In uncertain times you look for something to hold on to and that may cost a bit. Let me immediately put that ‘something’ into perspective, in the case of Parkheuvel it is better to speak of serious money.
The sun shines right in our face through the still sparsely leafed trees, because we are on the southwest side of the pavilion and it is around noon. I had actually made a reservation for seven o’clock that evening, but that turned out to be inconvenient, given the new corona measures. One phone call was enough to move the reservation forward to lunchtime. At home we had already set our sights on the five-course surprise menu for 140 euros, so that was it after verifying that the signature dish with foie gras was part of it.
The pavilion, designed by Henk Klunder, overlooking the river, has been home to the Parkheuvel restaurant since 1986. Cees Helder was the first Dutch chef to achieve the level of three Michelin stars.
Fifteen years ago Erik van Loo made the switch from De Zwethheul to Parkheuvel. As a chef and owner with two stars to his credit, he involved his son Juliën (30) in the business, so that we are dependent on two Van Loo’s for the success of this Friday afternoon.
Plus hostesses and hosts, who appear at our table in varying combinations. Of the three amuse-bouches, the charred celeriac with ham mousse remains with us. Do we do the matching wine arrangement (80 euros pp) or do we choose a bottle from the wine list with the size of a telephone book? A calculation shows that 180 euros for a bottle of Meursault doesn’t even make that much difference and the sommelier assures us that it will accompany all courses excellently.
The first dish is the lobster salad with bacon and beans, truffle and nut vinaigrette that I secretly hoped for. All flavors are individually recognizable, with a special role for the string bean that has been made into jelly, but the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I see my wife, tasting intently, just nod.
Price uh, yes. We settled 525 euros. But if you celebrate your birthday right away, so many years together and good health, then it’s not that bad. The offer is worth every penny.
Food Every dish is, if you forgive the hysterical comparison, a little symphony in which everything is tuned to everything. Beautiful presentation too.
Ambiance Friendly. Extremely friendly and knowledgeable service.
park hill Hill avenue 21
With the foie gras bonbons with beetroot, pinot gris and dark chocolate, she says after the first bite: “Bam!” On a rectangular plate, longitudinally on the table in front of us, are three balls of beetroot jelly. We are supposed to eat off ourselves. In the first scoop, which is creamy, I taste a sour, the shiny second has a Saturn ring of crisps and number three, with chocolate, says pop in the mouth. Anything you say more than ‘bam!’ falls short, so many sensations that arise, always interspersed with a sip of wine that gives depth to the flavors tumbling around each other.
The third course had also caught my attention on the menu: turbot. We get a nice thick piece of fillet topped with a crispy béchamel, a beetroot rose and caviar, all surrounded by a sauce of fish cream. The presence of beetroot in two successive dishes can give rise to criticism, but it is precisely the earthiness that gives the sea prominently represented on this plate its depth.
The venison from the Veluwe with crispy bone marrow and nuts, sour meat and orange carrots is 100 percent earthy with delicious, warm flavors. The sour meat refers to Van Loo’s South Limburg origin. The Meursault had meanwhile become less cold and thus remained nicely upright with the wild.
Just in case we shouldn’t have thought of Proust because of memories that evoked smells and tastes in us (our mothers string bean mill!), there was the madeleine between main course and dessert. The sun was already casting long shadows as we settled into dessert: fig, kumquat, jasmine, verbena, red port and white chocolate, spread over a larger and a smaller deep plate. Can I say it? “Bam!”
Frank van Dijl is a culinary critic and journalist.
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A version of this article also appeared in NRC Handelsblad on November 27, 2021 A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of November 27, 2021