Netherlands / Belgium Restaurant Recommendations

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DamageInc

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In a couple weeks I'm going on my first international vacation in 5 years and it will be a road trip from Denmark to the Netherlands and Belgium and back again, one week total. The only thing set in stone on the trip is a dinner reservation at Hof van Cleve, which will be my first time eating at a 3-star place. Nothing else has been booked.

I know we have some Dutch and Belgian members here, and I was hoping you had some restaurant and/or sightseeing recommendations to share. Hof van Cleve will be the blowout meal of the trip, so nothing fancy required, casual dining and street food is fine as long as it's good. I have already been recommended Belgian Pigeon House in Bruges, which looks good. Also looking for a great pomme frites shop to try.

Cities I will be dining in for either lunch or dinner during the trip are as follows: Hamburg, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Ghent, Bruges, and Dunkirk. If you have something really good worth driving for outside those cities, please share as well.

Any recommendations much appreciated.
 

MarcelNL

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Hof van Cleve is as good as it gets...there are some lower key places in Antwerp by Sergio Herman like 'the Jane' (but that is more high end), he collects michelin stars as if you can mail order them, very creative chef! Regular Dutch cuisine is not something I'd recommend, we invented bland...

I've not been out enough in the past few years to make any 'couleur locale' recomendations in Rotterdam or Amsterdam, they change so quick...there is a slew of more and less traditional Chinese restaurants in Rotterdam Kruisplein area, the local 'Chinatown' with little places doing traditional chinese food, some of them are great.
 

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damiano

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I live in Bruges. Many good restaurants here, just avoid the typical tourist restaurants.
In Brugge I would have a look at Locàle, Lieven and Zet Joe/Refter
In Gent check Roots, Oak, Maste, Yalo.
Bruges is amazing when it comes to restaurants. Was there last year, and really had the feeling you can just go sit at any busy place and you will get great food!

In Antwerp I can recommend Brasserie Den Artist, for old-fashioned Belgian cooking. In Brussels I really liked La Belle Maraichere (fish) and another old-fashioned Belgian cooking place called Nuetnigenough.

I live in Rotterdam, but pls give me half a day or so to write something down.
 

damiano

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Hof van Cleve is as good as it gets...there are some lower key places in Antwerp by Sergio Herman like 'the Jane' (but that is more high end), he collects michelin stars as if you can mail order them, very creative chef! Regular Dutch cuisine is not something I'd recommend, we invented bland...

I've not been out enough in the past few years to make any 'couleur locale' recomendations in Rotterdam or Amsterdam, they change so quick...there is a slew of more and less traditional Chinese restaurants in Rotterdam Kruisplein area, the local 'Chinatown' with little places doing traditional chinese food, some of them are great.
Sadly, the quality of Chinese restaurants in Rotterdam has come down significantly since the covid era. A few of the best places shut down and haven't been open - up until today. Rumour has it that the good chefs returned back to China. The ones still open aren't particularly good (if you're used to the older ones here).
 

DamageInc

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Thank you all very much for the recommendations so far, definitely adding a few of them to my hotlist.

What I can gather so far is I will be eating a lot of eastern cuisine in the Netherlands and I don't need to worry about good food in Belgium. If you have more restaurant recommendations, please keep them coming. Also if you have any attractions you can recommend seeing. Ideally something not too touristy.
 

MarcelNL

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there used to be/is a really nice steak place in Antwerp selling horse steak I;d recoomend...fogot the name but it's an institute so someone should know the name
 

DamageInc

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there used to be/is a really nice steak place in Antwerp selling horse steak I;d recoomend...fogot the name but it's an institute so someone should know the name
My mother would kill me if she heard I had horse steak. I had horse saucisson once and narrowly escaped with my life.
 
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In Amsterdam there is a ton of nice and good places. I do not know what you're after, best food, cuisine, or nicest setting, best atmosphere, affordable...
Below are some of the ones I like(d). This is just a small sample of what's out there so please do not view it as a definitive list! But if you happen to be around you can give these a shot.
Mind you that restaurants in Amsterdam tend to be expensive (high rent, high labor costs).
I am no specialist in high end places.

