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.

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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.

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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

 

Bij Tholen: the hassle of being served.

About a year ago, we visited Bij Tholen and really enjoyed their three course wine pairing menu that had been offered as a Groupon deal. The food, wine and service were all of a standard that demanded a return visit.
Unfortunately our return visit was a disappointment.
Saturday night – and the restaurant was about 75% full. Two staff members were waiting tables, which for the size of this restaurant should have been sufficient for decent service. It wasn’t. It was almost an hour that we waited to place our order – which without complimentary bread, was too long.

FOOD:
Sea bass fillets served on a spiced couscous brickette, with honey sweetened Asian vegetables. Good combination. Fish and vegetables cooked well, although sweetness of the vegetables distracted from the fish.
Risotto with crab, peas and baby tomatoes. Generous pieces of crab in this acceptable potion of the Italian creamed rice dish.

Overall:
The atmosphere in Bij Tholen is more of that of a café than a restaurant. They have an extensive wine list and the menu offers wine pairing suggestions to all the dishes. The food looks and tastes good. Main meals average about €18, and the house wine is an acceptable drop at €18.75 per bottle.
Unfortunately we will not be returning or recommending Bij Tholen after this last visit, as service was terrible and ruined the dining experience. http://www.bijtholen.nl/

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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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Appel – Simple Pleasure

Newly opened, Appel, is a café/restaurant/music-literature venue almost hidden in its perfect location along the Spaarne River in Haarlem Centrum. This lovely space has been outfitted with comfortable furniture; quirky posters and art pieces (for sale); large colourful fish lights – and an extremely welcoming kids space!!

Unfortunately occupied during our visit, we could not review the function room at the back of the building. This room is reportedly light and well-suited to both meetings and social functions.

Over a Tuesday ladies lunch, we experienced warm, friendly service. The menu contained most items found on a traditional Dutch lunch menu – but were served with more of a farm-style, organic taste and look to them. Delicious belly fillers – with two glasses of wine and one coffee came to a total of €19.

Appel is destined to be a repeat venue for me. Similarly, I suspect sociable parents with younger kids will frequent Appel due to the inclusion of the kid space, kid menu, and the added room to manoeuvre prams about.

A good addition to the growing Spaarne café + restaurant scene, with the added bonus of offering a busy program of art and cultural events to entertain during evening and weekends.  http://www.brasserieappel.nl/

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Cafe at the Dolhuys Museum

My favourite place to hang out in Haarlem is the Dolhuys Café, tucked in behind the Dolhuys Museum (National Museum for Psychiatry) on Schotersingel.   In the three years I have been haunting this café, there have been many changes:  renovations, management, staff, hours, menus.  The current version works well for me.

Environment:

Light, airy space with lots of windows and pale-coloured wood, and  inoffensive background music.  The area facing the outside of the building is covered almost completely by glass – giving the feeling of sitting in an english conservatory.  A small children’s area suitably occupies most kids for the length of time it takes to sip a coffee at a relaxed pace.  The appearance of sunshine means that most patrons can be found sitting under the trees that partially cover the terrace yet still allow for suntans.  

Menu:

In its current state, the menu is restricted to lunch foods, sandwiches and soups, and coffee accompaniments like Dutch appeltaart and muffins.  While very acceptable, the food is not the reason to come to the Dolhuys café.  Instead come in the late afternoon with a book or a friend, order a tea, or better still, a glass of wine – and relax.

The staff are relaxed to the point of sometimes taking ages to serve you  – but this is forgivable and causes little stress.  With free wifi, freelancers (hand up) often set up and work for an hour or two without being asked to move on.  

It is all very easy.  And lovely.

Open:  Tuesday-Friday 10-5, Saturday-Sunday 11-5.  Special events listed on website:  http://www.hetdolhuys.nl/bezoeker/museumcafe

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