Fun and stumbling dishes at De Oude Melkhandel

special

A reader’s tip: De Oude Melkhandel in Leidschendam. The restaurant is located on the quay of the Vliet, a canal that was already dug in the Middle Ages, right in the historic center – which in itself is very worthwhile for a visit to the old town. From the terrace you have a view over the old lock and the eight-sided domed church from the seventeenth century. The picturesque corner building was, you guessed it, a dairy.

It also looks nice on the inside: natural wood (but not in a hipster way), Moroccan tiles, milk cans as lamps and a huge open kitchen in no way cut off from the rest of the place. The friendly young (slightly green) waiter wears yellow suspenders. Immediately there is a plate with olives, radish in piccalilli and tasty, greasy, homemade, dry sausage on the table. So far, so good.

On the map

The menu looks nice with interesting twists such as North Sea crab with grapefruit and goji berries, pork belly with lobster jelly and beef brisket with black garlic gravy. There is a changing menu of two to five courses (for the very reasonable price of 27.50 to 47.50 euros). We take once the vegetarian menu and also à la carte.

Well, let’s not beat around the bush: there is quite a bit to criticize. Most dishes are really well thought out, only they don’t make it to the finish every time because they trip over their shoelaces somewhere: watery sauce, too much salt, asparagus on a retirement home position or a burnt beurre noisette at the sweetbreads.

The first thing you notice is the portion size (especially the desserts come after three or four courses like a final blow), but I’ve been told, sir, you have to understand that outside of the big city guests expect that. And indeed, at the table next to us, we hear a gentleman answer the question if everything was to our liking: “I am still hungry.” So let’s ignore that for a moment.

The best tonight is the starter from the vegetarian menu. That’s really well thought out: a bunch of upright pieces of white asparagus of different lengths, with a fine salad of green apple and samphire in a sauce of yogurt and mint. There is nothing wrong with that in terms of taste, everything is there: acids and a bit of saltiness, nicely balanced. Only the sauce is a puddle of water and the asparagus is soggy.

The pork belly (12 euros) is also good. It is soft, fat and crunchy and delicious with the Jerusalem artichoke cream, in which three dots of lobster jelly have been drowned somewhere (we don’t taste much of it). The smoked ribeye (12 euros) with pickled pumpkin and garam masala mayo is also correct, only the meat is gorse salty. Just like the potato mousseline in the vegetarian intermediate dish. That’s not bad, by the way, with opperdoezer round potatoes and aniseed mushrooms glazed with pastis. But then there is flat lemon foam on it that if one teaspoon of Dreft kills the whole thing.

The beef then (22 euros). That is delicious: gently stewed and then fried nicely crispy on the edges. The gravy with black garlic (fermented) sticks just fine. Why then are two huge pieces of tenderloin lying next to it… nobody knows. What’s worse is that those two pieces of tenderloin have already been lying elsewhere, under the heat lamp, they are lukewarm. But! The turbot (22 euros) is excellently baked, nice and firm and juicy. That must also be said.

Wines with the courses cost 5 euros each (half a glass is also possible). We drink a very nice Austrian Veltliner with a very light tingle (bottle 37 euros). The beaujolais costs 40 euros. For that amount I have drunk a more exciting Beaujolais.

Final verdict

The Oude Melkhandel is a very friendly place with healthy ambitions. The chef certainly has some good ideas. But too many really basic misses are made. On the other hand, basic mistakes are easier to unlearn than bad ideas.