc (€25) and a bottle of water (€5).
Our evening at To Amuse was a lush experience. The service, food and wine were all excellent. Admittedly expensive, yet I have no hesitations in recommending To Amuse for that special lunch or dinner occasion.