Food & Drink

The 13 best Dutch food and drinks to devour at Christmas time

Oliebollen stand outside Hilversum station

Oliebollen stand outside Hilversum station

Guys, is it even December if we don’t talk about food!?

It’s dark and cold outside, so you might as well use the excuse of Sinterklaas, Kerst (Christmas) and Oud en Nieuw (New Year) to sit indoors and get as fat as Santa. So without further ado, I present to you Bitterballenbruid’s 13 best festive food and drinks from the Netherlands…

1. Advocaat

Or eggnog… a traditional Dutch alcoholic beverage made from eggs, sugar and brandy. The Dutch love it because it’s basically boozy custard. And who can blame them?

2. Appelflappen

When anyone thinks of New Year in the Netherlands they think of oliebollen – but apple fritters / beignets (or apple turnovers as we’d call them in English) are v.popular too! My Dad used to be a baker and I loooooved apple turnovers when I was a kid.

3. Banketstaaf or banketletters

Pastry shaped into a log or a letter containing an almond flavour paste (known in the Netherlands as spijs or amandelspijs.) Absolutely delicious and about as traditional as you can get!!

Traditional Sinterklaas fayre

Traditional Sinterklaas fayre

4. Bisschopswijn

The Dutch version of glühwein (or mulled wine). Need I say more?

5. Bitterballen

Hahahahahahaha… not Christmassy at all. But fuck it – it’s my list! 😉

6. Boerenkoolstamppot

My favourite of all the mashed Dutch food.

Boerenkoolstamppot

Stamppot (meaning “mash pot”) consists of (lumpy) mashed potato with vegetables of your choice thrown in. My fave is with kale aka boerenkool. Stamppot is often served with rookworst (smoked sausage) and/or bacon lardons.

7. Erwtensoep (or Snert)

Pea soup. Typically made from dried peas, such as the split pea. A bit like English pea soup… but better!

8. Gourmetten

Technically not a food or a drink, but a popular way of cooking / dining especially during the festive period! Read more about gourmetten.

Gourmetten

9. Kerststol

Oval-shaped Christmas bread with dried fruits and more amandelspijs. The Dutch version of the German ‘Weihnachtsstollen’.

10. Marsepein

Marzipan, but in Dutch it’s pronounced something like mars-ze-pain (which makes me cackle every time)! Ewwww… I am not a fan, but a whole lot of Dutch people would disagree with me!

11. Oliebollen

(Literally: oil spheres) I got in a lot of trouble on a previous post for saying that they’re “basically doughnuts”! Dutch people are clearly very passionate about oliebollen and will defend them to within an inch of their life. So ok, I will amend my statement: they are similar to doughnuts…

The dough is made from flour, eggs, yeast, salt, milk, baking powder and usually sultanas or raisins. They’re then sprinkled with icing sugar. Oliebollen are traditionally eaten at New Year but there are oliebollen stands around for the whole festive period (so basically the whole of December).

Oliebollen

© Takeaway / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0

12. Pepernoten and Kruidnoten

Pepernoten  literally ‘pepper nuts’ are small, round-shaped cookie like things made from flour, sugar, anise, cinnamon, and cloves. My friend bought me some glutenvrije pepernoten this year so that I can still join in the fun! (Thanks, M! xx)

Glutenvrije pepernoten

Glutenvrije pepernoten

Not to be confused with kruidnoten literally meaning ‘spice nuts’ which are harder, have a different colour and shape and contain the same ingredients as speculaas… which leads me onto last but not least…

13. Speculaas 

Spiced shortcrust biscuit, served around Sinterklaas time. Dutch people go wild for it. You can also get spreadable versions, with a peanut butter kind of consistency. Niet mijn ding (not my thing) but each to their own and all that.

And the most important question: which is your favourite?

Hayley x

 

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The 10 best pubs & bars in Hilversum (updated Oct 2017)

I first wrote this list about a year and a half ago, but things have changed since then! So it’s time for an update. Here’s a local’s guide to the best pubs and bars in Hillywood:

1. Cafe ‘t Tolhuis

Tolhuis, Hilversum

Photo credit: Café restaurant Het Tolhuis Facebook Page

Tolhuis, Hilversum

Photo credit: Café restaurant Het Tolhuis Facebook Page

This is staying at #1 as it’s still my favourite pub in Hilversum. I kinda don’t want to tell you about this one… but y’know, I’m a nice gal, so I’m gonna. But first a warning: it’s preeeeetty bloody hard to go here just for a drink without ordering food. As well as standard borrelhapjes they serve platters, tapas and a variety of mains. Everything is delicious. I think we managed to go here once without ordering food and we both complained the whole way home.

They have fantastic wine and I have no idea about the beer. They serve beer.

Apparently there’s live music here every Thursday, I have no idea how, it’s teeny! But anyway, go check it out. Brilliant place! (Oh and make sure you book a table if you want to eat!)

Soestdijkerstraatweg 2, 1213 XA Hilversum | tolhuis-hilversum.nl

 

2. Karroesel

Karroesel, Hilversum

Karroesel, Hilversum

My second favourite pub is definitely an acquired taste. It’s rustic… and by rustic I mean it’s a shithole. But a nice shithole. It’s where the ‘alternative’ (for want of a better word) crowd go in Hilversum. They’ve taken down the smoking room wall (which used to take up half of the pub!) so it looks way bigger these days. So now there’s a tiny smoking room – or just go outside! Pool table is still there and the music is loud and mostly aggressive.

As I say, an acquired taste. What I will say though – you’ll meet some interesting characters here!

Spoorstraat 44, 1211 GB Hilversum. No website. Proper old skool. 

