I have already been given a pipette with food as cutlery, more often also tweezers or a needle, even once a nutcracker. But I cannot imagine what dish one should eat with handcuffs. The waiter who just walked by with twelve pairs of shackles explains that a number of cells of this former prison in Leeuwarden have been converted into a dining room. There you can dine ‘enthralled’. Then you eat two or three or in Group chained together. Then you have to go along when the other takes a sip of beer or bite, or wants to smoke, or something else… Especially nice for bachelor parties, you understand.
For the rest, Proefverlof, which has now been open for over a year, is a very normal restaurant. A spacious establishment with a terrace on the water, for lunch, drinks and dinner. It is now one of the three restaurants of the Frisian chef Willem Schaafsma, known for his fine dining-restaurant Endless. Schaafsma likes to cook locally and as sustainably as possible. From head to tail is a top priority for him. Therefore, it was his long-cherished wish to open even more businesses in other hospitality segments. In this way he can buy whole cows and fully value them: the chic parts go to Eindeloos, the entrecôtes and ribeyes to Eet & Drinklokaal Proefverlof, shoulders and stew become a daily snack at Eetcafé De Bak.
A sustainable three-stage rocket with a nice thought. We’re testing two.
Endless is cozy, chic, but not fancy. Immediately crooner– music in the background. They eat a menu here, from three to eight courses. Here and there there is a useless crisp on the plate or a little too fat fried quail leg. But the corridors are almost all correct and there are beautiful outliers in between. Like a shiny tartare of smoked goose breast – undercooked, not raw, very deep in taste – with pickled tuber. A tantalizing wild-snert association with a flamboyant lick of lime leaf mayo.
The veal sweetbread with sole, paprika and stroganoff gravy is also well balanced: the meaty, goulashy undertones and spice of the piment d’espelette are present but subtle. Especially the light, Hungarian kadarka suddenly becomes very happy – one of the better wine pairings tonight. The dessert has a sense of humour: crème caramel (scented with lime), with grilled pineapple and feather-light vanilla ice cream – deliberately vulgar, executed with a lot of class.
Then Probation. The dishes here are a bit larger and coarser, a bit simpler. But there is clearly the same culinary ingenuity in it. Such as in the combination of celeriac (from salt crust), soft goat cheese, pimento crunch, a light snow of grated, spicy sheep’s cheese and gherkin coulis. The filet Americain has nothing to do with the red gunk from the supermarket. It is a smooth, tasty meat mousse. Created with maybe a bit much lovage, but in the grand scheme of things – with poached egg, salad and crouton – it all falls into place.
Trial leave is one of those places where you want to start having a drink and then accidentally get late
One of the tastiest things is the sun-baked Spanish-Dutch surf & peat combination of hard-seared octopus, chorizo sauce, stew that looks bright green from the kale and a small piece of super tender stew. It is actually a combination of two other dishes. The cook puts it together especially for us, because he recognized me. But it appears to have been on the menu in this form before, so I’ll mention it anyway – with the emphatic call to include it back in the menu as soon as possible.
Probationary leave is one of those places where you want to start having a drink and then accidentally get late. We should certainly not skip the drinks menu, it plays a key role in this concept. The fried cauliflower may have a little more spice, but it is certainly not overcooked and has a nice thin dough coat. The ‘Italian’ meat products from Henk Spijkerman from Akkrum are nicely served at room temperature. The coppa and bresaola are fine, but the wool pig prosciutto is particularly memorable, with buttery melon and aschovy notes in the ham fat. One point of criticism: meat products should not be served with mixed nuts, especially if the menu says ‘served with olives and real bread’.
The importance of the drinks menu, however, lies mainly in the snacks board. On it are the sausages of Menno Hoekstra from Anjum and Klaas Walburg from Tzum. They process all the meat and game left over from his kitchens for Schaafsma. No waste. From head to tail.
Schaafsma goes even further. In addition to the card, he has young goats – saddle, leg and chops etc. Today we are lucky: there are still some organs. Sweetbreads are just as soft and creamy as a calf’s, but with flavour! We eat it here with kidneys and fresh pak choi and curry gravy. Do nothing more.
Schaafsma has an official agreement with a dairy goat farm in the area that he is guaranteed to purchase all 120 goats every year. It’s a shame, but goat farmers don’t normally lose their goats on the paving stones. Completely unjustified, because as is once again demonstrated here with verve: goat is delicious. That is why Schaafsma says: we don’t have a goat problem, we have an advertising problem. The Netherlands needs more chefs like this.