Recently, we took a 45-minute flight to Amsterdam, city of canals and bicycles. But instead of exploring that beautiful city, we took an hour-long train to the tiny town of Zwolle, which is home to adorable little hotels and not much more. Why did we go to this rando Nethertown in the middle of Netherwhere? Because Zwolle (not to be confused with swoll, the cool kids' new word for...swollen? cool kids are weird) is also home to De Librije, a 3-Michelin star (3***!!!) restaurant and hotel. And because my life is dope and I do dope shit (only time I will quote Yeezy).
But anyway, let's look at pretty pictures of food! Or, wait, this is me - I guess I mean pictures of pretty food! As is expected at places like this, we were given several off-menu plates before the actual courses began. Here, we had a crispy mushroom puff with regular mushroom, greenery, and some kind of cream that I hope wasn't cream. It was a really good first bite! It's on a bed of fried bits. No, not joking, like fried bits like when you fry stuff and all the bits are left in the pan? I don't know man. I ate them. I wasn't supposed to.
Next, we had what I'm going to guess were lentil crackers with dilly cream (please don't say crema unless the rest of your words are Italian or Spanish too, such a weird thing to do. Also don't say 'with au jus') and this is one of the things I am iffy about because there are four, which means we all ate the same thing, which seems wrong. Husband seems to recall that the waiter pointed out which one was for me, maybe the one without the peanut that's not a peanut? I'm not sure but I hope he is right!
Next was a pile of rocks with seaweed hidden all around them! There was also a very good beet chip with assorted unknown sauces and vegetable pieces, but the seaweed was really the main draw for me. I don't think we were supposed to eat it, but I like to break rules. I'm a rule breaker. I also ate all the seaweed from the others' plates. They were like what is wrong with this person. Seaweed is really good.
After the plate of rocks came a bowl of baby onions. Cipollini oh nee ons! Who was that guy on that show that said that beautifully? I forget. Anyway, this was like a little birds nest of shaved onions, carrots, beets maybe, all fried together with the tiniest greens on top. Very nice! It came with a banana chip - I got several of these, I'm not sure if they ran out of ideas, really liked this particular idea, or just gave me two of the same dish, but I won't complain.
Atop another bed of bits I probably wasn't supposed to eat but really liked, the banana chips were bent into a cool shape with greens and crunchy vegetables and something like baba ganoush in the middle. It probably wasn't baba ganoush but I'm just saying it was something like it. Hollandaise version. How pretty does it look though? They were experts at presentation here; everything is beautiful.
Next was the funniest part of the meal. This waiter comes over and goes, "I'd like to prepare the next dish on your hands." We're like what. So we all warily put our hands out and got crap squeezed on it. This is the course I question the most, because we all got the same green cream squeezed on our hands, and the others' menu says this was some kind of mayonnaise, which is the grossest foodstuff in the world. Boo urns. Aside from that, it was a cute concept that they nicely gave us wet towels for cleaning after, but still kinda whatever.
Look I got another banana chip dish! It's a lot better than other banana chips I've had. I've never really been a fan of dried or chipified fruit but if you're gonna have one, have it here. I think this one was on a bed of nuts, so I ate a lot of that too. The caviar is a garnish!
Oh then we got four rolls with certain kinds of butter they were really excited about (I got olive oil, thank you for remembering) and they were pretty decent rolls. But then we got entire little loaves of bread, seen at right, which we all way too quickly devoured, so quickly that the staff assumed we didn't get the bread, so they swiftly brought out another, and then another. By the third loaf of bread, we figured that they all must have been laughing at us in the kitchen, like 'look at these English speaking fools eating their weight in bread har har har!" so what who cares. Good bread.
Next, this simple but delicious bowl of Brussels sprouts (or as my phone likes to call them, Brussels sports) with microgreens and a great, mild sauce with a tiny bit of lemongrass, I think, was a lovely counterpoint to the four loaves of bread I had just eaten. It wasn't spectacular, but it tasted good.
One of my favorites was this double-decker cabbage bowl, which had whiskers shooting out the top, beetroot in the middle, and some pomegranate seeds I think. The bottom of the bowl had a delicious puree and it was all very nice. The white stuff, I fear is creme fraiche because that's what my 'incorrect' menu says, and I'm not sure what else it could be, but I'm hoping they had like some soy or cashew creams in the back maybe?
Ah, some deliciously salty greenery was up next. This was a very miso-like sauce with weeds growing out of it and I loved it. Nuts or beans on the bottom? This is getting kind of out of hand. We asked a few times what was happening on our plates but usually the person whose attention we managed to grab (more on that later) wouldn't know or didn't really speak English or maybe just pretended not to since we were the youngest patrons and they were probably offended by our presence?
Even more delicious were these tulip bulbs with black garlic puree and barbecued celeriac. Or at least that's the menu item I'm guessing this is. No I really remember actually, I was eating this and it was soo good and I said, oh so this is what black garlic is. I don't know if I've ever had it before, but I love it. It really is strikingly different from regular garlic. That puree is the stuff dreams are made of. This was probably the best savory dish.
This was great too! It was a cauliflower heart, heavy on the flower part I guess because the shape was much more beautiful than the regular old caulisflower one usually finds, topped with madras curry and currants. All the c words. Well not all. This was really good and I especially liked the fresh cucumber pieces that helped to cut the warmth of the curry. Have we noticed though, that almost every fancy restaurant that isn't vegan will give me a cauliflower course?
The following course was very dessert-y, but it wasn't at the dessert stage yet. I remember being like phew, we're done with the savories, but then look what comes after this! Anyway, this was blackberry ice with 'water mint' and what looks like a micro-watermelon but I have no idea what it was, some kind of melon I guess. Very enjoyable.
See, next was another savory dish! My menu says this is 'first milk chicory' with spices but I highly doubt that. It was like a rice soup with shaved greens and spring onions. I really like soup so I really enjoyed this. That white blog I think was citrus ice. Wait that can't be right. Unless it is. This place did play with what was dessert and what was dinner, so whatever, maybe it was both, I don't know, it was good.
Water speed: See above. It was actually atrocious, to be honest. Embarrassing for a restaurant of this caliber, and inexcusable. SHAME! SHAME!
Service: Okay, shaky okay. They were nice enough when we could get them to pay attention to us, if uninformed about what the crap we were eating.
Bathrooms: The bathrooms were fine, modern, and clean, but the best part? Black toilet paper! So weird! I've never seen that before! I'm sharing a picture of it. Yes I took pictures in the toilet.
Food: Overall good, with some standouts. Some creative choices were weird, but I'd rather that then boring safe stuff, I think. Still, not 3 stars.
Bonus: Beautiful space in a lovely hotel. Check back tomorrow to see the rooms!