On 28 November 2017, I officially became a Dutch citizen. I’d been an Amsterdammer for 12 years, but I was always labelled an expat. Then Brexit happened and I felt more European than ever. (And believe me, I’ve always felt pretty European: at age 11, I broke my classmate’s Union Jack flag in protest about something or other. I was a weird kid.) It was all the sign that I needed to take the next step towards my adopted nation. The application process took the best part of a year (mostly because the government loves to have meetings to tell you about the next meeting, and send letters to tell you you’ll receive a letter) but it was pretty much an open and shut case for someone in my position. I spoke the language, had the diploma to prove it, and had been a fully paid-up member of Dutch society for over a decade.
But it’s not every day that you change nationality. My parents came over for my Dutch naturalisation ceremony (glad to get shot of me finally?!) and listened patiently while I was the only one who knew what the ambtenaar was going on about. We didn’t have to pledge allegiance to the King; nor did we have to swear anything relating to God or the Bible – both of which I was relieved about (not being much of a Christian monarchist myself). What we did have to promise, however, was to respect the laws and freedoms of the Netherlands, and to respect our fellow citizens – whatever creed, colour or sexual preference. And that’s something I can get on board with.
We all opted for the five-course menu for €49.50 (you could also get a six- or seven-course menu for €57 and €64.50 respectively) and tucked into these Dutch flag-waving amuses bouches (above): snert bitterballen were excellent, not least because their contents had been lightly smoked. There was also a cup of creamy mustard soup and a deep-fried ball of something that reminded me of a savoury appelflap.
Our first “real” course was a salad of raw herring, cucumber, dill, horseradish cream and herring caviar – it was perfectly fresh and tasted almost Nordic in tone. Our second course was a slightly smoky leek broth – it was rather similar in flavour profile to some of the other dishes and wasn’t a huge hit with us.
Next up came Brussels sprouts done in three ways (one of which was BBQ-ed, I think!) with extremely finely sliced shallots (so fine that my usually onion-hating Dad ate them all without noticing) and a Dutch-style beurre blanc. The latter was heavy in vinegar but cut through the creaminess and vegetal sprouts perfectly. This was hands-down my favourite dish.
Our meat course was wild hare cooked in two different ways: the first was blood-rare with beetroot sauce; the second was in a rich game pie with a potato crust. For me the dish was missing something, but perhaps that’s because the portion size was rather small.
As a sort of pre-dessert, we were presented with mini krentebollen dusted with icing sugar and dipped in fennel-seed cream. Definitely better than the local gebakkraam, but at the end of the day still a glorified oliebol. Our final course comprised boerenjongens (golden raisins soaked in brandy) with salted caramel, ice cream and a chocolate crumb. At least, I think that’s what I was eating: by this point I’d had two bockbiers, a glass of Dutch sparkling white, and several glasses of wine, so my memory isn’t up to much.
My expectations of Guts & Glory had been high because of the Breda connection, so perhaps that’s why I was a little disappointed that standards weren’t as high as I’d hoped. Or perhaps (burn me as a heretic in my first week as a Dutch woman) it’s just that Dutch food by itself isn’t enough to carry a fine-dining concept. In this case, I’m prepared to give Guts & Glory a second chance and go back for another meal once the menu has changed again. I suggest you wait a few weeks and do the same.