 

3. Foodhall MOUT

MOUT Foodhall, Hilversum

MOUT Foodhall, Hilversum

A new addition to the list and to Hilversum! If you follow me on Instagram you’ll see I’m there quite a lot! It’s a great place to visit day and night – sometimes I go there to work, other times to eat and drink lots of wine. It’s an all-rounder and as many Dutch people would say, “een aanwinst voor Hilversum” – an asset to Hilversum. I couldn’t agree more!

Naarderstraat 8, 1211 AL Hilversum | mouthilversum.nl

 

4. The Guardian

Guardian, Hilversum

Photo credit: The Guardian  Hilversum Facebook Page

I had to get an English pub on the list, right?!?!? A pretty standard pub, slap bang in the middle of the Groest (the main street for bars/restaurants in Hillywood).

Does what it says on the tin.

Groest 33, 1211 CZ Hilversum | the-guardian.nl

 

5. Café Moeke

Cafe Moeke, Hollandsche Rading

Photo credit: Cafe Moeke Facebook Page

Ok, technically not Hilversum… but Hollandsche Rading. I can get here on my bike in 15 mins, so close enough I reckon.

Another bar / cafe / restaurant. Fantastic food… like a gastro pub. Their slogan is “de vijfsterren kroeg met eetallures” which roughly translates to “the five star pub with fine dining intentions”. Occasionally things sound better in Dutch. This is one of those times!

Anyway, never had a bad meal here and it doubles as a pub. Closest thing I have found to an English pub in Holland (and yes that even includes the “actual” English pub above!)

Utrechtseweg 263, 1213 TR Hilversum | cafemoeke.nl

 

6. Winebar Vintage 

Winebar Vintage, Hilversum

Photo credit: Winebar Vintage Facebook Page

I’ve been here a few times now and had some really delicious wine! They have “Meer dan 100 open wijnen”  – more than 100 open wines – so there really is something for everyone!

They also do hapjes and platters if you fancy a little something something next to your wine!

Spoorstraat 65, 1211 Hilversum | wijnbarvintage.nl

 

7. The Skiff

The Skiff, Hilversum

The Skiff, Hilversum

This place has to be on the list as they do FREE BITTERBALLEN for a couple of hours every Friday (6-8pm I think). Another pretty grungy place, but also frequented by hipsters.

Kampstraat 2bc, 1211 GE Hilversum | theskiff.nl

 

8. VIDA Vineria

VIDA Vineria, Hilversum

Photo credit: VIDA Vineria Facebook Page

I’m not sure if this one should be on the list because I haven’t been there yet… but I’ve heard good things and it has fab reviews on Trip Advisor, so 💁🏻

The people behind VIDA tapas restaurant have opened this second location next door to cater for those wanting wine and snacks rather than a full meal. I like.

Groest 16, 1211 EC Hilversumvida.nl

 

9. Barracuda

Another ‘acquired’ taste. This one’s a metal bar. There’s live music every Saturday. We went here late on Kingsday and the lovely bar lady let us play whichever songs we wanted. Good reason to go back in my book!!

Herenstraat 43, Hilversum. No pics, no website. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

 

10. Eetcafé Gulle Graef

Gulle Graaf Hilversum

Photo credit: Gulle Graef Facebook Page

Eetcafé technically means eatery but it’s going on the list because of their extensive beer menu! They also have cider which isn’t Strongbow or that sweet crap Apple Bandit, so they’re doing right in my book. Order a steak alongside your drinks and you won’t be disappointed!

Laanstraat 37, 1211 HG Hilversum | gullegraef.nl

 

Where’s your favourite place to go in Hilversum?

Hayley x

 

24 hours in Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden Street Art

Nope, I haven’t forgotten… the 12 provincies challenge is still firmly in action. I haven’t written much about it (yet)… but behind the scenes, I have been visiting more of Holland than most Dutch people probably have!

Last week we ticked Friesland off the list! 🙂 Ideally, I would have liked to go to one of the islands – I’ve only been to Texel so far – but we only had limited time (and funds) so decided to stay on the mainland and visit the capital of Friesland instead.

I’m probably going to offend a lot of Leeuwarders now… but I thought Leeuwarden was just ok. Average. Sorry guys.

It reminded me a little of Utrecht without all the cool shit. Read: hipsters.

I don’t want to upset people who love Leeuwarden, honest, but I’ve got to be real. If people came to Hilversum and were disappointed, I’d get it. I know that I view Hilversum with rose tinted spectacles because it’s my adopted hometown.

When I was searching online for things to do in Leeuwarden (in both English and Dutch) it was slim pickings. I get it now. There’s not that much to do!! Hence why no one has written about it!

That’s not to say that we didn’t have a lovely time. We did. The people we met were lovely. (They did have very funny accents though, like a mix of Dutch and Norwegian. Friesland has it’s own official language!) The wine and food we had was lovely… so do go there if you just want a lovely time. If you want a fucking aaaaaamazing, staggeringly awesome time – go somewhere else! Amsterdam, Utrecht, Renesse, Zandvoort… I’m looking at you.

I’m glad I went, but I wouldn’t be climbing over myself to go back, nor do I recommend it as a must-see in Holland.

However, *if you do find yourself in the capital of Friesland*… here are my tips:

De Walrus

Trip Advisor to the rescue, you little beaut. This place was rated highly and praised for its wine. Sold!

Delicious wine and Dutchman's elbow

Delicious wine and Dutchman’s elbow

It didn’t disappoint. To go with our delicious wine, we also ordered a lil side of chips. Which turned out to be frigging massive! I’m not complaining. They were delicious.

Gouverneursplein 37, 8911 HH Leeuwarden | dewalrusleeuwarden.nl

img_2684.jpg

Chips, jalapenos, red onion, pulled pork and cheese sauce. AKA chips on steroids. They were amazing!

