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Aan de Poel in Amstelveen, the Netherlands - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 92.
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Picture this: a brilliant waterside location with lovely views, a welcoming outdoor terrace, an equally good ambience indoors, 2 Michelin stars, and only 13 miles from the city centre of Amsterdam. Who can say no to that? Well I certainly can't, and in the last few years I have said yes to Aan de Poel many times. Aan de Poel is a restaurant owned by Stefan van Sprang (executive chef) and Robbert Veuger (maître d'hôtel/sommelier), located on the banks of a small lake called 'Poel' in Amstelveen. The restaurant opened its doors in 2007 and about a year later they were awarded their first Michelin star; the second star followed in 2012 (2013 guide).

Stefan van Sprang started his career in the illustrious kitchens of legendary Dutch chef Cas Spijkers (1946-2011) at his then 2-star restaurant De Swaen in Oisterwijk (now defunct). Cas Spijkers is regarded as one of the founding fathers of Dutch haute cuisine and many of today's great Dutch chefs, including the likes of Jonnie Boer and Sergio Herman, have at some point in their careers worked at De Swaen. Before opening his own restaurant, Stefan van Sprang was head chef at the then two-star Ron Blaauw restaurant in Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, where he met Robbert Veuger and Aan de Poel's head chef Egon van Hoof.

Aan de Poel is open for lunch and dinner Tuesday till Saturday (no lunch on Saturdays) and the restaurant offers a seasonal tasting menu (6 courses €78, 5 courses €72, 4 courses €66; the menu changes every six weeks); a so-called 'Favorieten' menu (7 courses €99, 6 courses €92, 5 courses €84, 4 courses €74), an la carte menu and there's a set lunch menu (4 courses €46, 3 courses €42). I had lunch with my husband at Aan de Poel on Friday 11 July 2014 and we both ordered the 7 course 'Favorieten' menu.

Whilst deciding what to order, there was bread with Aan de Poel's signature basil mayonnaise.

Shortly after three delicious amuse bouches arrived. There were two bites: a light blini with fresh tzatziki and a dot of vegetarian caviar (made from seaweed), and a cracker with parsley bavarois and deep-fried capers, followed by a elegant dish of horseradish cream, topped with crunchy oyster mushrooms and served with a nice and pungent sake and spring onion dressing.

The first course of the tasting menu was Sirloin sashimi 'new style' with ponzu. Beautifully presented 'sashimi' of flash-seared and branded sirloin , served with a ponzu sauce, white radish and a green apple meringue filled with a wasabi mayonnaise. A marriage of excellent flavours and textures. The beef was wonderfully tender, the white radish added nice crisp crunch and the wasabi mayonnaise, which had subtle but distinctive flavours, provided a nice counterbalance to the tangy ponzu sauce.

After this light start there was a more lavish dish of Crab and foie gras. Lightly dressed, creamy crab topped with a few pieces of crisp chicken skin, marinated apples and a mini quenelle of light foie gras crèmeux. Also on the plate was a rectangular slice of apple tartelette, topped with a few dots of red wine mayonnaise and cubes of pan-fried foie gras. After the dish had been served, a moreish crab mayonnaise was spooned onto the plate. This mayonnaise was basically a light and creamy mixture of mayonnaise, a shipload of fresh crab meat and a hint of lime; gorgeous. A perfectly executed dish with intoxicating and rich flavours, balanced wonderfully by the sweetness and sharpness of the apple.

Next up was Langoustine, Hollandaise sauce and cauliflower. A small, juicy langoustine, served on creamy Hollandaise sauce and surrounded by small florets of green, white and purple cauliflower, crunchy cauliflower crumble, crisp lettuce leaves, and a few spoonfuls of bulgur salad topped with ebi shrimp. Lovely hint of spiciness from the cauliflower that had been marinated in red wine vinegar and chilli; the bulgur salad brought a nice freshness to the dish. An attractive and well-seasoned dish with a nice variety of textures.

A fragrant dish of seabass and curry followed. Well-cooked seabass with a lovely crisp skin, served a white port sauce, soft and fleshy aubergine, sweet potato crisps, leek, mildly spicy tomatoes, and a thin streak of curry paste sprinkled with some dried flowers. The delicious port sauce was sweet and mildly fruity and when blended with the curry paste, there was a lovely sweet spiciness to it, a flavour combination that married wonderfully with the seabass. A distinctive dish with a pleasing tension between heartiness and elegance and the curry perfumed the dish beautifully.

Fifth course was a superbly cooked risotto (still firm to the bite) elegantly seasoned with parsley and chives, served with fresh summer truffle shavings, Parmesan ice cream, a Parmesan crisp, and some truffle juices spooned around the risotto. An exquisite combination delivering creamy richness with every mouthful, the Parmesan ice cream adding a nice contrast and some freshness.

On to the sixth course. Beautifully cooked Black Angus beef (ribeye) served with a shiny and sticky beef and red wine reduction, beef crackling, grilled spring onion and asparagus, a crisp polenta cube, beetroot puree and some yellow beetroot filled with a light tarragon cream. A skillfully executed dish with bags of flavour, delicious vegetables, the yellow beetroot added a light and delicate touch.

Time for dessert, Piña Colada 'Aan de Poel'. A refreshing and playful dessert of quenelle-shaped pineapple tartare, caramelised pineapple, pineapple ice cream, coconut foam, coconut spheres, pineapple gel and a chocolate 'coconut' coated with grated coconut.

Aan de Poel is the kind of restaurant that consistently delivers excellent food. I have visited the restaurant many times and I have experienced a solid performance on all occassions, whether is was a private lunch/dinner or a business lunch (which is great value by the way). The 'Favorieten' menu I enjoyed this time was well-desgined; traditional and more innovative flavour combinations took turns, and I liked the gentle oriental influences.
Over the years Stefan van Sprang has developed an individual style of cooking that combines attractive, authentic flavours with just the right dash of swankiness. Service is slick and friendly and the kitchen produces refined, intricate dishes that are executed with skill and flair. The agreeable style of cooking at Aan de Poel has attracted a loyal and diverse following, which makes it one of the most successful restaurants just outside the Dutch capital.

Posted 16-08-2014


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