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Restaurant Dartel - Spring menu Review

By March 24, 2015 , , ,

It's been a while since I last dined at Dartel. 

Leiden isn't exactly known as a culinary destination and there are very few good restaurants in the city. There are some who are style over substance, where the restaurant and the venue look pretty but it's a shame about the food. Dartel, one of the few, is housed in an old Butchers shop overlooking the historic Pieterskerk square. Now when I say old butchers shop it doesn't sound pretty, but it has the old tiled floor, wooden beams and some of the old Delft tiles as well as a lovely domed ceiling out the back.

Chef Norbert Van Dartel cares about the ingredients and flavour combinations and has his own kitchen garden where he sources most of his own produce. He's also a Big Green Egg fan, and is the reason I have one as well. Norbert's partner is Judith van Vliet, who is also the Sommelier. She always has some interesting wines to pair with the food.

The meal began with an amuse of creamed Sleutel Kaas on a light pastry. For those not in the know Sleutel Kaas is a traditional cheese from Leiden flavoured with cumin. I love this cheese and it is one of my favourites. The next amuse was a pumpkin mousse with savoury jelly and rosemary foam, topped with crunch toasted pumpkin seeds. It was nice the way the flavours were layered in that you first got the sweet mousse, next the savoury jelly, back ended with the fluffy herb foam and last but not least a nutty crunch.

Then the meal began in earnest with an assortment of celariac in various forms, bitterballen, crunchy cubes, ice cream and backed with a Vacherin Mont D'or sauce. It was an interesting play on celariac but for me the Vacherin was the star of the dish.

Next came a bitterballen of Livar pig cheek rolled in hazlenuts. The cheek was roasted to perfection and was melt in the mouth. It was served with a pea puree and jus de veau which complimented it quite nicely.

The star course of the evening was the lamb served 3 ways, neck, back and sweetbread, accompanied by a lovely jus. I could have happily eaten more of the sweetbreads which was cooked to perfection, nice and crispy. The neck was slow cooked and the back, which was nicely rare, was topped with some crispy fennel which added that extra element.

The dessert was a coffee and pistachio meringue with chocolate shards, a good balance of flavours to end the meal.

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