Lucie Loves... Travel & Lifestyle // Exploring the food & drinks heart of Rotterdam & Dordrecht with Rutte Gin

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My relationship with gin is pretty fledgling. I mean, I’m still a bit of a novice really. But, being a curious sort, I’m always up for trying something new. Over the last 8 years, I’ve covered all sorts of drinks pieces. From heavily fermented, delectable don’t-want-them-to-end dinners with wine aficionado Douglas Blyde, to whiskey tours down The Thames. To Italian and Indian beer popups and many a mixology event.

There’s been a couple of gin things too, but I’ve always seen gin as a pretty grown up drink. Ok, I am 31… I’m not that young anymore… but, If you think about it, it isn’t the kind of booze that you’d have ordered, on a university night out for a £1, back in 2006. Back then, you were either a cider drinker, team vodka and red bull or ordering a JD and coke. (Give or take a couple of variations on either theme, or downing the odd Orange Reef, remember them?!)

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G&T always felt more refined, a drink your mum and dad would order – and a little bit pretentious for a 20 year old to be binge-drinking* on a Wednesday night. So I stuck to my guns and ordered what I knew best.

This trip to Rotterdam with Rutte was a chance for me to step up my gin game – especially as it’s been having such a renaissance over the last 5-6 years, with smaller gin brokers (not even sure if they’re an actual thing) popping up all over London, boasting some new botanical concoction or other.

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We flew from London City Airport to Rotterdam – one of the easiest flights I’ve ever had the pleasure of taking – and were met by our driver. He took us to the Hotel New York, a stunning place with so much personality, located on the Rotterdam waterfront.

After an hour to freshen up, we met outside for drinks, on the very sunny Hotel New York terrace.Chris, Liz and I enjoyed a white beer with Milly and Guila, gearing ourselves up for the evening. Next was a tour of Rotterdam’s foodie haven, Markthal – an impressive indoor food market housed under a sweeping arched roof. 

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It’s home to apartments and offices with the strangest window positioning I’ve ever seen. After a neck-craning stroll around the market, we explored the neighbouring streets and found a hipster-ish cafe bar called Bokaal. This time I had a delicious Kriek cherry beer – so refreshing!

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We were in for a real treat that night; the Rutte team had booked us a table at FG Food Labs, Francois Geurd’s innovative restaurant. “As a gateway to the FG Restaurant, the Food Labs is an idiosyncratic hotspot where ideas are born.”Joining us for the evening were members from Rutte team and #1 Bartender for the Netherlands 2017, Alberto Matallana

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Hours later, when we’d eaten our way through 7 courses and tried three different variations of Rutte gin-laced drinks, we were ready to move on. My favourite concoction was definitely the Rutte with rosemary and ginger ale.

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What we ate at FG Food Labs…

Cocktails

  • #1: Luscombe Lime Crush/Luscombe St. Clements/Rutte Cellery Gin/Pink Peppers
  • #2: Loopuyt Ginger Beer/Luscombe Lime Crush/Old Simonis Jenever/Juniper berries/Rosemary
  • #3: Rutte celery gin/ Jasmin Tea/Honey/Luscome Cranberry Crush/Orange zest
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The Menu

Tuna ceviche

Yuzu vinaigrette/Japanese mayonaise/spicy tomato/hoisin/sweet-and-sour celery/tapioca krupuk with squid ink

Taco with tuna tartar and mango chutney

**

Haddock

Watercress cream/fennel ribbons/sweet-and-sour sea lettuce/leek/pearl barley with kombu/beurre blanc (asparagus/scallop/razor clam)

**

Cod

Cream/cade/mini/sweet-and-sour/chips of parsnip/herring roe/Tom Kha

**

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Poussin de Loire

Pan

Poussin de Loire/merquez de Turqui/seasonal vegetables/rosemary/lemongrass/ginger/garlic

**

Blanc Manger

Based on almonds

Peat milk ice cream/spelt crumble/amarena cherries and aceto gel/browned almonds/pure chocolate (72% valhrona cacao)/vene cress

With full bellies, we headed off to see the Doctor. It’s become quite an institution in Rotterdam, this private and alluring little bar, tucked down a quiet, street in the financial district. The first rule: No photography or phones, once inside the bar. 

