When I’m told to plant my dinner invitation after receiving it in the mail, I’m definitely intrigued. The invitation is now sprouting little green leaves, a perfect teaser of all things good, green and growing at PARK Cafe-Restaurant at the Hotel Arena in Oosterpark.
Hotel Arena’s recent renovation gave this 19th century former orphanage a chic new wing with loft, duplex, and courtyard rooms, and an art gallery space around its grand staircase. Rumor says there’s a library coming, but shhhh—you didn’t hear it from us!
Hotel Arena’s in-house cafe and restaurant PARK also got a makeover, with a cool modern French bistro ambience…
and a refreshed terrace with a relaxing view of Oosterpark. A place where indoor mingles with outdoor and people mingle with people, it’s a perfect spot for a summer cocktail.
Speaking of cocktails, PARK’s Mexican-inspired cocktail in a bag—made with local Dutch gin, elderflower liqueur, and dehydrated kiwi, and garden-fresh basil—is a clever and appetizing way to kick off an evening. Light, refreshing, fruity… and Instagrammable too!
The other standout at PARK is its new herb and vegetable garden, which provides inspiration and ingredients for the “herb to table” menu concept by chef Peter Scholte.
All that garden-fresh goodness is highlighted in all-day bites like the kataifi shrimp, a crunchy-juicy mouthful with mouthwatering mango chutney, coriander and a touch of chili…
yellow bell pepper and ginger cream, fresh peas, and herb grissini (we LOVE shots!)…
and the piadina, a cumin flatbread with spicy coarse mustard cream and arugula.
Definitely not your basic bar bites, what a pleasant surprise. With flavorful bites like these, PARK certainly means business when it says “fresh” and “new.” I like.
It’s not all waaaay too “out there,” don’t worry. My favorite starter was the baked Norwegian scallops with roasted macadamia nuts and a fresh green salad. Lovers of the classics will be relieved to know the steak tartare with truffle cream, witlof and parsley salad, and a bit of grilled baguette, is reliable and yummy. Broccoli also gets a bit of decadent touch with truffle, perfectly poached #eggporn, and goat cheese.
Quite a selection of mains, some better than others. Can you guess which was my favorite?
- Roasted carrots with a carrot-vanilla cream and puffed quinoa
- Herb-crusted lamb with roasted cherry tomatoes and pesto vinaigrette
- Morel mushroom ravioli with grilled asparagus, chervil and shiso
- Grilled seabass with pipperade, baby spinach salad and paprika kroepoek
Chef Peter Scholte was the former executive pastry chef at The Cake Room at the NH Grand Krasnapolsky Hotel, and Mr Porter and The Duchess before that. He brings his showstopping desserts to PARK, starting with the Chocolate Box: dark chocolate walls built around a gem of pure chocolate mousse, hazelnut mousse, and hazelnut ice cream.
Forget Tiffany’s little blue box, there’s no #unboxing like a chocolate unboxing!
I also loved PARK’s sweet take on a club sandwich: white chocolate mousse and marinated strawberries between layers of caramelized puff pastry, with a shot of balsamic syrup. Now this is a broodje I can get behind.
For more familiar tastes, PARK’s cheesecake with raspberries, yoghurt sorbet, lemon peel and lemon thyme is a fresh twist on a classic.
Dutch wines are rare, so I was happy to taste one with PARK’s wine arrangement, which is available for groups of eight persons or more. Wine pairing starts at €15,50 per person for three courses, featuring a well-curated selection of wines that complement the herby, fresh flavors of each course.
Overall, the Oosterparkbuurk’s longtime resident is more stylish and surprising, more fresh and flavorful than ever. Kind of like when your next door neighbor comes back from a beach holiday looking absolutely reborn—and you can see the difference. See you on the PARK terrace this summer. I’ll be the one with a cocktail in a plastic bag!