Par Hasard, Almere (Restaurant)

Edition 29 November 2018, by Paola Westbeek

Smack in the middle of the country, Almere boasts impressive architecture and a city centre replete with shops amidst a buzzing atmosphere. What it sorely lacks, however, is a food scene. Simply put, the restaurants aren’t that much to write home about. But no reason to lose hope – especially when a restaurant such as Par Hasard opens its doors and delights from the get-go.

Situated on Belfort Square, Par Hasard merges the iconic Belgian ‘frietkot’ (chips stand) concept with an inviting café atmosphere and relaxed southern ambiance. Robust wooden tables, a swanky and well-stocked bar, and classic chansons (I was humming along to Brel, Aznavour and Julien Clerc) almost fooled me into thinking I was in Brussels, or perhaps even Paris. We find a cosy spot by the window, and it isn’t long before we’re sipping a proper glass of wine and perusing the menu. That our drinks arrive with a carafe of chilled water and two Picardie tumblers (common in France where it is part of the ‘couvert’, and a rarity in Holland) only adds to the charm, not to mention hospitality.

I swirl and sniff my Château Couronneau Bordeaux Supérieur (intense dark fruit, a hint of vanilla and oaky notes), taste (velvety smooth with balanced tannins) and decide it will be an excellent pairing with their grilled rib-eye. And it is. The smoky fl avours of the perfectly cooked steak, strewn with delicate sea salt fl akes and served with a creamy pepper sauce make this a match made in gourmet heaven. The frites are crisp, hot and salted just right. My table companion seems equally pleased as he tears into tender pork ribs glazed with a sweet-andspicy sauce. Two espressos to round it all off and we fl oat away content – already looking forward to the next visit.

A week later we’re back. This time for the set threecourse menu (an excellent value at 20.50, bonus points that it’s also available at lunch). I start with an autumnal salad of Belgian endive with pear, gorgonzola and a mild mustard dressing; continue with the aromatic ‘Limburgs Zuurvlees’ stew (the meat is so tender you can eat it with a spoon); and end with a luscious crème brûlée (though the crust misses that characteristic ‘crackle’ and the whipped cream is superfl uous, the taste is sublime). Par Hasard has done it again – and as the city’s motto so aptly says, ‘Het kan in Almere’ (It’s possible in Almere).