Toscanini (very well done Italian, no pizza).
Kaufmann (excellent reimagined falafel!)
Pension Homeland (great setting)
De Belhamel (beautiful canal setting)
Pllek (nice setting)
Hakatta Senpachi (Unglamorous Japanese that is super nice)

I tend to use the weekly review in this newspaper as guidance (google translate is your friend, 1=poor, 10=perfect)

Enjoy your stay!
 
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Jovidah

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My mother would kill me if she heard I had horse steak. I had horse saucisson once and narrowly escaped with my life.
Then just don't tell her. You're missing out... all the horse I've ever eaten was better than most beef I had.
 

damiano

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Rotterdam. The nicest part of the city imho is where the river cuts through it, in the middle. So near the Erasmusbrug (bridge linking the southern and northern parts).

On the southern part there is the iconic Hotel New York, which is a good spot for an aperitif. Food is not super, but if you like fresh seafood and shellfish, this is a good place. Attached to this part of the city is Katendrecht, lots of younger people and a nice atmosphere, very typical of Rotterdam. There is a good pinxtos bar here, a good Thai restaurant, and good spots to have a beer in the sun.

On the northern part of the river you will find a few nice places in the area called Scheepvaarkwartier, e.g. restaurant Loos, Zeezout, and Louise. Very chill and laidback vibe. Nearby are also De Ballentent (cheap and buzzing), and Parqiet cafe in the park.

From here you can walk to the street where we all go for drinks and to have cheap eats, the Witte de Withstraat. If you like oriental food, you could try the always busy Warung Mini, for Surinam food, a former colony of the Netherlands where amongst others Chinese, Indonesian, and Indian people live together. The food reflects this.

In the actual city center, a nice street is Meent. Nearby is the popular Vietnamese place Little V (make reservations).

Any specific wishes for types of cuisine pls let me know! :)
 

DamageInc

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Thank you very much! I think I have more than enough places to go now.
Only missing a good lunch spot in Dunkirk but I will try google.
 

DamageInc

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Back from the trip now, it was a really good time. Unfortunately due to the nature of the way we ended up planning our trip, we were not able to eat at a single one of your specific places. We decided to have the trip as relaxed as possible, which meant not booking hotel rooms or restaurants until the day we were driving to the next city, in case we wanted to stay longer where we were. I hate when people ask for recommendations and then don't follow them, but unfortunately I became one of those people. But it's ok, I hate myself enough already.
We did however during our time in Amsterdam and Rotterdam find some really good Asian food.

First stop Hamburg, had a walk around the Binnenalster, had some weissbier and then went to look for some good but simple food to get us started after the 4 hour drive.

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Found a Neapolitan pizza place called Spaccaforno, which was quite nice and exactly what we wanted.

Had a negroni and a mushroom sausage pizza.
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They also had a spicy diavola which required some cold Fritz kola to keep the forehead sweat to a minimum. Both the spicy sausage and the normal sausage on previous pizza are made in-house. Good little spot in Hamburg.
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Next day we drove to Amsterdam which I hated. Smelled like piss and weed and there was trash everywhere. Enjoyable museums though and was cool to see a Vermeer in person. Never going back voluntarily.
But we did have decent ramen at Ramen-Ya. Not as good as Slurp Ramen Joint in Copenhagen, but still good.
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Then we drove to Rotterdam. Not much to do there other than eat Chinese food and drink at the harbor, which was exactly what we did and it was great. Ate at Shanghai Papa and had wonton soup, Peking duck, soup dumplings, steam buns, char siu, and lots of beer. Very reasonably priced place as well, or maybe we are just used to Copenhagen prices.
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Then we drove to Bruges, which was my favorite city of the trip, what a fantastic place. Loved it and will go back some time.
Had a good burger and few beers in Bierbrasserie Cambrinus, and then dinner at De Gastro, a cozy little bistro. I had escargot and a salad and was quite satisfied. No pictures of either place unfortunately. Groeninge Museum was definitely worth a visit.
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Climbed the tower before driving off to Dunkirk in the morning. Didn't pull a Brendan Gleeson due to safety wire at the top.
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Dunkirk we went to the beach and the war museum and since we were in France we also decided to drop by a wine merchant to get a bottle or two just because you have to when in France.

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DamageInc

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For lunch after Dunkirk we drove to Westvleteren, where we had beer along a board of edibles with bread and bitterballen.

