One pillar is still missing on Hodenpijl: a good kitchen

This in advance: the location and the immediate surroundings of Op Hodenpijl are truly beautiful. Whatever you imagine in a rural idyll, this eighteenth-century country estate in Midden-Delfland has it. A wide terrace that overlooks a sculpture garden and a vegetable garden. An organic store. A ditto farm that you can visit. A monumental church from 1840 and an adjacent rectory where you can have lunch or dinner six days a week. All owned by the entrepreneurial couple Dirk and Tilly Post, who previously made a fortune in the transport sector with their company Post-Kogeko.

Op Hodenpijl was opened to the public in 2007 after a thorough restoration and since then has been much more than just a place of pleasure. In the former almshouse, for example, lectures and workshops are given with titles such as ‘The tomtom of your soul’, ‘Discover the power of breathing’ (with ‘Mister Breath’), and ‘Questions for the afterlife’, on which occasion medium Margreet van der Veen seeks contact with your loved ones who have passed away. It is also possible to undergo a ‘gong bath’ on site and to participate in a full moon ceremony. “The new normal is psychic,” we read on a placard as we set foot in this spiritual enclave.

Even in the restaurant you cannot escape the impression that you have ended up in an alternative reality. One with alternative facts as well. There is a party going on on the Saturday evening that we sit down. About forty guests have a drink and dinner without obviously worrying for a moment about the one and a half meter measure. When we inquire about it, we are pointed to a text on the blackboard at the cash register: ‘Don’t let yourself be infected with the fear virus’.

“Our employer has different ideas about this,” we learn, apparently for reassurance, from the girl who will be serving us. Which sounds all the more laconic and painfully indifferent when you know that many Rotterdam restaurateurs are on the verge of bankruptcy because they do (have to) comply with the RIVM regulations. It is also strange that as the owner of a catering business in a hamlet further down the road you can still get away with it.

From the three hors-d’oeuvres on the menu, we choose the terrine of potato, cucumber, roasted bell pepper, fennel and dill (8.80) and the vegetarian ‘steak tartare’ of finely chopped coeur de boeuf tomato (8.20 euros ), which unfortunately is completely unnecessarily buried under grated carrots and coarse pieces of lettuce and cucumber. In addition to a glass of wine, we have ‘vital’ water poured in, a municipal lager in which the ‘minerals have all been put back in their right place’.

We have more to say about the fried kohlrabi schnitzel with butter beans, roasted leeks and a tomato chutney (21 euros) and the wild goose (23.50) that we then order. The bird shot above Delfland can return to the kitchen after two bites. Made way too many flying hours, or baked way too long. In any case, the breast meat is so tough that it can no longer even be pierced with a fork. It is replaced by a plate of lightly stewed ‘tendon’ from the beef (the ‘stable dish’ of the week).

Not a bad word about that, although the accompanying garnish of our two dishes can also go straight back to the compost heap. The well-cooked beans, the bone-dry pommes duchesse and the tasteless bars of roasted zucchini are unworthy of a chef of an organic restaurant. Irradiated in just a little too long, probably, just like the lukewarm vital water. Or, at least as likely: our vegetables have been cooking for an entire afternoon in the full bowls that the party crowd is served as a buffet meal a few meters away from us.

Wim de Jong is a culinary critic.