You could feel each of us bloggers quake a little, hearing those words. But actually, after a long day, it was a relief not to have to document anything and just enjoy the evening, the company and the beautiful bar. I honestly think that more places should operate a no phones and no photography rule.

Doctors, Jaco and Alberto, treated us to some of their classic cocktails, from an exciting menu that’s updated quartlerly, and also served up the winning cocktail of 2017. This cocktail contains Genever – Gin’s ancestor, and was found in the winning cocktail of the 2017 Official Cocktail Competition: Embrasse de la terre, created by Zachary Faden of Mirabelle in Washington D.C.

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Our tour of the Rutte Distillery in Dordrecht the next day, was a perfume-lovers dream. We sniffed our way through jar after jar of botanicals, and feasted our eyes on the Rutte’s family archive, all in the name of Gin and Genever. I couldn’t believe it when Myriam Hendrickx, Rutte’s Master Distiller, told us how – when she met John Rutte in 2003 – he was still use weighing scales with copper weights to create his recipes! Nothing had been digitised! Myriam, a former food engineer and spirits enthusiast, had quite a job on her hands to bring Rutte, kicking and screaming, into the 21st Century. It was up to her to ensure that they continued to do the great work they’d been doing for the last 150 years… but… that more people would actually know about them.

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After learning a little more about their selection of Rutte Celery Gin, Rutte Old Simon Genever and Rutte Dry Gin, we collected our cute wooden bikes and set off around the pretty city of Dordrecht. 

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Our mission: to taste some traditional Dutch delicacies and pick up goodies for our Gin & food-pairing lunch. Our first stop: Vissers Poffertjes. Crossing the threshold into this Dutch pancake house was very much like stepping back in time. 21-year old Entrepreneur owner, Denis, took over this place after seeing it’s previous owner suffering from Alzheimer’s, to stop it falling into a state of disrepair. He’s only been open a month so far, but from the food we tasted, he’s doing a great job and I think it’s really a MUST EAT for anyone visiting to Dordrecht.

After our yummy pancakes we cycled over to the ‘Njoy Chocolate shop, to pick up a Dordrecht special: a chocolate constructed in such a way that you are told that you must pop it into your mouth, chew no more than twice, and then swallow it in one go – to allow yourself to experience the flavours of Dordrecht, just as the Chocolatier intended. It was bloody marvellous!

Following our chocolate fest, we rode on a little further, still turning heads on the Rutte wooden bikes, and popped over to buy some New Herring. 

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Herring season has just started and it’s a Dutch tradition to eat a lot of it, especially during the first week. I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to eating raw fish with their skin on… basically… fish that looks like fish has always freaked me out a bit. So, not wanting to be a wuss, I closed my eyes, grabbed the Herring by the tail, tipped my head back and took a bite! And… it was really good. Tender and tasty and not at all as scary as I thought it would be. It was so fresh. Maybe I’m a convert? After all, I do like sushi… I guess every now and again you just need to get over yourself and try things that scare you.

Our final stop was the Gert Jan De Kaasboer cheese shop. It isn’t just any cheese shop either. Nope. This is one of the best in the whole of Holland. My grandad would be in his element! The sample cheeses alone were sublime! I lost count of how many I munched on. With our shopping list for lunch ticked off, it was time to savour it all, back at the distillery.

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I couldn’t get enough of hearing the sound of the old shop bell ring, as you entered. The store, complete with old fashioned till, looks pretty much unchanged from when it first opened. 

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The distillery itself is based at the back of the shop, and laid out over two floors. Gin and Genever-loving visitors to Dordrecht are welcome to book a tour of the distillery, where one of the Rutte team will take you through the distillery process and treat you to a flight of Rutte gin in the tasting room.

This gin discovery break has done more for me than just make me a bigger fan of gin, it has also made me want to follow in Myriam’s footsteps and take a trip to Grasse. I really want to learn more about perfumery. The links between gin distilling and making perfume is so interlinked, it’s crazy, but makes complete sense really. 

Did you know… it’s often the smell and taste of a gin that makes you prefer one brand over another?

Myriam certainly has a good nose for it! Thank you to Liz and the Rutte team for being such incredible hosts, and for allowing us to sink our teeth into Dutch traditions, like Rutte. 

Fancy doing a Gin break? Contact the Rutte Distillery to book a tour.

*Drink responsibly, guys and gals!

Photography © Lucie Kerley