Wining and dining in Maastricht: from hotchpotch zoervleis to refined French cuisine
June 16, 2004 Leave a Comment
Since it gave its name to the Treaty of Maastricht, this southern city is considered to be the most European place in the Netherlands. But not only at the conference table do countries meet here. You can get a taste of Europe at the dinner table as well, in one of the many restaurants and establishments in the city.
Whether you are in for a local dish, exquisite French cuisine or want to dine in the same castle where Tsar Peter the Great of Russia once did, it is all possible in Maastricht. There is even something for the ones who crave a fusion of tastes – the local tourist agency offers walking city tours in combination with food sampling in different restaurants along the way. And don’t forget that the top culinary event of Maastricht – the annual festival Preuvenemint is only a few weeks away.
Hap en stap
Maastricht has numerous restaurants and it would be impossible to list them all, let alone to have dinner at each and every one. A good alternative to get an impression of both the city and the local eating culture is the so-called Hap en Stap arrangement, which stands for ‘Stepping Out and Eating’.
Guided by a host of the Maastricht’s tourist agency, groups from five to twenty persons can visit several establishments while walking through the old inner city. At every one of these stops the visitors will be served one course, then move on to the next establishment for the following one. The menus are customised to the wishes of the group and include various options such as vegetarian meals. During the tour, which usually takes place in the evening, the guide gives information on Maastricht and the included restaurants. The prices of the tour depend on the season of the year, the establishments visited and size of the group. Reservations can be made through the city tourist agency, telephone 043 – 350 62 62.
Another way to get a good impression of the wining and dining possibilities in Maastricht is to visit the annual culinary festival the Preuvenemint. This word is a contraction of the words in the local dialect “preuve” (to taste) and “evenemint” (event). During the festival about forty stands of local establishments fill the main square of the city – the Vrijthof. They function as small, outdoor restaurants where visitors can taste food and wine under the accompaniment of live music. This year, all the local restaurants with one or two Michelin stars will also be present with a stand on the Vrijthof for at least one day.
There is no entrance fee for the event. Food and drinks are being paid for by special coupons, the so-called Preuvenelappe, which cost EUR 1,45 a piece. Beer and soft drinks cost one coupon and in every stand you will find at least one product to taste for two Preuvenelappe. The profit of the Preuvenemint is used for charity in different categories, such as culture, children, development aid and disabled people. The festival invariably takes place around the last weekend of August. This year you can taste the best of Maastricht food from 26 until 29 August.
Those who prefer to dine in exclusive setting should pay notice to the local restaurants that are awarded with the prestigious Michelin stars. Only five restaurants in the Netherlands carry two such stars marking high gastronomic quality and one of those five – Beluga – is located in Maastricht. At Plein 1992 number 12, the chef Hans van Wolde cooks in his Mediterranean kitchen. The restaurant features a modern and trendy interior that, according to the owner, reminds of similar establishments in New York, London or Paris. A four course meal is available for EUR 80 or more.
Castle with vineyards
A totally different setting can be found at Chateau Neercanne, Cannerberg 800 which houses a restaurant with one Michelin star. This castle was built in 1698 by the governor baron De Dopff for his important guests, such as Tsar Peter the Great of Russia. In the Jeker valley, where the castle is located, you can find the most Northern vineyards of Europe. The grapes that grow at Chateau Neercanne are known as Pinot Noir and the wine of the restaurant is being kept in the old Roman caves beneath the building, which can be visited by guests.
Chateau Neercanne is the only Dutch castle with terraces, providing a special view. After dinner, with a choice between French or local menu starting at EUR 60, visitors can take a walk through the surrounding gardens.
More Michelin stars
Besides Beluga and Chateau Neercanne, there are two other restaurants with a Michelin star in Maastricht. Both are located in the Sint Bernardusstraat, where you will also find the Helpoort, the oldest city gate in the country, built in 1229. The Michelin-awarded restaurants in this street are specialised in French cuisine. One is Toine Hermsen, on numbers 2-4. The other is Tout a Fait, on number 16, offering lunch for EUR 35 and a dinner starting at EUR 46.
Visitors who want to eat well and still plan on leaving Maastricht with some money in their pockets, can visit one of the many smaller restaurants or grand cafés such as ‘t Lieuwke (the Lion) at the Grote Gracht 62 in the city centre. The menu of the day is priced at EUR 5,95, with a choice between vegetarian or meat meal. In addition there are regular menus to choose from.
‘t Lieuwke offers French and local meals. As a traditional dish from Maastricht the restaurant recommends zoervleis met friet. This is a stew of chopped beef with onions, vinegar, appelstroop (a sort of apple syrup) and peperkoek (peppered Dutch breakfast cake). The so-called zoervleis is served with chips (friet) and salad. As everywhere else in the Netherlands, mayonnaise is the favourite topping for the chips.
Another establishment with various kinds of local food is In Den Oude Vogelstruys (In the Old Ostrich). This is the oldest bar in the city – built in 1730 – and it is located at the Vrijthof square number 15. The menu is only available in the Maastricht dialect, which adds to the authentic atmosphere. Because the Vogelstruys is not a real restaurant, meals are small and simple. However they include some typical local favourites as ‘Tête de veau’: calf meat in tomato sauce for EUR 5. Most meals are only served until 4 p.m., but visitors that drop in later can still order ‘Rommedoe’: a regional sort of cheese with apple/ peer syrup and bread for EUR 4.
Since the establishment is really a bar, guests can choose from a wide variety of (local) beer and wine. In Den Oude Vogelstruys has a special arrangement with Wijnhuis Ben Schiffeleers: a wine distributor from Maastricht.
Not interested in the local meals? Don’t worry, most restaurants in Maastricht serve French dishes. However, the whole world seems to be represented in the city and you can also choose for Thai, Indonesian, Belgian, Greek, Japanese, Irish, Tunisian, Chinese and Italian food.
Something special is Restaurant Levigne at the Koestraat number 4, a trendy and small establishment with art on the walls made by the late local artists Renaud and Hubert Levigne, the father and grandfather of the owner who wants the work also to been seen outside the museum and frequently changes the collection on display. The kitchen seems to house a little Picasso as well: the colourful Spanish food is served on a plate, as if it is a little piece of art by itself.
For more restaurants in Maastricht, you can check out the following websites:
By Bas Jussen
Source: Crossroads print issue, June 2004