It often happens that one of our kids has a play date somewhere for a few hours but it’s fairly rare that both of them are out of the house at the same time.
If we arrange a babysitter it is because Himself and I have a special event to attend and so it’s even rarer that we find ourselves without kids and no actual appointment to go to and a few free hours to ourselves.
Recently I took some annual leave and spent most of it organising kid stuff, and helping out several family, friends and neighbours who required sudden and urgent help due to life throwing them some nasty and unexpected “curve balls” ( I use this phrase without knowing it’s exact meaning but I like the way it sounds). One suffered a cancer scare and needed an immediate operation to remove a very large tumour (luckily benign, but unluckily so large as to be interfering with other bits of anatomy and causing pain), Mother In Law had problems with her pace maker, another friend has visa issues, and we had house troubles when the electricity and computers (at different times) failed for no apparent reason.
We had fingers in pies all over the place, after-hours repair specialists in, and extra kids all over the place, as we cooked extra meals, provided taxi service and baby sitting services. I’d put my back out and after my physio hammered on all the spots where it hurt, loosened up enough to walk like an 80 year old instead of a 120 year old. (We went to see one of my Sister in Law’s in a performance and I was embarrassed to see that my 90 year old mother in law was walking faster than I was).
One weekend, after a busy day my sister in law phoned. They had been out and about, were reasonably close to our place and her kids wanted our kids to visit and play, could they swing by our place and collect them for an evening please? The kids were already pleading for us to say yes and within half an hour we were suddenly and unexpectedly child free.
There were leftovers that needing finishing in the fridge but we looked at each other and grinned: dinner out!!! just the two of us, alone! … and preferably somewhere that didn’t serve pizza or kid friendly food.
We instantly decided to head to the beach for dinner at one of the restaurants on the Promenade. We had tapas in mind.. or anything else that contained a ton of herbs, spices or shot of the exotic. It was the first evening with decent weather for ages, we were still a good two kilometres from the beach when we got stuck in a traffic jam and it became clear that every man, woman and their dog had the same idea we did.
Twenty minutes later we had advanced so little down the street that I still had the same pretty building in view of my camera lens, albeit a photo in the rear view mirror instead of from the front windscreen. This was ridiculous. Agreement saw us turning off into the nearest side street at the first opportunity and high tailing it away from the hordes heading to the beach as fast as we could.
Next came the problem of finding a restaurant … for some reason it appeared that every place we saw was Italian… we went towards the centre of town but they are digging roadworks all over the place and between my back and my foot I wasn’t feeling like negotiating the detours and hiking to my dinner destination.
It was still very early in the evening and several places looked promising but a quick look at menu boards outside left us less than inspired. We figured out we didn’t fancy Chinese food, or Greek or the Egyptian shawarma places. More roadworks lead us all over the place. I’ve lived in this city for twenty years now and on this evening we drove down more streets that I’ve never been in before than I have in the last ten years in total.
We end up driving down the Laan van Meerdervoort (the longest street in the Hague) and see a restaurant by the Conradkade. More menu card reading… it’s packed outside and all the nice seats in the sunshine have been taken by people smoking like chimneys and the menu sports mushrooms in almost every meal, a no-go for me since I’m allergic to the blighters.
We are about to give up and go home to our fridge full of leftovers when Himself spies a menu board just around the corner. “ Thai Restaurant De Sampan”… hmm, sounds like just the ticket. We go inside, it’s small and quiet so we take a seat by the window and wait to order.
Drinks are ordered and we patiently wait to be offered a menu. Instead we receive a small plate of krupuk (prawn crackers) and a spicy dipping sauce. Ok… we are hungry so we begin to nibble. I’m just about to ask about the whereabouts of the menu card when suddenly two bowls of soup are placed on our table.
Surprised, Himself blurts out that “Sorry, we haven’t ordered soup and we were just waiting for the menu card please“.
Then all is revealed: this place has no menu in the conventional sense. There is a set menu for a set price that changes every day of the week and every customer gets what’s on offer that day. The soup has mushrooms in it, we quickly explain my allergy problem and ask if more than just the soup contains mushrooms. Luckily tonight’s menu doesn’t and they even have chicken soup without mushrooms that they bring instead.
After the soup we are presented this the option of rice or noodles and choosing rice, receive four small bowls each that contain identical contents. Everything including the soup was spicy, I can handle a “reasonable” amount of heat and it was good for me most of the time. I got about three mouthfuls of chilli peppers during the meal that were distinctly out of my comfort zone, but with an extra order of rice to help defuse the fire, I actually really enjoyed my meal.
Himself, more seasoned when it comes to heat said only the odd mouthful was decently hot. Dessert afterwards was very simple and refreshing: strawberries and whipped cream.
The service was very good (something not to be expected as standard in the Netherlands) and we enjoyed our relaxing meal for two very much.
I wouldn’t necessarily rate this as haute cuisine, it’s a small menu cooked decently, this is more of a place where you’d go when you want a break from cooking at home and want to know you will enjoy your meal, rather than a a place where you’d plan a really special event menu that will blow your socks off and probably has a price tag to blow your budget as well.
It’s a meal you can enjoy and leave happy rather than disappointed… true it’s Economy rather than First Class, but you definitely get your money’s worth and it’s Economy done very decently indeed.