Brasserie SenT – Heaven Sent Dinner, Amsterdam

Brasserie SenT – Heaven Sent Dinner, Amsterdam

Celia had talked about this restaurant for some time before my arriving in Amsterdam, this is a restaurant she had frequented on many occasions and indeed one which she brings friends and relations to when they visit her in Amsterdam. SenT is short for the names of the restaurant’s founders, Steef and Thijs. See below my review of our exquisite dish, the glorious Chateaubriand.

This glorious dish was served with béarnaise sauce, chimichurri and french fries. Chateaubriand is a dish that traditionally consists of a large centre cut fillet of tenderloin grilled between two lesser pieces of meat that are discarded after cooking. SenT’s secret involves adding some olive wood to the charcoal while cooking the beef, which creates a unique flavour, which they claim one can normally only find on the beaches of Andalusia. As you can see from the below photograph I was rather excited to sample this much vaunted dish.

Notice the plume of steam which Celia’s excellent camera has captured. The dish was a triumph. There are few dishes which move me to tears, this is one of them. Honestly, this was one of the best beef dishes I have ever eaten. The meat was so tender, beautifully cooked with a lovely dark rose centre. The flavour – almost indescribable. Deep, rich, smokey, with the added richness of the wood with the charcoal – an exercise in divinity. The béarnaise sauce (a sauce of egg yolks, shallots, tarragon, butter, vinegar, and sometimes white wine and chopped chervil) was my favourite, it added a lightness to the dish overall and helped the dark smokey flavour of the meat sing. The chimichurri (a piquant sauce or marinade traditionally used on grilled meat, typically containing parsley, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, and flakes of chilli pepper) was a close second, adding a depth and spice to the pristine beef.

Overall this was an unmitigated triumph. I must thank my sister for bringing me to this hallowed eatery and will request it first thing on my return to Amsterdam.

 

Hen and Chickens – Best Curry Birmingham?

Hen and Chickens – Best Curry Birmingham?

I have long admired the Hen and Chickens and indeed eaten here on a number of occasions. In fact when I lived at the Miniature Apartment in the centre, I ordered this as a take away. The only reason I have not yet blogged about this wonderful venue is that I was convinced I had done so already! See below the wonderful meal I enjoyed at the Hen and Chickens recently.

Can you believe some people have never tasted paneer? Charlotte was in that number. What an excellent dish to begin one’s paneer journey with. Paneer, also known as ponir or Indian cottage cheese, is a fresh acid-set cheese common in the Indian subcontinent made from cow or buffalo milk. This particular paneer was beautifully soft, moist and flavourful. It was served with some light yoghurt based sauce as well as sweet chilli, which I liked less.

Charlotte opted for the evergreen butter chicken. This is a chicken curry dish with spiced tomato, butter and cream sauce, originating from the North of India. This was my first taste of curry. The first curry I remember tasting was at the Royal Bengal in Keswick, or thereabouts. Near the wonderful Puzzling Place, which I hope to go back to one day. It was so hot I needed two quarts of water, which did not help as I realise this does not neutralise the capsaicin in the pepper, which makes it hot. Or rather, this chemical makes our brains register the pepper as being hot by activating the TRPV1 protein. Anyway, back to the essential, the butter chicken was excellent, deeply flavourful and rich, creamy and buttery, as it should be.

I enjoyed a fabulous lamb dish called Saag. This dish originates in Pakistan and its main flavours are spinach, green chilies and cilantro. This was, as expected, quite marvellous. The big chunks of lamb were suffused with a depth of flavour, the sauce added a sweetness and the cilantro ran through the dish quite wonderfully, allowing me to separate the flavours. The cheese Naan was outrageously delicious, light, moist and a little under cheesed, as expected. Excellent really.

The Hen and Chickens is an excellent curry house which is likely one of the best in Birmingham, along with the Royal Watan Kashmiri, another diamond venue I have yet to review. Enjoy the Hen and Chickens!