Sjoddy wijn & spijslokaal

Definitely not shoddy! (Sorry, had to get that one in there! My Dad would be proud…)

Yummy mussels, friendly advice, trendy decor. A little pricey, but average for a wine bar in my experience. I’d go again (if it wasn’t in Leeuwarden!)

Druifstreek 55, 8911 LH Leeuwarden | sjoddy.nl 

Sjoddy wine bar, Leeuwaarden

Leeuwarden Lounge

I found out on TA that this place is owned by two brothers, with their Mum as the chef (she has now retired, but we were told the new chef uses all of her original recipes). One of Oma’s dishes is still on the menu too.

Leeuwarden Lounge

One of said brothers was our waiter for most of the evening, a very friendly chap who chatted to us in between courses. Highly recommended!! Excellent prices and the food is divine! Neither the Dutchie or I had ever tasted Afghan food before, but we will be looking out for it in future. Yum!! I can’t really recommend a dish in particular because everything was so good.

Also, voor de liefhebbers… they have shishas for after your meal.

Korfmakersstraat 13, 8911 LA Leeuwarden | leeuwardenlounge.nl

 

‘Sightseeing’

Top things to do in Leeuwarden: Fries Museum. We didn’t go because I already know everything there is to know about chips! 😉

De Oldehove is an unfinished church tower in the medieval centre which apparently leans more than the tower of Pisa in Italy. I couldn’t get the Dutchie to pretend to hold it up, so here it is in all its boring glory: De Oldehove, Leeuwarden

Boomsma Museum – we had planned on going here and tasting some of the brown stuff. (Beerenburger for you uncultured slobs out there.) But when we walked in it was busy and smelled like old people, so we went to the pub instead.

Canals and Historische binnenstad – does what it says on the tin really. It’s just nice to have a little mosey around the small streets and enjoy the architecture.

Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden

Leeuwarden

Red light district – no photos, obviously. (It’s illegal.) I was surprised to see that Leeuwarden even had a red light district! It was pretty ropey to be honest, as you might expect. But still worth a peek for the curious Englishwoman who still can’t get her head around legalised prostitution.

Leeuwarden by night. A photo NOT of the red light district.

Leeuwarden by night. A photo NOT of the red light district.

Where to stay 

We stayed at the Bastion hotel, nothing fancy but it did the job.

It was super clean, had free parking, free wifi, a fridge and tea and coffee facilities and was only a 20 min walk from town. If you walk the right way that is!! It took us almost an hour because we are morons and went completely in the wrong direction! 😀

Have you been to Leeuwarden? Did you love it, hate it, or were you just a bit indifferent towards it like me?

Hayley x

First few months of the 12 Provincies Challenge and why I haven’t been writing lately

Hello and Happy Sunday!

I normally have my ideas (especially connected to writing/work) when I’m in the shower (TMI?) and today is no exception. My brain is literally buzzing with so many ideas. And I realised I haven’t written anything in like, forever.

My massage therapist (a newish addition to my life) says I have a creative block. As in I’m not creating anything so I’m blocked. That sounds way too hippy to me. But maybe she’s right.

I haven’t been writing because I haven’t felt strongly enough about anything to write about it. I thought I’d come home from my Asia trip and be writing 100+ blog posts but they just haven’t come. They take sooooo much time and that’s something I haven’t had a lot of lately. Since we got back I’ve been working loads (to make up for my 2.5 month absence) we also bought a camper van (more travels coming soon!!) and a new HOUSE!! Yes, we are those crazy all or nothing people.

So, excuses excuses. But it’s not just time… My Britishness means I constantly want to apologise if things aren’t good enough and I’m a Virgo so I want everything to be perfect. My writing is FAR from perfect. I know that, but this quest for perfection is holding me back.

I have to take my own advice, like I did with speaking Dutch and just fuck it. (Old post: Learning Dutch is fucking hard)

I can’t always write about things that you want to read. Sorry. I mean Dutch people are funny and that, but there’s only so much you can go over the same ground. I want to write about travel and food and maybe a little interior design stuff here and there, seeing as we’re going to be redecorating a whole new home. You want to read about crazy Dutch people and expat struggles.

Or maybe you don’t. Maybe you are interested in other things. One of my favourite ever blogs (hannahgale.co.uk) covers lots of subjects. I read all of her mental health posts, travel posts and home decor posts. I always skip the fashion ones because it simply doesn’t interest me. We have completely different body shapes and tastes. I know lots of people do read (and love) her fashion posts, but they’re not for me.

So I guess what I’m asking is for you to do the same. For me to carry on writing, I need to do ME.

So please, if it interests you, carry on reading and if it doesn’t – skip it 🙂

Thanks in advance and here’s the post I actually wanted to write today…

First few months of the 12 Provincies Challenge 

I’m almost 4 months into my 12 provinces challenge and I’ve ticked off the following:

Groningen
Friesland
Drenthe
Overijssel
Flevoland
Gelderland: Arnhem 
Utrecht: Kasteel de Haar (Haarzuilens)
Noord-Holland
Zuid-Holland: Delft, Scheveningen, Lisse, Noordwijk, Katwijk
Zeeland: Renesse
Noord-Brabant
Limburg

I also went to Utrecht and Amsterdam multiple times but I’m not counting them as I go all the time… I’m also not counting Nuenen in Brabant (where we picked up the camper van from) or Zaandam, again – I’ve been there loads. Or Huizen, Laren, Loosdrecht or Kortenhoef as they’re all too close to home!

But 4 months down and 4 provinces ticked off sounds pretty good to me.

