De Librije

Zwolle, Netherlands

De Librije was the 16th restaurant on the quest. It was 34th on the list in 2017 and fell out of the top 50 in 2018. It is also a Michelin 3-star restaurant.

In June of last year, I was in Amsterdam. While in town for a conference, I wanted to book as many Michelin-starred restaurants as I could. I managed to get reservations at three of them, including Librije’s Zusje—a 2 star restaurant in the heart of Amsterdam, and the sister restaurant of De Librije. (Zusje means sister in Dutch.) That mini trio ended up kicking off this grand fifty adventure.

Now, almost a year later, I had been asked to speak at a conference in Utrecht and that seemed like a great opportunity to book De Librije, tucked in the little town of Zwolle, about an hour’s drive outside of Amsterdam. I ended up backing out of the speaking opportunity but followed through with the restaurant adventure.

De Librije isn’t just a restaurant. It’s a hotel, too. A former women’s prison that retains a lot of its previous form, with cell doors on the hotel rooms. I chose to up the ante and booked the night at the hotel, saving myself a drive after dinner.

Glass covered courtyard with prison bars on the upper floor windows.
If prison life meant food like at De Librije, arrest me right now.

Dinner

We arrived for dinner at the very start of the evening. We’ve noticed that taking the earliest sitting offers up a bit more quiet time before all the guests have arrived. There’s a seating area on the edge of the inner courtyard where we’re presented with an aperitif and a couple snacks made of prawn and pork. (They said bacon but it looked more like a puffed pork rind.)

After the champagne, we were seating in the glass-covered courtyard with a lovely view of the room.

The staff presented us with rings as an offering of friendship. These aren’t just any rings, however. They are topped with a veal tartare and caviar. A delectable amuse bouche to kick off the meal followed by bite-sized morsels of seafood presented four ways.

After that, we settled into the six main courses. Oyster with goat cheese and seaweeds, Norway lobster with tomato kombucha, and a Monkfish ‘curry’.

Caviar presented on an egg with sour cream, chives and croutons. An egg is cut and emptied and then the ingredients are layered within the shell of the egg, topped with the caviar.

We have a sole with fermented corn and veal’s tongue. After which, we get a tour of the kitchen. We learned that Jonnie Boer hosts cooking classes including learning with the Big Green Egg, that I know a lot of my friends are into.

After the tour, we have our final main: tender lamb with wild garlic and pulses. (A pulse is an edible seed that grows in a pod.)

Dessert

To transition into dessert, we had a freeze dried blue cheese sprinkled on passionfruit and garam masala.

Then an ice cream man wheels his cart over to present us with our options. I can’t recall what I chose but I do recall it being delicious.

The last dish is a trio featuring mandarin, blood orange, and bergamot.

Of course, it doesn’t end there. There’s often that last presentation of petit fours. There’s a whole collection for us to choose from. Macarons, truffles, and a creme brûlée made inside a walnut shell, the sugar blowtorched right at our table.

The Experience

One thing Librije does well is experience. Both here and at Zusje, there was a story with the meal. At Zusje, there was the flower centrepiece that became part of the meal. At De Librije, it was the story of his family, a postcard with a picture of Boer’s father on it and the rings of friendship.

From arriving at the hotel to leaving the next day, it was an enchanting 24 hours in Zwolle. If you were ever looking for a remarkable anniversary getaway, this would be a worthy destination.

The Photos

Before this was Astrid y Gaston
After this was Hof van Cleve
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