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I felt the bitterballen had too little meat with too much gravy, but the rest was quite nice, beer of course being the highlight. We snagged a few packs of W12 before heading on towards Ghent.

In Ghent it was really difficult finding a table anywhere good on short notice, but after an hour looking we just managed to get the last available table of the night at a steakhouse called Gillis. None of us were really interested in going to a steakhouse but since we couldn't find a table anywhere else, we were fine with it. Turns out, it was fantastic. Seriously good meat selection and great drinks. Better than any steakhouse I've been to in Denmark. We ate meat and drank for four hours in their cozy inner courtyard. I had a 25 day dry aged sashi AAA strip steak from Finland, with peppercorn sauce, beef fat fries, and a salad. Great cheesecake for dessert too. What none of us were interested in turned out to be the second best food of the trip.
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The day after we took a walk through Ghent and went for an audio tour of Gravensteen castle. Nice place. Decided not to eat any lunch so we would have plenty of room for the main event of the trip.

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At 7PM we arrived, after getting lost for a bit out in the small country roads.
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This was the best dining experience I have had in my life to date. Incredible from start to finish, with 13 dishes total (one off menu) plus wine pairings.

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DamageInc

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Buns with langoustine
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Black ink cuttlefish with noodles and dashi
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Goose liver with hazelnut and melon
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Oyster with macadamia shavings
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Razor clam with lovage and kombu
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Crab with bergamot and cucumber
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Caviar with mussel and cauliflower (maybe best dish of the evening, one of the best things I've eaten)
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Cod with bouillabaisse
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Octopus with almonds and artichoke. One of my friends proclaimed he didn't like octopus but had to admit this was quite good.
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Little one biter snack taco of squab leg braised with cumin topped with shaved something I forgot what was but it wasn't cheese. Felt like they made this to not waste the squab legs and it was a nice little surprise between dishes.
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DamageInc

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Then the dish that I think tied the caviar dish for best of the night, roast squab with ceps, stuffed leak, and sauces. My lord it was delicious. Color of the squab was unreal, neon red almost.
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Gold cracker with verbena and sea buckthorn
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Peruvian chocolate mousse with apricot and tea
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To finish we had mint tea and a selection from their wonderful dessert chariot
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Napkins stitched with gold thread
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Didn't manage to get any photos of their beautiful bread selection or the dessert chariot, but it was magnificent. The wine pairings were also excellent and they kept pouring all night long, no cap it seemed, so we were damn near fully drunk at the end, having had approx 12-13 glasses of wine each plus cocktails upon arrival. One of my friends is not into wine so much so he volunteered to drive us home, having opted for the juice menu which looked seriously nice as well. Chef Peter Goossens came out of the kitchen during service to greet every table and we talked to him for a good five minutes, huge respect to him for crafting such a lovely experience for us and the other guests. We expected to be there for maybe 2½ to 3 hours and have just seven courses plus a snack or two, but this was way beyond our expectations. We ate and drank wine from 7 in the evening to a quarter past midnight, more than five hours start to finish. At no point did we feel like we were waiting for something, we felt welcome and the service and timing of everything was so perfectly orchestrated without ever feeling anything other than organic and well paced. Highly recommended, best dining experience I've had yet. None of us had ever spent nearly that amount on dinner before, but were in total agreement that it was well worth the cost and even more so. Someday I will go back.

The day after we agreed nothing could top that, so we drove 11 hours back to DK.

Again, thank you very much for your suggestions, great tips to go for asian food in Netherlands and just go for any place that looks decent in Belgium, made us feel comfortable. Belgium in particular I loved and will be going back for more food in the future, and probably to stay for a longer time in Bruges.
 

MarcelNL

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thanks for sharing! This does it, I have toyed with booking a table there for a while now but this seals the deal....
 
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DamageInc

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thanks for sharing! This does it, I have toyed with booking a table there for a while now but this seals the deal....
You absolutely should! Wait time is approx 5-6 months, but sometimes they have short term cancelations and you can get a table with a few days to a weeks notice if you keep an eye on their website. If you do go for Hof van Cleve, please do report back on how you liked it.

I'm sort of glad the restaurant is all the way in Belgium because if it was in Denmark I would go bankrupt from eating there too often.
 

MarcelNL

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I think the 3-6 month waiting period for reservations are a great insurance against going bankrupt from eating at places like this ;-)
 
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