I may or may not get round to writing individual posts about all these places… but if not, here are some edited highlights 🙂

Arnhem – January 2017

Ok, Arnhem was a bit of a cheat because we had limited time there on our way to Germany… so I should definitely revisit Gelderland (and Arnhem) later in the year. But it does deserve a mention because I had my first bitterballen of the 2017 there! And also there was a snowman. So…

Bitteballen in Cafe Meijers, Arnhem

Bitterballen in Cafe Meijers, Arnhem

Snowman in Arnhem

Snowman in Arnhem

Kasteel de Haar – April 2017

Sooooooo pretty! And by far the most impressive castle I’ve seen. (I still need go to that Instagram-famous German castle too!) But really, if you’re in or near the Utrecht area it’s worth going for a stroll around the grounds. And FREE! 😀

Kasteel de Haar, Utrecht

Kasteel de Haar, Utrecht

Delft & Scheveningen – February 2017

We went to both places in one day when my sister and niece were visiting back in Feb. I’m not gonna lie… I don’t like Scheveningen. It’s so busy/touristy and overpriced! There are lots of better Dutch seaside resorts. (Coming up…)

I loved Delft though!! And want to go back asap! If anyone has Delft tips for me… please leave a comment below. I’d be extremely grateful 🙂 🙂

Oude Kerk, Delft

Oude Kerk, Delft

Delft

Delft

Lisse – April 2017

We also had tourists, I mean friends, over in April… so we took them to see the flower fields in Lisse.

Tulip fields, Lisse

Tulip fields, Lisse

Don’t be a dick and trample the tulips or pick them! Pretty please.

Noordwijk & Katwijk – April 2017

Two lovely seaside towns (which are both a lot nicer than Scheveningnen!!)

In Katwijk I had the best kibbeling I’ve ever tasted in my 3 years of living here – from a seafood stand along the promenade.

Kibbeling in Katwijk

Kibbeling in Katwijk

Garnalen kroktjes in Katwijk

Garnalen kroketjes in Katwijk

Rose garnalen in Katwijk

Roze garnalen in Katwijk

Not the best pic… but here’s the food stall in question 🙂

Katwijk

Katwijk

And we had to take this one for the Dutchie’s Mum, Willy!

Katwijk

Meanwhile over in Noordwijk we went on our first camping trip in Janis. (Named after the Janis Joplin documentary, Little Girl Blue.)

Camping in Noordwijk

Camping in Noordwijk

We stayed at Camping Op Hoop van Zegen which was one of the closest to town but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you are a silver fox. Literally the dullest/quietest campsite ever!

Bitterballen in Noordwijk

Bitterballen in Noordwijk

Noordwijk itself was great though and I recommend Branding Beach Club which is currently #1 on Trip Advisor. Average bitterballen but the seafood platter was great, if a little overpriced. You are sat ON the beach though… so 100% worth it. Oh and make sure you book a table! They’re rammed!!

Sunset at Noordwijk

Sunset at Noordwijk

I never used to get sunsets when I was younger (my friends berated me one summer in Ibiza) but now I am fully on board!! Stunning!

Renesse – April 2017

Last, but certainly not least is Renesse… we went here for 3 nights over Easter and loved every minute of it. I’ve heard it does get very crowded in peak summer, so maybe best avoided during that time, but over Easter it was pleasantly populated 😉

De Haven van Renesse

De Haven van Renesse – nice place to go for a drink

Oh, and guys… I have seen the future!! Mosselen kroketjes! Of course, I wish they were bitterballen, but they taste the same. So, so good. 11/10 seriously. Believe the hype. It’s worth going to Renesse just to eat these in my opinion…

Mosselen kroketjes at Grand Café Helder

Mosselen kroketjes at Grand Café Helder

And what trip would be complete without a chocomel and a slice of appeltaart after a long walk on the beach?

Chocomel and appeltaart, De Branding, Renesse

Chocomel and appeltaart, De Branding, Renesse

I hope the rest of the year measures up to these adventures! I love exploring Holland! 🙂 If you want to join in, please use the hashtag #12provincies and if you have any tips for me for the remaining 8 provinces: Groningen, Friesland, Drenthe, Overijssel, Flevoland, Noord-Holland, Noord-Brabant and Limburg – please do let me know!

Hayley x

Review: Vis en Friet, Utrecht

There’s a new hipster chip shop in Utrecht and instead of just *thinking* about going for months on end and never getting around to it, like I did with Frietwinkel, I only bloody went on Monday.

I happened to be in Utrecht, as we had friends over from England and we also happened to be hungry whilst walking past the new ‘Vis en Friet’ on Oudegracht. I’d seen on Instagram that Great Little Place Utrecht had already given it a thumbs up, so in we went.

Vis en Friet, Utrecht

So, what do you need to know? The shop itself is tiny, there are only 3 seats inside and space for about 7 people outside depending on how much personal space you require…

They have the same potato cutting machine as Frietwinkel, but I wasn’t there when they cut the chips, so no video. Soz.

Vis en Friet, Utrecht

The chips are gooooood. As good as Frietwinkel’s. They have definitely got competition on their hands!

The fish is also delicious, it was a little bit greasy for my liking, but that seems to be pretty standard with kibbeling here.

Prices are the same as Frietwinkel for a small portion, but they’ve undercut them on the large portions by a whopping 25 cents!! 😉

Vis en Friet, Utrrecht

Like Frietwinkel, they also have the separate little sauce cups so you don’t have to deal with the soggy-at-the-top, dry-at-the-bottom chip situation. Though I must say, the portion of sauce was a bit stingy and we did have to end up ordering another one! (50 cents. Welcome to Holland!!)

Overall, the quality vs price was spot on.

I think Frietwinkel has the edge over Vis en Friet, only slightly though… by being more instagrammable. The cones, the branding, the funny sandwich board outside. Hipsters love that shit. (FYI – I’m sooooo not a hipster. Not even close.)

Speaking of hipster, the music the dude had on was awesome. He was playing reggae, but not your standard, run of the mill reggae: Groundation and Alpha Blondy. The Dutchie was in heaven. We were only there for 10-15 minutes and they played two of his favourite reggae songs within that time! So bonus points from the Dutchie for music selection!

