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.

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

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

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.

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.

De Ark – Book your place.

Coming across a ridiculously cheap 3 course meal arrangement on SocialDeal for De Ark – I decided that it was time to try this inner-city institution loved by Haarlem’s inner city dwellers. The deal incorporated an unlimited choice from the extensive menu for only €16.75. Definitely too good to pass up.

The restaurant is situated in a tiny street close to the Frans Hals Museum. From outside it appears limited to the bar and a few tables, yet the restaurant spans three rooms over the top two floors of the building. It is old style – think lots of wood and large dubious paintings.de ark 3



Onion Soup – a thicker and sweeter version of this french classic served in small ceramic bowl.

Scampis – six prawns cooked in a garlic cream sauce, served with bread. Tasty and rich in flavour.

Mains: both main meals were served with salad, french fries and sauces.

de ark2Salmon Fillet served with rocket, pine nuts and slivers of parmesan cheese. Average.

Spare Ribs- a choice of plain or spicy. Three substantial racks marinated in a sambal sauce to produce a spicy, but tasty ping. Moorish – as ribs tend to be.


Tarte Tatin – served warm with vanilla ice-cream. Delicious mix of apple, cinnamon and melting ice-cream.

Cheese Plate: three Dutch cheeses on offer, served with fig bread, basilico sauce, and berry confit. Lovely way to end the meal.

Overall: “Gezellig”. Service was friendly and suitable for a relaxed neighbourhood restaurant. Food was satisfying and of an acceptable standard – so much so that we are planning to revisit with a larger group. Total cost: €33.50 for 2x 3 course meals + €19.95 for a bottle of Spanish temparillo + free drinking water.de ark

Cantina 023 – la comida is fantástica (really delicious!)

Last Saturday night, we visited Cantina 023, Haarlem’s newest tex-mex restaurant on Kleine Houtstraat, number 13. Due to the disastrous visit to Popocatepetl a few months previously, my expectations of a tasty Mexican feast were running low.
Saturday at 8pm and Cantina 023 was overflowing with clients. The décor is modern, upmarket Mexican – rather than the usual tourist-fodder that decorates many Mexican restaurants. Dimmed lighting with lots of wood and funky wall decorations.  As with many of the restaurants along this Haarlem strip, tables are a little too close together – making it difficult for waiting staff to serve meals to all customers. Noise levels made conversations at usual volume almost impossible.


Naturally the evening started with a round of margaritas. Authentic, strong flavors served in the smallest glasses I have ever imbibed this popular drink from. Yes the taste was absolutely right, but serving a classic margarita (€6.50) in a martini glass and then in a tiny tumbler – made it more of a large shot rather than a cocktail
Al Pastor House Tacos (€16.50): three small flour tacos filled with slices of pork, mexican coleslaw, pineapple salsa, white cheese, salsa verde, pink pickled onion and chipotle crema. Guacamole, grated cheese, salad, sour cream, chilli dips served on the side. Super fresh ingredients and flavors. The marinate on the pork had a more Asian than South American taste – but nicely complemented the dish. Beautifully presented.
Barbacoa Burrito (€16.50) : Large wrapped burrito encapsulating chipolte marinated shredded beef, black beans, onions, salad, coriander-lime rice, cheese, sour cream, roasted peppers, pico de gallo (salsa fresca). Delicious and satisfying. Condiments on the side as above.

OVERALL: Cantina 023 has only been opened for a short time and seems to be still experiencing some teething problems. The service on the night of our visit was terrible. The smiling waitresses weren’t too concered about drink orders taking 30minutes to arrive, second drink orders being forgotten, and mixing up meal orders. BUT – the food was fantastic! Definitely worth a visit.

UPDATE:  Return visit made to Cantina 023 on 20 January 2016.  While the food remained fantastic, the service on this Wednesday evening was terrible.  We waited for two hours for our meals (without the complimentary corn chips being offered).  The restaurant was not busy.  Disappointing return visit.