De Librije

Spinhuisplein 1, Zwolle, 8011 ZZ, Netherlands

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Chef interview

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Zwolle can be reached by an hourly train from Schipol (1 hour and twenty minutes duration) and is a quite small town whose centre is enclosed entirely by a canal. When staying the best bet at the time of writing is the Hotel Wientjes, which is a short walk from the station, though be aware that even the best rooms there do not have air conditioning.

The restaurant is situated in a 15th century monastery library, which has very high ceilings and is a charming setting. Service on my visit was friendly though erratic, with wine not being topped up on a couple of occasions, and an interminable wait of 50 minutes between starter and main course. However the sommelier was excellent. Amuse-bouche began with a marinated sardine served with a granita of red pepper; the sardine tasted pretty much like, er, a sardine, but the granita had good texture (16/20). Next were three glasses, one with a cream of beetroot, one with a cream of horseradish and cucumber with a little solid cucumber also, and a cream of goats cheese with tapenade and tomato (the best of the three). All pleasant enough (16/20).

Much better, and indeed the dish of the night, was a lollipop of duck liver and duck confit, which had superb flavour and smooth texture (19/20). Also there were a couple of crisps, one of bacon and the other with parmesan and pistachios (15/20). Bread was slanted heavily towards seeded bread, as the plain (very nice) brown bread ran out almost immediately, despite us eating early in the evening. The others were a rye bread, a sesame seeded white roll and a brown roll with semolina. (16/20 for the bread). The menu is a little tricky, with various odd flavour combinations, and is awkward for non-carnivores as many fish dishes also have meat.

My wife started with a wing of skate served with a little puree of smoked eel, and a small amount of cauliflower and mango. I am unconvinced as to why this flavour combination was supposed to be appealing, and it was cooked well enough but still only a moderate dish (15/20) for me. I had fillet of turbot with an excellent morel jus, served with a few baby morels and creamy mashed potatoes and a superfluous twirl of crisp potato (17/20). For main course I had roebuck, served as pieces of meat attached to ribs, plus a shoulder of deer that was minced and wrapped with pasta. On the side were slices of beetroot steeped in alcohol and some cold turnip that did nothing in my view (15/20). My wife had turbot with cockles and green beans, with a ravioli of crab meat and a salad of leaves, herbs and joujons of turbot. The fish was served with a sauce that supposedly had lemongrass, curry and ginger, but only the lemongrass was apparent; this was pleasant enough (15/20).

Cheese was mostly French with a couple of aged Dutch cheeses. Unfortunately it was served straight from a fridge (“as it is a hot night”) which stifled the flavour badly, though the Munster, Epoisses, Camembert and Reblochon were all in good condition (15/20). For dessert my wife had soufflé of quark (cheese) with peach compote and a lavender ice cream that was bizarrely green in colour. I had soufflé of lime leaf with ginger cream and a vanilla ice cream. Neither soufflé had particularly good texture, though they tasted of what they were supposed to (15/20). Petit-fours consisted of a choux bun filled with lemon cream topped with coconut, an almond macaroon, a chocolate truffle on a stick and a white chocolate truffle (18/20). Coffee was excellent (18/20) served with an “After Eight” style chocolate with peppermint filling, and a coffee mousee topped with a coffee gelee.

Overall, on this visit this was really a 1 star level place to which someone has incomprehensibly given three stars. At EUR 344 for two it is not cheap. We had Chateau Musar 1995 from the good wine list, which ranged from some fair prices to vast mark-ups in places.


Further reviews: 16th Jun 2013

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User comments

  • Mark van Bommel

    The setting is beautiful. The personal attention from the chef and his wife is very special. But now the food because that is why we visited the place. It started with a lot of amuses. Than the first course: all kind of shell fish. Brilliant and very tasty. Unfortunatly the first course was also the best course. Off course superb cooking techniques but sometimes to my opinion not so tasty as you may expect from a 3 star place. I think I must admit I am more a fan of the classic kitchen because I enjoyed my experiences at the Karmeliet (my score 9/10) and Vendome (10/10)much more. Nevertheless this is a great place to visit. We had a very nice evening. My score 8/10.

  • Cameron Clark

    I first ate here when it was still a 2* place and despite all the media hype about whether here or Parkheuvel was to be the first 3* place in the Netherlands, it was clear to me the Cees Helder was the better of the 2 chefs. Still, time moves on and how well this place is now performing can be judged by the 19.5 rating from the Gault Millau, which puts it amongst the very elite of the 3* Michelin places. It had been a while since my last visit, and the old split level restaurant has been replaced by a sort of exotic, boudoir that displays the feminine touch and taste of Theresa, the chefs wife, who also performs as host. Food wise there are a number of different menu options, including a 10 course tasting vegetarian menu. We went for the non vegetarian version, which together with the wine arrangement ( 9 glasses + 1 beer) came to a bargain 210 euro. Mini is a bit deceptive as a number of the courses included 2 dishes, and there were 4 sets of amuse served, including the famous duck liver lollipop, and bread kept flowing for virtually the duration of our 5 hour lunch. Highlight of the day was the cheese course which featured warm epoisse poured over some granny smith and toped at the table with some crisped sugar to make a crème brulle. This was served with a granny smith sorbet and fantastically partnered with a very pungent Vin Jaune. A stunning combination, but so were all the other dishes, which seamlessly matched all the modern cooking techniques with a selection of local products. The only real criticism I had was that it was so polished and so well run, that it seemed to lack a bit of the passion the Oude Sluis showed. Also, for a lunch in Sept we did expect some game on the menu, but the only real meat course was a neck of slow cooked lamb. Still it was a wonderful experience and its great to see that despite all the success, no one here seems to be resting on their laurels.