Peter Morrell takes a look at the progress of this port city’s impressive culinary gem which has just celebrated its first birthday
The main purpose of my recent trip to Rotterdam was to attend the opening of the art exhibition Uncovering Everyday Life – From Bosch to Bruegel at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum. However an earlier flight gave me enough time to visit Markthal, the impressive food market.
A fascinating article by Amanda Fisher was published on AboutMyGeneration covered the opening of this foodie paradise and it was this that piqued my interested to take a look one year on, as the market celebrated its first birthday.
Dumping my bags at the hotel I jumped on to Rotterdam’s highly efficient metro for the two stop ride from Eendrachtsplein to Blaak. Emerging from the station into a huge square Markthal is a massive horseshoe shaped building. There are apartments on the outside and the inner core is where the food market and restaurants are located.
The unique design was created by the architects MVRDV, who came up with a very clever solution to weatherproofing the two ends of the building. A web of steel wires, rather like a tennis racket, support large panes of glass allowing the market to be flooded with light.
Entering the hall is an immersive sensory sensation of sights, sounds and smells. The stalls are a veritable cornucopia of produce, and if you can lift your gaze above them the entire arched ceiling is an explosion of shape and colour. The mural is the work of artist Arno Coenen, it depicts fruits and flowers, fish and seeds. Officially the work is called the Horn of Plenty but it’s also known as the Sistine Chapel of Rotterdam.
Being a port Rotterdam has always been home to many different cultures and nationalities, more than 160 at the last count. It is in Markthal that this diversity is the most evident, I strolled past mounds of Middle Eastern spices, a Chinese supermarket, stalls selling tropical fruits as well as more traditional European fare like fish from the North Sea and quality meat from the surrounding farms. Even more specifically were the Dutch specialties, piles of multi-shaped cheeses and the most dazzling selection of tomatoes from large to small and from pale yellow to dark purple.
The early start had made me hungry and Markthal has certainly got the cure for that. As well as being able to pick up take away food from the stalls there are a range of international restaurants along the edges of the hall. Great excitement has been caused by the opening of Holland’s first Jamie’s Italian in Markthal but it was the more informal BasQ Kitchen which caught my eye. On offer was a range of tapas from northern Spain and I was soon satisfying my pangs with croquettes, patatas bravas and albondigas (meat balls).
After lunch I wandered towards the exit, savouring the aromas, admiring the displays of cut flowers and impressed with the enthusiasm of the customers in the packed hall. I reflecting on the fact that this infant, born just a year ago, has matured into a robust and vibrant young adult.
Markthal is situated in the old medieval part of Rotterdam and the only visible remnant from that time is the nearby St Lawrence’s church, the rest of the neighbourhood was flattened during World War II. The opportunity to re-build this part of the city has resulted in some stunning architecture and as the opening of the hall has sparked something of a renaissance in the area more visitors are appreciating the inventive designs. These include the unique Cube Houses, Rotterdam Library and the Pencil Building.
Wandering back to the Metro station I spotted a sign to Oude Haven, even with my limited command of Dutch I guessed at the Old Harbour which was correct. It was a pleasant little oasis with a dock surrounded by open air cafés where I settled down and enjoyed a beer in the autumn sunshine.
My culinary exploration of Rotterdam was not quite over. Home for the night was the recently refurbished Bilderberg Parkhotel which adjoins the Museumpark where the Boijmans Museum is situated. As well as being a very comfortable place to stay the hotel features The Park, one of the city’s top restaurants. Inspired by top chef Erik van Loo, holder of two Michelin stars, the menu offers first class modern European food at very reasonable prices. The décor is warm and casual and the service was excellent.
Getting to Rotterdam is quick and convenient, I flew from London City which took 50 minutes and was in the centre 20 minutes after landing. This had been my first trip to the city and found that it has a lot to offer. Big green spaces, outstanding architecture, an exciting culinary scene and lots of cultural attractions make it the ideal short break destination.
For more about visiting Rotterdam go to https://en.rotterdam.info/
For more about Holland go to www.holland.com
To read Amanda Fisher’s article on the opening of Markthal click here… and t o see my article on the exhibition Uncovering Everyday Life – From Bosch to Bruegel showing at the Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum click here…