Vis en Friet, Utrecht

So I guess my advice is… take heed of their super unimaginative, yet highly functional names. If you just want chips, Frietwinkel is your boy. If you’re lusting after fish AND chips, Vis en Friet is the one for you.

Anyone hungry now?? I bloody am!

Hayley x

 

THE LOWDOWN:

Klein portie – €2,50 | Groot portie – €3,00

Fish and chips €6,90

Vismarkt 14, 3511 KS Utrecht

 

The best pubs & bars in Hilversum

There’s an updated version of this post for October 2017 (original post May 2015): The 10 best pubs and bars in Hilversum (updated Oct 2017) 

I’m writing this because apparently no one else has. Seriously, pfffff. I even Googled it in Dutch, but zip. Nada. All I get is a Trip Advisor link SAYING it’s going to give me a list of the 10 best pubs & bars in Hilversum, but the link then goes to restaurants. Not cool man, not cool.

So anyway, if you want something done right… do it yourself. (This post isn’t necessarily for you regulars, soz. It’s more for Googley people…)

*Waves at people actually looking for the best bars and pubs in Hilversum! HI!* 

This list is based on my personal experiences and I haven’t visited every bar in Hilversum (I wish!) so if you have any others to add… hit me up.

 

1. Cafe ‘t Tolhuis

Tolhuis, Hilversum

Photo credit: Café restaurant Het Tolhuis Facebook Page

Tolhuis, Hilversum

Photo credit: Café restaurant Het Tolhuis Facebook Page

I kinda don’t want to tell you about this one, because it’s my favourite bar in Hilversum. But y’know, I’m a nice gal, so I’m gonna. But first a warning: it’s preeeeetty bloody hard to go here just for a drink without ordering food. Wanna know why? The menu LOOKS amazing. The food SMELLS amazing. The food TASTES amazing. I think we managed to go there once without ordering food and we both complained the whole way home.

They have fantastic wine and I have no idea about the beer. They serve beer.

Apparently there’s live music here every Thursday, I have no idea how, it’s teeny! But anyway, go check it out. Brilliant place! (Oh and make sure you book a table if you want to eat!)

Soestdijkerstraatweg 2, 1213 XA Hilversum | tolhuis-hilversum.nl

 

2. Karroesel

My second favourite pub is definitely an acquired taste. It’s rustic… and by rustic I mean it’s a shithole. But a nice shithole. It’s where the ‘alternative’ (for want of a better word) crowd go in Hilversum. Half of the bar is a smoking room, complete with pool table and the music is loud and mostly aggressive.

As I say, an acquired taste. What I will say though – you’ll meet some interesting characters here!

Spoorstraat 44, 1211 GB Hilversum. No pics, no website. Proper old skool. 

 

3. Felix II

Felix II, Hilversum

Photo credit: Felix II Facebook Page

A Hilversum institution. So good they have a restaurant (Eten bij Felix) and a bar. They even opened a Felix 3, but unfortunately it has now closed.

Popular terrace outside, pool table inside. I have been known to dance on the table. (It was covered, we were allowed.)

Herenstraat 9, 1211 BZ Hilversum | felix2.nl

 

4. Guardian

Guardian, Hilversum

Photo credit: The Guardian Hilversum Facebook Page

I had to get an English pub on the list, right?!?!? A pretty standard pub, slap bang in the middle of the Groest (the main street for bars/restaurants in Hillywood).

Does what it says on the tin.

Groest 33, 1211 CZ Hilversum | the-guardian.nl

 

5. Café Moeke

Cafe Moeke, Hollandsche Rading

Photo credit: Cafe Moeke Facebook Page

Ok, technically not Hilversum… but Hollandsche Rading. I can get here on my bike in 15 mins, so close enough I reckon.

Another bar / cafe / restaurant. Fantastic food… like a gastro pub. Their slogan is “de vijfsterren kroeg met eetallures” which roughly translates to “the five star pub with fine dining intentions”. Occasionally things sound better in Dutch. This is one of those times!

Anyway, never had a bad meal here and it doubles as a pub. Closest thing I have found to an English pub in Holland (and yes that even includes the “actual” English pub above!)

Utrechtseweg 263, 1213 TR Hilversum | cafemoeke.nl

 

6. Het café van Amstel 

Het Cafe van Aemstel, Hilversum

Cosy little pub on the Gijsbrecht. They’ve kinda rebranded to Brechtje van Amstel and now it’s a pub and a cafe/restaurant side by side but meh, I’m still gonna call it Cafe van Amstel.

Gijsbrecht van Amstelstraat 145, 1214 AX Hilversum | brechtjevanamstel.nl

 

7. Gastrobar KURK

Gastrobar KURK, Hilversum

I’ve only been here once, but this is a place I definitely want to go back to. Extensive wine list and I love the concept of their menu. Diverse dishes broken down into different price points depending on how much you want to spend / how hungry you are.

We went here on the Wijnspijs Culinaire Wandeling last year and had a fantastic glass of wine and taster dish. (As you can see in the lil Instragram pic above!)

Kampstraat 22, 1211 GE Hilversum | gastrobarkurk.nl

 

8. Winebar Vintage 

Winebar Vintage, Hilversum

Photo credit: Winebar Vintage Facebook Page

Again, I’ve only been here once but I’ll definitely be going back soon. “Meer dan 100 open wijnen”  – more than 100 open wines! That’s enough reason for me! 😀

Last time I only had a couple glasses of wine at a Hilversum Ladies Meet Up, but I’d definitely like to check out the Hapjeskaart (snacks menu) too!

Spoorstraat 65, 1211 Hilversum | wijnbarvintage.nl

 

9. Barracuda

Another ‘acquired’ taste. This one’s a metal bar. There’s live music every Saturday. We went here late on Kingsday and the lovely bar lady let us play whichever songs we wanted. Good reason to go back in my book!!

