Haarlem has plenty to offer. Take its impressive Art Nouveau train station, for example, which boasts a myriad of elegant details including colorful tile tableaus and monumental waiting rooms. Or other great architectural accomplishments such as one of the country’s most beautiful Gothic-style churches, the Grote of Sint Bavokerk, which dominates the city’s center and imposingly towers over its main square. Directly across from it is Lieven de Key’s stunning Vleeshal (Meat Hall) with its ornamented crow-stepped gable and quintessential Dutchness. Fabulous museums? They have those too. The Frans Hals Museum houses an impressive collection of Dutch Renaissance paintings, and the Teylers Museum, the oldest museum in the Netherlands, is home to a magnificent display of art and science.
Yesterday, however, I was there to check out one of Haarlem’s newest additions to its ever expanding food scene — Seymour Brasserie & Bar. Located on the corner of the Korte Veerstraat and Lange Veerstraat, in yet another one of the city’ s ogle-worthy buildings (dating to 1899, originally erected as a warehouse and in recent years home to three different restaurants), the new establishment breathes Parisian grandeur with its massive French bar, industrial lamps, dramatic wooden staircase, sturdy marble tables and richly decorated ceiling.
Greeted with a laid back, welcoming atmosphere, we found a table amidst cocktail sipping young women and lunching couples. I asked for the drinks list, ordered their Seymour 75 cocktail (on a scale of one to five, this baby gets a swell 4 ½) and studied their somewhat limited lunch menu consisting of six sandwich options and two salads. My only gripe so far. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again. I don’t go out for lunch to eat a sandwich. Want to see me smile? Pepper that menu with at least three stick-to-the-ribs options. And if ‘French’ is what you’re going for, woo me at noon (I like that) with a succulent steak-frites, a well-prepared seasonal fish or at least a hearty omelette. Granted these options are available, but unfortunately, not for lunch.
Thankfully, the steak-tartare, a starter option, could be prepared for lunch, so I ordered a side of fries with that and a Malbec to wash it all down with.
The meat arrived perfectly at room temperature and exquisitely chopped. It was served with a dollop of mustard mayonnaise and topped with slivers of Parmesan, thinly sliced cornichons, a beautifully poached egg and a mound of curly endive. I was pleased, but would’ve been even happier if the egg was raw, the salad a little less and the bread, though delicious it certainly was, would have been brioche (as listed on the menu). Oh, and shallots. Some finely chopped shallots would’ve have lifted the dish too, in my opinion. Hubby was thoroughly impressed with his sandwich of thinly sliced seared steak topped with rocket lettuce, red onion and a tangy garlic cream.
All in all, I think my experience would have been better if I had showed up a few hours later, for dinner instead of lunch. With starters that include duck liver mousse and oysters, mains such as lobster and giant prawns with saffron, classic desserts such as crème brûlée, and a proper wine list, the choice would not have been easy. Prepare those dishes with flair and add to that excellent service (check), a pleasantly nonchalant ambience (check) and a fine location (check), and you can count me in as a loyal customer. But Haarlem is not that far, luckily, and has enough reasons to keep me interested. I might just pop on over for cocktails and bites before my next date with the Officers of the Saint George Civic Guard, or dinner — afterward.