Restaurant tip: Restaurant Hout, Haarlem

Bt Cathy Leung

With a view of a small suburban wood in Haarlem, it is fair to say that Restaurant Hout is off the beaten track without being remote. Not a new restaurant – it has been here several years – for me it’s still a fine discovery.
Though there is an enticing á la carte menu, and a chef’s menu of up to seven courses, we opted for a modest 3-gangen lunch for €30 each. To start we were served a couple of big juicy prawns together with several pretty accompaniments that added a variety of delicate and distinct flavours. Of these, the root vegetable marinated in ginger stood out; translucent green discs with a fresh bite. A mini-mount of pearly couscous provided a creamy citrus note. By comparison, our second course ushered in a strong savouriness, with small tranches of ruby-red beef in a generous puddle of meaty jus. In a parade beside it ran a medley of fivespice imbued gnocchi, sweet potato purée, baby sweet corn, and courgette ballons. Yum.

Photo: Annelies Verhelst

To be honest I normally opt for the chocolate option for dessert, but the chef’s sweet course certainly showed me the error of my ways. The fruit-stained crumble crumbs rubbed up against succulent chunks of rhubarb and zingy, yoghurty quenelles. Although vanilla custard spots were studded around the plate in a nod to tradition, this was a thoroughly modern take on rhubarb crumble, a stodgy British pudding I’m all too familiar with.

Trusting in the wine pairing option, we were introduced to Roero Arneis, an interesting Italian white from Piedmont with our first course, and with the main course, a German red, likened to a pinot noir, which surprised us: not too overpowering but still with plenty of character. (My husband has recently completed a short wine course and his newly educated palate approved of both.)

So, we had a truly excellent lunch, full of flavour and beauty with, at its heart, wellsourced ingredients, the beef in particular in my view. I felt the skilful but restrained cooking sought to delight without showing off too indulgently. Our 3-courses were just enough for us but if you have a big appetite, you may wish to opt for more courses to be fully sated. With a calm, unfussy elegance, the staff were also welcoming to children and, in our case, a young baby. There’s a light and airy feel to the place during the daytime, owing to the generous windows all along this corner location. For when the weather gets warmer (and we are nearly there, folks), there’s a big terrace area at the front. And how about this? If you can’t make it to this pleasant corner of Haarlem, Restaurant Hout has just opened another spot in Amsterdam West, conveniently close to a Tram 1 stop.

Restaurant Hout Wagenweg 214
2012 NM, Haarlem
Open seven days per week from 12:00 to 22:00
T: 023 5516358
www.restauranthout.nl
Open for dinner