Herenstraat 43, Hilversum. Again, no pics, no website. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

 

10. Vliegveld Hilversum

Vliegveld Hilversum

Wine and flowers at Vliegveld Hilversum

Lovely place to go for a beer (for the Dutchie) and a wine (for me) and see the planes landing and taking off. They have good snacks, there’s a play area for the kids and they’re dog friendly. I only care about one of those things, but maybe you have ankle biters and furry friends… just looking out for ya!

For the cyclists / walkers amongst you – the surrounding area is a lovely place to explore (right near Loosdrechtse Bos and Hilversumse Hei).

Noodweg 43, 1213 PW Hilversum | restaurantflyinn.nl

Where’s your favourite place to go in Hilversum?

Hayley x

Review: Frietwinkel Utrecht

I’ve been meaning to go here for months… so when my parents came to visit a few weeks back, I saw it as the perfect opportunity to grab a cone of the best chips in town! (Apparently.)

Frietwinkel Utrecht

The ‘rents had stopped in Bruges on the way to the Netherlands and had friet met mayo right in front of the Belfry tower – so the stakes were high. Frietwinkel had to deliver… and luckily for us they did! They’re number #1 on Trip Advisor of places to eat in Utrecht – for very good reason.

But they’re *just* chips I hear you cry! Yes, they are just chips. But they are bloody good chips!!

A nice ‘gimmick’ is that they cut them in front of you, so you can see just how fresh they are. I made a little video, voilà:

“De eerste BIOLOGISCHE FRIETWINKEL van Utrecht.”

The first organic chip shop in Utrecht. I don’t care about organic tbh – but maybe you do.

Frietwinkel Utrecht

Frietwinkel Utrecht

Cheap, tasty, instagrammable. I’m sold.

And do you want to know the best thing?? They have these clever cones with 2 compartments that keep the sauce separate from the chips!! (I really want to shout “yes lads!!” now.) Oh fuck it… YES LADS!!!

You know how annoying it is when you get a massive blob of mayo or ketchup or whatever at the top of the cone… then you get soggy chips at the top (with waaaay too much sauce) and then the rest of your chips (3/4) have no sauce… Bloody annoying.

But here, the sauce is separate! (I would like to take this moment to personally congratulate the awesome human being who invented these cones. I’m a little bit in love with you.)

And now for the downside… the service isn’t great. But remember you’re in Holland… customer service pretty much doesn’t exist here. So just deal with it.

At least whoever makes the signs has a sense of humour!! 🙂

Eet smakelijk!

Hayley x

 

THE LOWDOWN:

Klein portie – €2,50 | Groot portie – €3,25

Vinkenburgstraat 10, 3512AB Utrecht | frietwinkel.nl

 

This is not a sponsored post. I just really like chips. 

 

Where to eat the best Bitterballen in Amsterdam

For obvious reasons, I’ve been wanting to write this post since FOREVER… But I’ve been putting it off because I hadn’t yet had the chance to visit the Ballenbar. And y’know… they call themselves ‘de Ballenbar’ so either they know their shizz about bitterballen or they’re big fat liars and have built a brand based on selling rubbish bitterballen… Thankfully, it’s the former!! So much so, that they go straight to #1 on the list.

So here you go folks, here are my top 5 places to eat bitterballen in Amsterdam:

1. BallenBar

Inside the Foodhallen, Bellamyplein 51, Amsterdam | deballenbar.com

BallenBar, Foodhallen, Amsterdam

Let’s get straight to the point. All of the bitterballen here are good… but head and shoulders above the rest are the bouillabaisse ballen. OH MY OH MY OH MY! It’s no wonder really – as the filling was created by Michelin star chef Peter Gast. They’re fishy but not too fishy with a nice hit of prawn flavour; so good you don’t even need a dipping sauce! Forget what you think about bouillabaisse and try them – you won’t be disappointed!

Simply divine. De beste bitterballen ooit! (The best bitterballen ever!)

Price: Proeverij €6.50 for 5 bitterballen (Tasting board with 5 different types of bitterballen: beef, chorizo, bouillabaisse, goats cheese and Tom Kha Kai).

BallenBar, Foodhallen, Amsterdam

Proeverij plank

BallenBar, Foodhallen, Amsterdam

Bouillabaisse bitterballen

 

2. SkyLounge

Top floor of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Amsterdam Centraal Station, Oosterdoksstraat 4, 1011 DK Amsterdam | skyloungeamsterdam.com

Previously my number one place in Amsterdam to feast on tiny deep fried balls of heaven… Seriously posh bitterballen!

Good size, decent chunks of meat inside and tangy mustard mayonnaise as an accompaniment. Oh and the view is alright too! 😉

Price: €8.50 for 6 bitterballen.

Bitterballen SkyLounge Amsterdam

 

3. Cafe Loetje

Loetje have 9 branches in the Netherlands, most of them are located in Amsterdam. The one I’ve visited is: Johannes Vermeerstraat 52, 1071 DT Amsterdam. | loetje.com

The two types of bitterballen look the same in the picture below, but in fact: the bitterballen on the left are kalfs bitterballen (veal bitterballen) and the ones on the right are garnalen bitterballen (prawns). Both delicious but the prawn ones definitely have the edge!

Price: Kalfsbitterballen (veal) €5.25 for 6 and Garnalen (prawn) €5.50 for 6.

Cafe Loetje Amsterdam

 

4. Eating Amsterdam Tours / Cafe Luxembourg 

Eating Amsterdam: Herengracht 124, 1015 BT Amsterdam | eatingamsterdamtours.com

Cafe Luxembourg: Spui 24, 1012 XA Amsterdam | luxembourg.nl

These guys are sharing position 4 simply because they serve the same bitterballen! They come from the famous Holtkamp bakery. In 2012 their kalfsvlees (veal) bitterballen were awarded the title of ‘best bitterballen in Amsterdam’ out of the 140 cafes, bars and restaurants tested!

