Thursday, March 3rd 2016 – Den Bosch
We’d been planning on catching the Hieronymus Bosch exhibition in his home town of S’Hertogenbosch (or Den Bosch as it’s more commonly -and pronounceably – known) since we’d first got wind of it back in 2015, and the looming new job start focussed our minds on getting it done. It had already been running for two weeks when we headed for the Netherlands via the Eurotunnel, tickets for the event in our possession and a hotel room at the Hotel Central all sorted. We’d no idea whether Den Bosch would provide enough else to do for a weekend away but we had the car and could always find places to go if we needed to. For once the SatNav was in cooperative mood and we were soon parked up at the nearby underground car park.
Emerging from the car park we found ourselves in a less than lovely shopping centre and began to wonder if we might have made a mistake staying in the town. However, the reception area at the hotel was pleasant and soothing and calm, and we were soon in our room, unpacking. The Central is a family-run hotel (though it’s part of the Golden Tulip group) and is all the better for it, with helpful staff and well-equipped, comfortable rooms so our doubts started to ebb away at this point. Unpacked, it was time to worry about pre-dinner drinks and for that matter dinner.
The hotel bar proved very civilised, and overlooked the main market square, at which point it became obvious that the centre of Den Bosch was far more attractive than the modern shopping centre bolted onto it initially suggested. We’d grabbed a map and were now starting to sense the lie of the land. Dinner was in Sense, a small and very impressive restaurant down a narrow side street across the market square from the hotel, and getting there enabled us to figure out where the museum was in relation to the hotel (about 5 minutes on foot), and to see some of the strange and wonderful installations scattered about the town to honour its most famous son.
It’s fair to say there was nothing strange about dinner though it was scarily substantial. We opted for the 7 course menu having been told the plates were “small”. Maybe by Dutch standards is all I can say!
We started with some tiny amuse bouches, and were reassured.
However, it started to get markedly more substantial after that, not helped by the fabulously good bread, with olive oil poured into the middle, that positively encouraged you to “just have one more piece”.
From then on it was one stunningly pretty plate after another. First up was the radish:
I’m not the biggest fan of radish normally finding them to be all heat and no taste worth bothering with but that made me rethink my stance. Next was that favourite of all post-modern or even modern chefs, the scallop:
Again it was excellent, and it began a run of fishy dishes, each more delicious than the last. The sea bream was served with foam (I know, but this one was good) and a lovely little ravioli of tremendous delicacy.
Then came cod, a more substantial fish with big flavours, cooked to perfection so it just fell into flakes as you put your fork to it.
The freshness of the cod was beautifully offset by the pea puree and Lynne even ate and enjoyed it, which given we’re talking legumes and pulses was something of a miracle.
Clams came next, redolent of the ocean, salty, firm and tasty. I was starting to run out of steam but we had a way to go yet. That way was paved with a near perfect piece of beef, just the right level of rare and with a gorgeous sauce that made us glad we still had a little bread left to chase it with.
The final course was “chocolate”. Which is far too simple a description for the lapidary work on the plate that was placed in front of us.
Replete we headed back to the hotel happy with Den Bosch and the world and ready to explore in the morning.