Kasteel Heemstede is a unique fine-dining restaurant located in Houten in The Netherlands. Its location – inside the basement of a moat-surrounded castle – is stunning, but it’s actually the combination of Chef & Owner Ollie Schuiling’s highly refined cuisine and the location, that together lead to a fairytale-like gastronomic experience. A kitchen prince in modern times? Culinary dreams do come true!
Concept & Interior
In the small town of Houten, located near Utrecht in the central part of The Netherlands, there’s a small castle that appeals to the imagination. While Kasteel Heemstede was actually not built as castle as such, but as a charming country retreat, it has all the assets of a true fairytale castle. The original building was built in 1645 in Dutch-classical style, characterized by a square and symmetrical style. At all four corners are angular towers that are semi-integrated into the building, surrounded by a wide moat around the castle.
On January 10, 1987, the castle burned down almost completely. What was left of it was seriously neglected for years, and the castle was only restored in 1999. Since the rebuilding, the castle’s cellar has been home to Restaurant Heemstede. In 2020, Chef Ollie Schuiling took over the management of the restaurant and the young chef achieved its first Michelin star and a score of 17/20 in the Dutch Gault&Millau Guide in 2021.
The domain surrounding the castle sets the tone for a dining experience where luxury and elegance are central. The prestigious driveway leads to the beautiful gardens that enclose the castle. Guests enter the castle via a bridge over the water, and thus end up in the wonderful world of kitchen prince Schuiling…
The Chef & the team
The team is the most important aspect of a good functioning restaurant for Ollie Schuiling. That’s why the chef surrounded himself with equally driven and talented people in the kitchen as well as the dining room. Marcel Aarts welcomes the guests in the castle, manages the back-of-house organisation and oversees the stunning wine cellar, too. Indeed, the beautiful wine cellar (located at a separate space in the castle’s basements) compromises more than 600 different wines and beautiful labels are added every month.
In the dining room, Ollie’s partner My Truong takes up the role as restaurant maître with a natural flair. She is assisted by sommelier Liz Barents and a team of highly professionals waiters. Indeed, as a team they make sure everyone feels as a castle prince or princess.
Ollie Schuiling himself is a remarkable, young and highly driven chef. Born in the late 80s, Ollie quickly knew that he would end up in gastronomy. Schuiling received his training at the Cas Spijkers Academy, among others. Before he became the owner of fine dining restaurant Kasteel Heemstede, he gained lots of international experience at renowned restaurants such as FG in Rotterdam, De Leest in Vaassen and the German culinary institute La Vie.
However, it was at the famous Swiss three-star restaurant Schloss Schauenstein (by equally famous chef Andreas Caminada) where he picked up the true essence of a highly refined, yet generous fine dining cuisine… in a castle environment. He worked three years as a kitchen chef at this gastronomic castle, before returning to The Netherlands and starting his own adventure at Kasteel Heemstede.
It’s clear that chef Ollie Schuiling collected just the right elements from his impressive international experience at some of the world’s best restaurants. The use of the very best and luxurious products is the first example – think crab, langoustine, caviar and truffle. However, the art of letting these ingredients speak for themselves, with spices and sauces that support the product rather than dominate it, is the second but most striking example.
The presentation, highly refined and elegant, is a third element he brought with him to his own castle in The Netherlands. Ollie uses the best products from his surroundings, like frogs from the pond; lambs from the meadow and herbs from the castle garden, and uses international tastemakers to elevate them into culinary heights. A good example is the venison, which is cleverly combined with the warm and herbal notes of shiso. In the kitchen, Ollie is assisted by Sous-Chef Tom Broekmeijer, an old colleague from a restaurant in Rotterdam. “Big Tom and Little Ollie” complement each other perfectly and share the same work ethics: passionate, driven and hard working.
At Kasteel Heemstede, guests have the choice between a degustation menu in 5 or 6 courses, a special Imperial Heritage Caviar menu (à la carte) and an à la carte menu encompassing most of the dishes from the menu.
Example tasting menu:
- North Sea Crab is combined with duck liver, rhubarb for acidic notes, and oyster.
- Then there’s the caviar serving, which is deliciously served with eel, parsnip and a refined beurre blanc sauce.
- Langoustine is next, and comes with flavours from Asia. Pandan and chili give depth and spiciness, asparagus adds some earthy tones.
- Before the main course, there’s pikeperch, served with carrot and lemon and an outstanding sauce of crustacean.
- Venison forms the main course, together with beetroot, cherry and shiso. To add fattiness to the meat, chef Schuiling wraps it in lardo. A smart and delicious technique.
- The dessert with Taggiasca Olive is simply outstanding. The olives are transformed into different structures, like olive oil, and combined with caramelized porkskin and red wine vinegar for acidity. Just wow!
- Soursop is the final dessert, and is combined with nutty tones of cashew and tonkabean, and the exotic herbal flavour of coriander.
Kasteel Heemstede definitely is one of the most upcoming fine-dining restaurant in The Netherlands. The location inside the castle is remarkable, but it really is the kitchen of Ollie Schulling that will leave the biggest impression. Luxurious, always elegant and highly delicious, this is modern cooking at its very finest.
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3992 LS Houten