Price: Eating Amsterdam Tours start from €70pp for a 4 hour tour. Cafe Luxembourg: €6.50 for 6 bitterballen.

Bitterballen at Cafe Luxembourg, Amsterdam

Cafe Luxembourg

Amsterdam Food Tour

Arrival of the bitterballen on the Eating Amsterdam Boat Tour

Holtkamp bitterballen

Bitterballen on deck!

 

5. Gewaeght Cafe 

Nieuwmarkt 16, 1012 CR Amsterdam | gewaeght.nl

Picking number 5 was a hard choice as there as so many contenders on Nieuwmarkt (it’s a popular square in Amsterdam, close to the red light district). However the ‘gezellig‘ atmosphere swayed it for me. Gewaeght Café is an old-fashioned pub, jam packed with paintings, records and memorabilia relating to 50’s, 60’s and 70’s music. The fact that they serve great bitterballen is just one more reason to go there!

Price: €5 for 6 bitterballen.

Also recommended in Nieuwmarkt: Cafe del MondoCafé In de Waag and Cafe Stevens.

Amsterdam Bitterballen

Eet smakelijk!!!

Hayley x

English Food vs Dutch Food… Fight!

It’s almost a year and a half since I moved to the Netherlands… and honestly, Holland is starting to feel more like home than England does. Isn’t that vierd?

THINGS (BRITISH) EXPATS DON’T MISS

Wet/cold weather 55%

Politicians 39%

Traffic 37%

Miserable people 34%

Commuting 26%

Sarcasm 13%

Annoying family members 10%

Neighbours 8%

Ex-partners 8%

The Pound 6%

 

THINGS (BRITISH) EXPATS MISS

Fish and chips 55%

Pub grub 54%

Traditional pubs 47%

Countryside 35%

The high street 31%

Sunday roasts 30%

TV 24%

Parks 16%

Football 12%

The changing seasons 11%

 

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ll know the biggest thing I miss is the English pub culture and good old pub grub, so I’m totally in agreement with this survey!

(Sources: BritishCornerShop.co.uk – and The Mirror.)

I like food. So yes, this post is about food (with a few drinks thrown in). But the question is: which is better?

 

BREAKFAST

1. Bacon vs spek

Thick, luscious rounds of smoked bacon served with crusty bread, lettuce and tomato. Or wafer thin slices of spek? My vote: Team UK.

2. Marmite on toast vs hagelslag

Love it or hate it… marmite is extremely popular in the UK. As is hagelslag in Holland. But which is best? My vote: Team UK.

Proper English tea and toast... with marmite!

3. Full English breakfast vs uitsmijter

Bacon, sausages, eggs, mushrooms, hash browns, beans, black pudding… I’m salivating just typing this! Or fried egg, ham and cheese? Also delicious, but very simple. My vote: Team UK.

 

LUNCH

4. Sandwich and crisps or boterham?

English people pretty much can’t eat a sandwich without a packet of crisps on the side. It’s like an unwritten law or something. What do Dutchies often eat for lunch? A slice of white bread with cheese and a glass of milk. My vote: Team UK.

5. Beans on toast vs … ?

Is there a vs for this one? (Hagelslag?!! Hee hee.) Dutchies think beans on toast is just weird, but we were brought up with it. It’s cheap, easy food when the cupboards are (almost) bare and most definitely in every student’s culinary repertoire 😉  My vote: Team UK.

 

(SUNDAY) DINNER

6. Roast Dinner vs Stamppot

Meat and all the trimmings vs a U shaped boiled smoked sausage and mashed veg and potatoes. I love both, but if I can only pick one it has to be the roast.  My vote: Team UK.

© robbie jim / Creative Commons / Attribution 2.0 Generic

© robbie jim / Creative Commons / Attribution 2.0 Generic

 

AT THE PUB

7. Chips drowned in vinegar or mayonnaise? 

This doesn’t need an explanation. The Dutch won me over with mayo. My vote: Team NL.

8. English pub vs Dutch brown cafe

Both are fantastic for different reasons, but I’ve got to go English pub. My vote: Team UK.

9. Ordering a round in a pub

Ordering a round in Holland: “Zeven biertjes en een witte wijn” (Seven beers and a white wine).

Ordering a round in England: “One Calsberg, one Fosters, one Stella, one Kronenberg, one Bulmers, one Aspalls, one Pinot Grigio and a gin and tonic, please.” Fuck me, we’re fussy. My vote: Team NL.

10. Bar snacks – pork scratchings vs bitterballen 

No contest. My vote: Team NL.

Bitterballen at Elements Beach

11. Pint of beer vs thimble of beer

The bigger the better, surely? My vote: Team UK.

 

MISCELLANEOUS

12. Nesquick vs Chocomel

Powder you mix with milk or prepackaged chocolate loveliness. My vote: Team NL.

13. Liquorice allsorts vs Drop

Both disgusting, at least liquorice allsorts have some coconut around them that I can eat. My vote: Team UK.

 

Unsurprisingly,  I scored 9 in favour of the UK and 4 to NL. But I’m getting there…

What’s your score?

Hayley x

Things to do in Hilversum: WijnSpijs Culinaire Wandeling

WijnSpijs Culinaire Wandeling

The title of this post could also be: That one time in Hilversum when I ate loads of delicious food, drank loads of amazing wine and got so tipsy I cried about learning Dutch. But I guess the other title is more factual and Google probably likes it better… so…

First things first: What is a WijnSpijs Culinaire Wandeling? Wijn = wine. Spijs = food / dish. Together it means wine pairing, food pairing… the act of pairing food and wine together type thing. Culinaire = culinary. Wandeling = walk.