 

Bakkerswinkel Utrecht – Canal Side Bakery

Bakkerswinkel Utrecht – Canal Side Bakery

Bakkerswinkel sounds like a disease but in fact was quite a wonderful bakery in Utrecht. Celia and I were so cold that we did not spend much time outside. We rushed from lunch to Belgisch to this wonderful bakery. Unfortunately I was a bit pre-occupied because the UK return requirements had just changed and I needed to book the correct nose swab on my return. However, I really enjoyed the peace of this bakery and the unique settling, under street level, arched ceilings and almost eye level with the canal.

I ordered an almond tart which was delightful and soft. The almond flavour was present but not overwhelming, just how I like it. Celia went for a beautiful carrot cake. Regrettably I did not get a close up but you can see it in the below photograph of me relaxed after sorting out my impending travel nightmare.

Observe the moist even layers of sponge and beautifully thick and consistent cream. The filling was balanced, nutty and almost outrageously flavourful. For once, I did not order the best thing on the menu, however I was without doubt the best dressed and eye-browed.

Overall this was an excellent place to enjoy some mint tea, cappuccino and cake in fabulous Utrecht. I recommend it to you if you are in the area. There is also a delightful resident kitty which will be seated on a bench near you!

 

Gourmet Food Kitchen, Coventry – Dining As It Should Be

Gourmet Food Kitchen, Coventry – Dining As It Should Be

At times in my life I have believed in divine intervention more ardently than others. On Saturday last, for example, arguably one of the more difficult days of my time in Birmingham, I ended up in Coventry quite by chance. Further, once there, the cafe I would go to usually, Rising Cafe, the first place I reviewed on this blog, was closed permanently. Dutifully, as can be expected of me by readers of this blog, I whipped out my Trip Advisor and did a search of the local offerings. I did not fancy a Vietnamese restaurant with many fake reviews, at least not for lunch. The second choice was Gourmet Food Kitchen, in the Coventry Outpost of Fargo Village. Fargo, not the town in Minnesota, is a wonderful place, a sort of arty collective about 15 minutes walk from the centre. I have been visiting for some years but was quite surprised to find this gem of a restaurant there.

Chef Tony stands proudly behind his grill, catering to the 12 covers before him, and regales us with the method behind his madness. He tells us everything we are about to consume is made freshly. Tony cures his own bacon and cuts and cooks it from frozen (as it keeps its form better that way). He tells us he stuffs his own sausages, and smokes his own salmon with cherrywood, rather than oak. Chef Tony also makes his own terrine, and sold me a bit of game terrine which I will enjoy at Christmas when my parents ascend from the South. See my Full English below.

Me: Chef, where is that music coming from?

Chef: I have an Alexa behind that sausage stuffer.

My Full English included bubble & squeak, home stuffed sausage, sweet homemade black pudding, a delightful tomato, freshly made beans (better than Heinz by a country mile) and a fibrous combination of mushrooms and spinach, as well as two slices of excellent soft home cured bacon and two perfectly poached eggs. Some like their bacon cremated, I enjoy it soft and flavourful. This was achieved by Chef by cooking it in an oven rather than frying it. I seldom say this but everything was exquisite. The black pudding was perhaps a bit sweet for me, but this should not detract form this five star feast. The quality and freshness of this food cannot be described. To have chef in front of us telling us about his food with passion was a wonderful experience. Chef Tony has little patience for nonsense and the results of his culinary ethos speaks for itself.

Charlotte enjoyed a beautiful eggs Hemingway with home smoked salmon. Why Hemingway? The ham on the eggs Benedict has been replaced by salmon. So the dish consists of an English muffin (or similar), smoked salmon, a poached egg and on this occasion a whiskey infused Hollandaise which tantalised absolutely. Now, I do not like fish, but this salmon was the absolute bomb. I could not believe the depth of flavour, the richness of the cherrywood being so different to ordinary oak. This was a triumphant dish.

