De Librije is our favorite restaurant in the Netherlands and we go there every year for our anniversary. We celebrate two anniversaries each year, and after 10 years of celebrating our wedding anniversary at the Librije in June, we decided to switch to our first date anniversary (which happens to coincide with Christmas eve) for a change of season.
For Christmas there is a set menu and a special deal for a seven course degustation menu, champagne aperitif, wine pairings, coffee plus bed and breakfast in the hotel for 450 euros per person. As a nice touch for Christmas, there was live music as well (a singing duo with piano/guitar, they didn’t play the whole time and it was an excellent addition to the evening).
As from this year, the restaurant has moved from a separate location to the courtyard of the hotel, which has been covered with a glass roof. The new space is very nice, albeit a bit dark. The food on the plates is very pretty, but it is hard to see the colors because of the low lighting (not to mention difficult to photograph properly!). A very nice touch is that you can now see into the kitchen (in the old restaurant the kitchen was located in the basement) and that the kitchen staff comes out to serve the dishes.
The first amuse bouche: a crispy shrimp served on a puffed up shrimp shell.
Second amuse bouche: a variation on the classic of pickle with peanut. To be honest I preferred the original as it had a special effect that you first tasted the pickle and then the peanut.
Third amuse bouche: a waffle with a piece of grilled halibut (which gets handed to you; I put it down on my knee to take the photo).
Fourth amuse bouche: oysters with beetroot and gin.
Fifth and sixth amuse bouche: cod cheek, grilled on a makeshift grill made from a can, and scampi.
A very nice set of amuse bouche, 9/10.
First course: crab, savoy cabbage, foie gras with carrot and magnolia juice, paired well with a dry riesling from Rheinhessen. Jonnie likes to pair seafood with foie gras, and this is another successful take on that. I was impressed that the wine pairing worked so well; the minerality and freshness of the riesling worked well with the crab, and it was rich enough for the foie gras. 9/10
Second course: tartare of scallops with coconut and mushrooms, paired well with a cabernet blanc/solaris from the Netherlands (!). This is Thérèse’s own wine and in the past when it was served with a dish we didn’t think it worked, but in this case the vegetal notes of the wine worked very well with the dish and it was actually a nice wine that clearly shows winemaking techniques have improved in the Netherlands. The dish was very elegant with refined flavors. 9/10
Third course: beech trout with smoked eel, foam of garlic confit, and fennel chlorofyl, paired excellently with a chardonnay from Yarra Valley, Australia. This was not like other chardonnays from Australia, and actually reminded me of a Saint-Aubin from a warm vintage (which the sommelier thought was a great compliment for the wine). The trout had a wonderful texture, and it was really nice that it was served with a smoked eel rather than smoking the trout itself. 10/10
Fourth course: caviar and beef tartare with baharat, paired well with a 2006 vintage champagne. Simple but delicious. 10/10
The main course was supposed to be duck, but due to the unusual warm weather there were not enough ducks and so half the guests were getting hare loin instead.
The duck was served with berries and fermented cabbage juice, and paired nicely with a barbaresco. Even though I thought it is ‘baby murder’ as the barbaresco was from 2012! The duck was very flavorful, juicy and tender. 9/10
The alternative main course: hare loin with ‘sauce royale, beetroot and orange, paired well with a red from Portugal. A very nice dish, 9/10.
The cheeses were served with a hors d’age dessert wine from the south of France from 1978! Nice cheeses, served perfectly ripe and at the right temperature, and they all worked with the wine.
The fifth cheese was served separately: warm époisses with truffle! Very good cheese course, 9/10.
The dessert called “Gin & Jonnie” actually looked like a mandarin and was very tasty. It worked very well with a coteaux du Layon.
The ice cream, served with a cool pack, worked even better with the wine. 9/10
With the coffee came chocolates with ‘flavors from the forest’: dark chocolate with mushrooms, fir tips with salty caramel, white chocolate with alderflower, and juniper berries with lemon.
My first dinner at Librije in 2005 was a revelation to me in terms of pairing food and wine, and the start of a passion. We’re not as blown away anymore as we were in 2005 (which was then our first dinner at a three-star restaurant), but Jonnie is still innovating and the quality of the food is still at a very high level, 9.5/10.
There are not many restaurants where the wine pairings are at this level, 9.5/10. It is very obvious that a lot of effort goes into finding the best wine with each dish by trying many different bottles, instead of just picking something that looks good on paper as most restaurants unfortunately do.
We’ve had a great evening, it is an absolute joy to dine at Librije. We already booked again for next year 🙂 I thought the service was improved due to the new setting, so I’m taking that up a notch to 9/10.