So: a culinary walk around Hilversum (other Dutch towns and cities are available) where you get to drink lots of wine and eat food that goes with it. In short, heaven for food and wine lovers.

Unlike the time when I ate Amsterdam – I can tell you every single detail of this trip (the stuff I remember anyway) because the Hilversum one is done, over, finished… for this year anyway!

However, WijnSpijs run dates all over the country – pretty much every weekend during the summer – so there’s probably one near you soon! Here’s the agenda. (Dammit!! Utrecht is sold out already! *Sad face*.) Anyway… without further ado…

Restaurant 1: Gastrobar Kurk

Wine: Gran Sasso. Food: squid ink risotto, gin & 7up foam, parsnip puree, peas and a prawn!

Gastrobar Kurk, Hilversum

Gastrobar Kurk

We both loved this place, including the very keen waitress (it was early in the day and she was super enthusiastic, bless her!) and we will definitely be returning. The menu looked very interesting and not over-priced, so I’m curious to see what else they have up their sleeves!

Restaurant 2: Zilt & Zo

Hot and cold smoked salmon, asparagus and asparagus foam, topped with a beetroot chip. Re: wine… I’m struggling to read my own handwriting, I wrote down something like Gruner Veltliner – Roshlitz. I remember it was nice 😉

Zilt & Zo Hilversum

Zilt & Zo, Hilversum

The food was good, but not the star of the day. The presentation in a wine glass was funny, but quite difficult to eat! I would go back for the”beach” at the end of their sunny terrace, however, to sip a cocktail with my feet in the sand!

Restaurant 3: Proeverij De Open Keuken

Here they served up a beef salad made with jodenhaas (beef shoulder tenderloin). Although I thought he said Yodahaas so I’m sticking to that! It was paired with a light, easy drinking red: Dornfelder Nahe 2014. Yum. Very, very easy to drink!

Proeverij De Open Keuken

There was a chip in my bowl (naughty, naughty!) so I had to switch plates with the Dutchie because I wanted to photograph it zonder chip. However, my beef was slightly chewy and the Dutchie’s was perfect… so it serves me right for switching I guess!

Proeverij De Open Keuken

Proeverij De Open Keuken

(The Dutchie getting arty with his wine ^)

We sat outside… because it was awesome weather that day! But FYI – the inside of this restaurant is gooooooorgeous! (My iphone camera, not so much.)

Proeverij De Open Keuken

Proeverij De Open Keuken.

Restaurant 4: Lust 

This beauty is meerval (which I think is catfish) pasta with samphire, tomatoes and a gambas (prawn) sauce. Definitely the dish of the day!! Served with Finca Constancia Altozano Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc. (70% Verdejo and 30% Sauvignon Blanc.) Result: yum-a-lum-a-ding-dong.

Lust Restaurant, Hilversum

Lust Restaurant, Hilversum

Lust Restaurant, Hilversum

Restaurant 5: Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

Monkfish with a fermented risotto (what the heck?!) an orange coloured sauce and a cherry tomato. It was delicious, but they didn’t do much explaining! Served with Boschendal Sauvignon Blanc.

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

They also had a DJ…

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

…and a dude playing saxophone who liked hiding in bushes.

Deja Vu Restaurant and Wijnbar

Restaurant 6: Heren Spyker

Zachtgegaarde runderwang (slow cooked beef cheek) with roasted tomato, pea cream and a cumin crisp. Served with a 2013 Cuvee Tradition Rouge – Corbieres from Chateau Beauregard Mirouze.

Heren Spkyer

Here it is, in Dutch (nice touch btw, they were the only restaurant to do this).

Heren Spkyer

This was probably the tiniest dish of the whole day. It was good, but not great. The crunchy cumin thing outshone the beef cheek, which is never a good thing. I love the fact that this place is connected with Spyker though and due to it’s brilliant sunny position, I’d go back for a glass of wine or three!!

Heren Spkyer

Restaurant 7: Rex 

Pulled pork with a chilli and BBQ sauce and mango chutney. I can’t remember what the thing on top was… a kind of prawn cracker type thingy. It was seriously good! (Sorry, Rex – I totally underestimated you. When I saw this place on the list, I was very surprised as I thought it was just a bar/club so my expectations were rather low.) But boy did they prove me wrong!! Served with a Beaujolais Nouveau.

Rex, Hilversum

Rex, Hilversum

Restaurant 8: Puur Smaeck

Last but not least: Puur Smaeck. (That’s the old way to spell smaak, meaning taste / flavour.)

They served rib eye filled with yellow and green courgette with a cream of goats cheese and white chocolate. Yes, you read that right. White chocolate. The Dutchie loved it… I tasted it together, ate the beef and then had the white chocolate cream as pudding! This was served with an Italian red: Salice Salentino.

Puur Smaeck

Puur Smaeck

After that, we didn’t want to go home straight away, so our friend joined us, we ordered a bottle of prosecco and then I cried. Nothing to do with the brilliant day, perhaps a little to do with the wine!

Result: if you didn’t pick it up already, I absolutely loved my WijnSpijs culinary walk. Wine, food, walking… what’s not to love? I think it’s a fantastic way to sample new restaurants in your local town/city… or a unique way to check out a brand new city! I will definitely be going on another one in the near future!! (Hopefully this time without the tears!)

THE LOWDOWN

COST: €55-60 depending on location, but to try 7 or 8 new restaurants in your area – that’s a bleedin’ bargain! Not to mention said number of starter sized-portions and glasses of wine. (Not all glasses are “full” measures by the way. It depends on the restaurant and how shaky the waiter’s hands are.)

MORE INFO: Wijnspijs.nl

Hayley x