Divine intervention? I surely think so. Were it not for an unfortunate series of regrettable events, I would not have sampled this heavenly feast. I am grateful for my guardian angel guiding me to these excellent places and allowing me to enjoy some sparse positive experiences at this trying time. Please do go to see Chef Tony. He is only open a few days a week so it might be an idea to book beforehand.

 

Belgisch Biercafé Olivier Utrecht – Religious Experience

Belgisch Biercafé Olivier Utrecht – Religious Experience

Housed in a former Catholic clandestine church (the outside facade is indistinguishable from the elegant townhouses of the street), this Belgian bar came as quite a surprise to me. We had a hard time finding it but we managed in the end. Once inside I was quite impressed by the beautiful ceiling, many original features and a stunning organ.

Belgian beer café Olivier Utrecht is located in the former schuilkerk Maria Minor, to Achter Clarenburg. Many elements of the ‘schuilkerk’ from 1860 have been preserved, such as: the altar, the vaults and the organ, making it a special place in Utrecht with fantastic specialty beers from Belgium. Like A Local Guide 

We ordered two alcoholic beverages. Mine was the Boon Framboise which was quite stunning. According to the promotional material, “Boon Framboise is an easy drinking and subtle, raspberry-sweet, oaky, raspberry lambiek fruit beer” I can see Nick (formerly Saint) reading the above and quite falling from his chair. Yes I did consume a beer but it was as close to cider as possible!

The above is the view we were treated to this glorious bronze statue of a Pope and two Bishops! While we did not stay long or consume much, envious stolen glances at the food of other diners made for tantalising viewing. I should hope to come here again with Nick next time so he can sample the delectable Belgian beer. I wonder if they used it to de-consecrate the altar.

 

Dogma Hotdogbar – Ecumenical Nosh, Utrecht

Dogma Hotdogbar – Ecumenical Nosh, Utrecht

After a lovely Mass at St Nicholas in Amsterdam a few weeks ago, Celia and I headed to Utrecht for lunch. I searched the internet webs and found that Dogma Hotdogbar was a place of interest which I felt compelled to investigate. After a confusing journey from the beautiful Utrecht Central train station to Voorstraat, we sat down for lunch. The below artwork on the wall was most amusing.

DONDERSE DOGMA – Pork sausage − Homemade ketchup Dutch mustard sauce − Mesclun Sauerkraut − Pickles − Crispy onions

Celia ordered the below which was the ‘standard’ hotdog. I often think the original thing on the menu is the best and I was not wrong. I had only a small amount of this dish and it was quite excellent. The mesclun, a mixture of tender young gourmet salad greens contains combinations of salad leaves and herbs. This was quite sweet tasting which contrasted with the acidity of the pickle and smokiness of the excellent pork sausage. The crispy onions on the top were just marvellous.

BRUTE BEPROEVING – Beef sausage − Texas BBQ sauce Old cheese − Crispy onions − Dogma coleslaw Pulled pork − Pickled jalapeño

As you can see from the below, I was quite excited to dig into my lovely BBQ beef hot dog. It was quite hard to eat on account of being so large. Also it was almost impossible to cut into pieces because these modern hot dogs tend to focus more on aesthetics then practicality (thanks, social media). In fact the owner jokes with me after I took the below that now I had my instagram picture, I could leave! I had a hearty chortle. The hot dog itself, once I managed to consume it, was sublime. the pulled pork coleslaw was unbelievable and the BBQ sauce was smoky enough and with sweetness to boot. Excellent.

Side Salad – Mesclun − Fresh avocado − Sun-dried tomato − Carrot strips – Pork sausage

This was the final beautiful part of our lunch. I thought it was beautiful, a medley of flavour which was highly fibrous and relatively healthy.

Overall this was a quality restaurant in the centre of a beautiful city. I hope you find time to visit Utrecht safely in the near future.