As you walk down the busy Rotterdam street in the sweet summer heat, Quartier Du Port is not immediately obvious. The quiet look of the façade, the menu sign out front as the traffic bustles past – it invites an escape to the busyness of Europe’s largest port. Peering through the hotel lobby to the restaurant down the corridor, an inviting smell of the grill and the lights of a well-decorated dining hall. Low lights provide intimacy at the table without dominating and the dividers of low bench tops, greenery and the soft lights made the big space feel cosy and warm.
We had been recommended the restaurant by a local food critic chanced upon at the café we frequented in The Hague, Lola’s. It appeared my new friend Maarten had fine taste and had pointed us in the direction of something exciting and new. I was, and remain, envious of the guests at the hotel and all the residents of the surrounding area that can visit more regularly than my one visit on a day trip south from The Hague.
In my mind, the staff and the décor of the restaurant were near perfection. The maitre’d did a superb job, not only of handling my awkward attempt to book a table for three, but of also immediately making us feel welcome and at ease. We were the only people seated inside, with the remaining twenty or so diners out on the lovely outdoor courtyard surrounded by lush green trees and a lovely garden, giving it a real sense of quiet and separateness.
The dinner consisted of a four course set menu with a couple of choices for each. I decided upon raw tuna (again) simply for the purpose of having some comparison for the wonders served up at Oker. Although the textures of the Oker tuna and caramel were superior ultimately, Quartier Du Port had a better dish with its delectable marinade and mango chutney. It was far less innovative, but the kitchen took the simplicity to another level. The other entrée on offer was some asparagus spears with parmesan and morille sauce – a fine pair of starters to begin the evening.
Following some bread (it had rosemary through it and was served hot with butter, olive tapenade and salt) and drinks, the kitchen really hit its stride with the cocktail of beef stew, spinach and poached egg. We were glad we had ordered it: it wasn’t even a part of the main courses but was rather just an appetizer between entrée and mains. We were blown away. I hope that similar things trickle down to restaurants at home because the adventurous approach to put a dish that good as a side note on the menu spoke volumes about the confidence of the kitchen and the skills of the chef. The beef was tender and melted on the tongue and the delicately poached egg leaving the yolk oozing out between the spinach.
The crispy grilled sea bream with fennel and red butter sauce that followed as my main was done well and executed with obvious talent and finesse. The skin crunchy and easy to munch and the bream fell apart effortlessly. My companions enjoyed their duck breast with witlof, pommes dauphine and root foam but both were overshadowed by the beef stew and egg – but it was excellent nonetheless.
We had since been moved outside onto the courtyard and were able to enjoy the final hour or so of our meal in the fading sunlight. Crème brûlée, cheese and Degaldo Zuleta capped it off nicely.
Maarten had told us that Quartier Du Port was particularly amazing because the fare was provided at a cost far below that which could be charged for a similar quality. I am in complete agreement: it was remarkable, and I would have happily paid much more for the experience.
Quartier Du Port know what they are, know how to guide you through an evening so that by the end, there’s no where you would rather have eaten. The staff are warm and friendly without encroaching on your night. It is a fine example of a really great restaurant. It’s just that simple.