The Michelin-starred Élevé Restaurant in Leeuwarden, in the northern part of The Netherlands, is renowned for its creative cuisine and the stunning panoramic view on the countryside. We have been there to try their most tempting menu: 5 dishes with matching wines. It was an unforgettable experience!
Friesland is a region in the Northern part of the Netherland and it is a hidden gem to most foreign tourists. Not only I had no idea how beautiful this region is until recently, but I didn’t even know about its existence. In just two hours by train from Amsterdam we arrived in Leeuwarden , the capital of Friesland. We jumped on a bike (it’s the best way to visit it, as most Dutch cities) and we went on an afternoon food tour discovering the local delicacies. Then we went back to the West Cord Hotel, where we were staying, to get ready for a 5 course menu dinner at the Élevé restaurant.
Élevé is a Michelin-starred restaurant on the top floor of the West Cord Hotel, at walking distance from Leeuwarden town centre. The Chef Gilbert van der Heide and his team prepare dishes using local, organic food from Friesland. Thom van der Heide is the sommelier and he has built a selection of wines from all over the World.
Being one of the highest buildings in the city, the view from up there is spectacular: green countryside in one side and the historical town centre in the opposite side. We arrived there around 6pm and the timing was perfect to admire the view in the daylight while sipping a glass of Champagne and wait for the sun to go down. The restaurant has a contemporary, quirky design but it feels cosy at the same time. We were warmly welcomed and immediately felt at ease. For this special evening we were invited to try their Élevé’s most tempting menu: 5 dishes with matching wines. There is nothing more exciting, for a real food lover, than experiencing a good dish with the right wine.
The best way to describe what happened next? The pictures of the dishes are the most eloquent way and not many words are needed really, if not to list the rich set of ingredients the Chef has combined to provide an extraordinary experience for the palate.
We started with a five-spices macaroon with eel filling. The macaroon instantly melted in the mouth, blending with the delicate and creamy filling. I had no idea eel cold be so posh. Followed squid airbag with tuna and sesame. The “airy” texture of the airbag really works with the raw tuna. As a geologist, I even really appreciated the combination of this dish with the quartz pebble: a pleasure for the palate and a pleasure for the geeky eyes. Pulled pork with BBQ sauce and liquor on a quinoa cracker served on birch wood. It’s difficult to deliver a sophisticated taste using BBQ sauce as it has a distinctive flavour and is usually associated with strong-flavoured dished. However in this case the sauce only enhanced the pulled pork and the quinoa cracker added the texture and the balancing taste fo the sweet BBQ sauce. Followed a razor clam with fondant fennel foam. I am a mussel fan, and the tenderness of that clam was something special.
It was at this point that we were told these were only appetizers and that we were going to start with the main dishes. It felt like when you are on a rollercoaster and you are super thrilled by the first part of the ride and then you suddenly realise the most exciting part hasn’t arrived yet!
The first main arrived and it was a festival of pastel colours. Gazpacho served with a frozen tomato-pure cup, lemon-grass sauce, salty “basil”, halibut and cherry tomatoes. The dish was fresh and aromatic and I loved the texture of that cup that looked solid but that crumbled and melted like slush as soon as it touched the tongue. The dish was matched with a Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2014: I really appreciated this sip of home. The kohlrabi risotto, roasted halibut and Dutch shrimp with cauliflower and camomile jus was another delight. The shrimp were nicely salty and flaky and perfectly matched the creamy, delicate mousse. The matched wine was a Chateau Aqueira-Livac 2013. The third dish impressed me for the outstanding flavour obtained with simple ingredients: a poached and then deep-fried quail eggs served with fried nettle, nettle mousse, white and green asparagus and wild mushrooms. I won’t be able to describe the pleasure of biting that crispy crust around the eggs and finding a runny yolk inside. Probably my favourite dish of the evening. Not to mention the crispy, deep fried nettle leaf. The dish was matched with a local Dutch wine, Apostelhoeve Auxterrois 2012. Well, I thought the eggs were my favourite dish until the lamb arrived: Dutch lamb with an emulsion of peas and pistachio, young firsts, buttermilk gnocchi and jus of morel. Lamb was cooked in three different ways: stew of lamb and morel jus, roasted lamb and lamb with buttermilk coating arranged in a cylinder. For a lamb fan like me, three different lamb dishes all in one plate are something truly special. And the Chilean red wine from the Leyda Valley perfectly matched this dish, with its mushroomy and earthy notes. It was sunset when the fifth course arrived. I had been wondering, until that point, if I would have been able to taste all the five dishes or if I would have been to full. Until I saw the dessert coming: and I knew there was surely some space somewhere in my stomach to try that marvellous pinkness. Rhubarb, red velvet cake crumble, lavender, a creamy vanilla ice cream, berry meringue, mint, red berry mousse. Who knew that the mint would work so well with the rhubarb? And the glass of Moro D’Alba, slightly sparkly and with its berry notes was a true delight. I will surely steal this matching for my future dinner parties. The dinner wasn’t finished yet: I know, “how did you manage to eat all this and even more?” – you may be wondering. When the dishes are so excellent, it’s hard to say “no I am too full”. And I am glad I tasted all the sweet treats that followed: Banana compote and genevier garnished with grounded pistachio on a cocktail glass. Deep-fried crispy cone on coconut shell and lemon ice cream. A macaroon with pistachio and citrus filling – so citrusy and soft in texture I remember smiling while tasting it. A white chocolate cone with magnolia flower and white chocolate cake with pink pepper. We were sitting at our table, admiring the lights of Leeuwarden below us: it was dark outside. The countryside all around. Ambience, relaxing music in the background. We were sipping the last drops of the Moro D’Alba; in silence, cause there was nothing to add after this wonderful meal and with that view. I could keep writing paragraphs and paragraphs on how unforgettable this experience has been. However when it’s about food and wine, no words are communicative enough. So my suggestion is for you to pick a weekend when you are free and arrange a trip to Friesland and treat yourself and your better half and family with this extraordinary experience. It is something you will never forget.