On Stadscafe van Mechelen, and things that come in threes

My mother has many useful pieces of advice, as mothers generally do. “Waste not, want not” is one of her favourites, and the older I get the more I notice myself picking the dodgy bits off the last abandoned strawberry so the scrap of non-mouldy flesh left doesn’t go to waste. Another of her oft-used sayings is “Bad things come in threes,” which strikes me as more superstitious than wise – and yet it tends to ring strangely true…

I arrived at Stadscafe van Mechelen in the pouring rain of a Monday evening (I could count that as one of the “bad things” but then again I live in Amsterdam – every day would count as a bad day if I started worrying about getting wet) and plonked myself down at the cosiest-looking table to wait for my friends. Five minutes later, a waiter showed up to tell us to move – which was odd, since his colleague had told me I could sit wherever I liked. “Well, she was wrong,” he declared, before giving us an extraordinarily complicated explanation about this table for five versus that table for three (the two tables were identical in size, so we weren’t buying it) before admitting that he’d simply promised it to someone else. In a restaurant that doesn’t take reservations. Hm.

Anyway, we crashed on and ordered some Basque sausages (sticky and sweet, in a good way) and lightly fried green peppers to start with, plus a bottle of Portuguese wine. So far so good, until a plate of mussels arrived for the table behind ours and (yep, you’ve guessed it) the juice spilt right down my coat. To be fair to the staff, they brought me a clean damp cloth very quickly, and the chef hadn’t exactly made their lives any easier by presenting mussels on an almost-flat plate…

So I didn’t order the mussels. I ordered one of the specials: lentils with fennel sausages, “stoofvlees” (which I generally assume is stewed beef), potatoes, carrots and a yoghurt-herb sauce. It was a little heavy on the carbs, but it made fantastic comfort food.

After two misfortunes, I should have been prepared for the third… We asked for the bill – it came to around €25 each – and asked to pay by card. The restaurant has one of those handy portable PIN machines that they bring to your table – but one slip of the hand let to another and suddenly the PIN machine was falling on my head!

So, after being dripped on, dropped on and nearly kicked out of my seat, what was the verdict? I like to think I’m an optimist at heart (or, at least, a realist) and for me, three bad things can sometimes be outweighed by three good: the hapjes were delicious, as was my main course, and flashes of good service made up for moments of catastrophic… Bad things and good may come in threes, but this is one of those restaurants that deserve three stars and a second chance.

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Stadscafe van Mechelen (Dutch eetcafe)


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