Gijsbert Bianchi bought Restaurant Zuid Zeeland almost fifteen years ago. Before then it served exclusively Italian food. Under Bianchi’s watch the name didn’t change but the food certainly did! It has since become one of the most eclectic and delicious restaurants near the city center.
Bianchi had previously made a career in the hotel service industry but with Zuid Zeeland, he wanted to try something new and innovative. Bianchi describes Zuid Zeeland’s unique concept as, “A serious restaurant. Not too fancy. No nonsense. Where the product speaks for itself and not so much the owner or the chef.” Simply put, the basic idea behind the restaurant was to create a place where the egos of the owner or chef do not interfere with the food (you won’t find any shouting Chef Ramsays here!).
Over the years, Bianchi and his team have strived to improve the quality of the food step by step, serving fresh, locally grown or produced, organic, sustainable, and moderately-priced meals to tourists and locals alike.
Zuid Zeeland resides in an historical building on the appropriately named Gentlemen’s Canal (Herengracht 413) and has developed into a sort of bohemian icon, catering to authors, publishers, journalists, ballet performers, even opera singers. “It’s a big cultural group of guests!” says Bianchi. The establishment serves lunch Monday through Friday (12:00-14:30) and dinner every day of the week (18:00-23:00). Bianchi claims some locals frequent the restaurant more than twice a week. However, thanks to its convenient location near the center of town, Zuid Zeeland also welcomes plenty of tourists looking for a rich atmosphere and fine cuisine.
They also host private dining and outdoor catering for receptions, birthdays, and special events. Every once in a while, they invite guests to try a Golden Age Dinner, so you can taste the cuisine of the really, really old country. In addition, Bianchi and Chef Degen organize cook and butler services for fine dining in your very own home. “It’s not our core business,” says Bianchi, “ but on special occasions and upon special request, we love to do it.”
Bianchi and M.S.C. certified Chef Marco Degen call their authentic dishes, “Modern Cuisine,” based mostly in French and Dutch cooking combined with some elements from Japan and other places. Much of the organic ingredients are locally grown or produced right here in the Netherlands.
What they can’t get from local markets, they buy directly from organic farmers in Italy. A fresh shipment arrives once a week, Chef Degen says, who was the first chef at the restaurant to obtain his certification in buying and preparing sustainable (or “green”) fish from the Marine Stewardship Council.
They also boast a pretty impressive wine collection. According to Bianchi, “Some wines we import directly, about 90%, but wine is one of our hobbies, so we have quite a large selection for such a small restaurant.” Hence, you’ll find domestic, European wine from the Old World: France, Italy, and Germany.
The menu changes twice every two months or about five times a year. “We grow with the seasons. So in the spring we serve spring vegetables and in the fall we serve fall vegetables.” Bianchi’s rule of thumb: “Don’t over do it. It’s not about being [or looking] impressive; it’s about tasting good.” If you are curious to know when the next menu change-up will happen, subscribe to the Zuid Zeeland Newsletter.
So, why come to the restaurant? Bianchi declares, “This is not a tourist trap. It’s a typical restaurant for local crowds. It’s not crowded and it’s known by people who like good food and good wine.” Zuid Zeeland’s menu features inventive Dutch and French dishes and appetizers with a dash of the international.
Even the names of the dishes are mouthfuls. Try appetizers such as the “Wild mushroom flan with mushrooms, a leek croquette, and Bleu de Wolvega cheese,” or the “Terrine of wild boar with various preparations of onion, wild boar ravioli, port syrup, and laurel-red wine sauce.” Stay for a main course such as the “Brill with a potato mousseline, black and yellow carrots, and a hazelnut beurre blanc” or the “Icelandic cod and Dutch pea soup with rye bread” Mmm mmm. But don’t forget to leave room for desserts such as the “Pure chocolate bombe with a soft whisky interior and smoked milk ice cream” or the “Pumpkin cheesecake with spiced cookie ice cream and marzipan-pumpkin ravioli.”
Unconvinced? Check out the online recommendations to read personal thoughts from such notable diners as U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Academy Award Winner Matt Damon.