If you doubt Almere’s culinary repertoire, a visit to Hemel op aarde (the name meaning 'heaven on earth') could be enough to make you change your mind.
The bistro's ambiance is low-key and decidedly unpretentious. French chansons play softly in the background as diners relax with their pre-dinner drinks. There's a certain je ne sais quoi about the place that keeps me coming back at least once a month. And it's not just because they serve the best escargots I've had outside of France.
Starters include everything from understated delicacies such as the delightfully crunchy Holtkamp croquettes to fancier fare such as the veal pie with truffle and cognac. Especially memorable is their warm goat's cheese salad served with perfectly grilled vegetables and goldenly caramelized pecans.
The kitchen works with top-quality ingredients (all of their meats are hormone-free and come from animals that have had a good life) and their vegetables are always done to absolute perfection. No overcooked haricot verts here!
Meat lovers can woo themselves into culinary bliss with the bistro's classic masterpiece- the Waygu steak- or the entrecôte which can be ordered with a variety of sauces such as port-garlic, truffle butter or my personal favorite, cognac-pepper. Seafood fans can enjoy their always superior chef's choice or the succulent gambas served with white wine, sambal badjak and cream- both dishes pair beautifully with a glass of their crisp sauvignon blanc. And with choices such as the mushroom ravioli in vodka sauce or the cheese fondue with garlic and herbes de Provence, vegetarians aren’t forgotten either.
Those who claim they don't have a sweet tooth would be cheating themselves by not trying one of their amazing desserts. Choices include the warm belgian waffle with honey and hazelnut parfait, the white chocolate cheesecake with mandarins drenched in Van Wees orange liqueur and the tangy mango-cassis sorbet served with a coulis of forest fruits.
Hemel op aarde is a restaurant that surely lives up to its name. Not only because there’s always something new and enticing on the menu (the mussels served in September were some of the juiciest I've ever had), but because the service is welcoming and nothing short of exceptional.
Deventerpad 32, Almere. 036-5245836
Open Wednesday through Sunday from 17.00hrs.