MD leans towards me in the silent carriage of a train from Amsterdam airport. “We’re not going to Amsterdam baby”, he says with a sense of mischief and glee. Yes he pulled, what will be forever known as a “Montreaux” (after he detoured on the Heathrow express home from Amsterdam, only to jump off at the next terminal where whisked me to the legendary jazz festival). The options of where we could be going reeled through my mind, but not once did I guess the small town of Zwolle, just over an hour away from the airport. What on Earth is in Zwolle? Only a three Michelin star restaurant and hotel. Oh baby, you had me at ‘tasting menu breakfast’.
We were warmly welcomed and invited to take a seat whilst our bags were brought up to our room. They poured us a drab of their homemade gin and topped it up with a juice that tasted a bit like drinking a Christmas candle… We were also treated to a little snack. Our room was on the second floor of the ex-women’s prison, we overlooked what was once a courtyard but is now the restaurant.
The décor was of a particular taste and theme, namely ‘cow’. The bed was built of the traditional separate mattresses (do Europeans not cuddle?) but they were comfortable and adjustable. The grandiose bathroom comprised of a shower over the open bath (good for exhibitionists and voyeurs alike). There were luxury soaps, silky dressing gowns and plush slippers but perhaps most impressive of all – complimentary sanitary towels!
We were offered another snack – a mock clementine dessert – and then invited to dinner (anytime!). between 6.30 and 8.30After a leisurely shower and bit of dolling up, we sauntered downstairs and took a seat in the bar area for a gin & tonic and a few appetisers.
What started off as a tasty evening with a few delicious spoonfuls including cod tongue and cheek and white miso, soon turned into an extraordinary one as the waitress explained she was about to make a steak tartare on our hand. MD had seen this on other blogs, but the idea was new to me – steak tartare topped with oyster and oyster cream, you even leave the restaurant with an instruction booklet to recreate it at home.
The first course was a goose liver, cabbage and juice of carrots and magnolia. The goose liver was sweet and meaty and paired unexpectedly beautifully with the soft crab flesh, both were lifted by the citrusy notes of the magnolia. The cabbage and garnish of bitter leaves added an earthy flavour that married the sweet vegetation of the carrot juice. Fois gras and crab – who knew?
Next was a langoustine ceviche, lightly seared but rare inside. The previous wine pairing was good, but the white wine (wine list to be added shortly) selected for this dish was divine.
This was served with bread and goats milk butter (slightly sour taste), we didn’t have the bread proofing at the table as per other reivews and I’m not entirely sure why the butter was magenta. It was okay, but I preferred the regular butter.
MD and I have been exploring our interest in mushrooms for about a year now, getting to know the different varieties and their uses. When we asked the waiter what varietal we had in front of us, he said ‘just a mushroom’ with a quizzical look before excusing himself and returning with indeed a standard cup mushroom from the kitchen. Embarassment aside, the course was beautiful. The coconut was understated and provided just a hint of sweetness that mingled with the sherry to compliment delicate scallops and earthy mushrooms. At this point in the night we also noted there was no music playing – bad/distracting music is my pet peeve at restaurants (Viajante, I mean you!).
The next dish included beautifully delicately smoked eel, it was subtle and didn’t have the cured saltiness of other smoked fishes so the saltiness of the foam and chorizo were welcome additions.
After another successful fish dish of monkfish with fermented peppers and eggplant came the meat course of tender pink venison with earthy cabbage, and royal sauce ‘mangalica’. The syrupy reduction was loaded with umami with a good balance of savoury and sweetness.
For dessert we had a light refreshing herbaceous course of citrus, spices and chicory.
With our (weak) tea (MD had earl grey and I had lemon verbena) we had a board of “flavours in and around the forest” .
Then for some bizarre reason we were served an avocado dessert. What they were aiming for I don’t know, it tasted like creamed guacamole.
After dinner we walked (some of us stumbled) upstairs to our room and promptly fell asleep in the darkness of the black-out blinds. When morning came, MD was up first and I panicked as he told me it was 10am. Breakfast was served between 8 and 10. I managed to phone reception and they said they would let the kitchen know and we were fortunately accommodated at our late arrival to the breakfast room.
As exciting and novel the tasting menu style of breakfast sounded, it turned out to be slightly overwhelming. Perhaps because we were late, or perhaps not, we were served a multitude of items at once and obviously felt like we should devour as much of it as possible whilst still digesting last night’s meal. There were standard continental breakfast items of fruit salad, museli, yoghurt, some meats and cheeses accompanied by several dishes from the kitchen including the smoked salmon and hamburgers below. The quality of the produce was superb and the eggs in particular were a stand-out, mine with mushrooms and MD’s with bacon. There was also an egg shell filled with a sort of custard with pineapple and rum that was very tasty.
After checking-out we had a wander around the small town canal town. The experience at De Librije was a memorable one, and the dinner, one of the I’ve eaten. It will not be soon forgotten.