Vegetarian Rhiannon Magor reviews vegan fondue and more at Hagedis in Den Haag.
Trams 3, 10 and 17 stop close by
Opening hours: Wednesdays through to Saturdays, from 17:00
Kitchen closes at 21:00
The Netherlands has a long history of fostering alternative cultures. Depending on who you talk to, you could easily be forgiven for believing that back in the ‘good old days’ everyone squatted in a derelict building at some time or another. And despite current attempts to reduce squatting, new squats do appear from time to time across the Netherlands. Usually these are buildings which local authorities claim have been left empty for a reason, such as posing a fire risk or containing dangerous levels of asbestos.
A recent relatively high profile example of this was ‘de Valreep’, a former Amsterdam East animal shelter taken over by squatters in the summer of 2011 and still being occupied and used by them (www.yeslab.org/project/valreep). Some of the ways the Dutch authorities have tried to alleviate the squatting ‘issue’ is either by legalising the squat (such as at Overtoom 301 in Amsterdam (www.ot301.nl) or by offering the squatters the chance to move elsewhere.
This was the case for the people running Hagedis, an organic vegetarian restaurant, originally established in the squat buildings of Den Haag’s former tax offices.
Hagedis is located on Waldeck Pyrmontkade, slightly out of the most central part of Den Haag but still easily reachable — both on foot or by public transport. From outside, you could easily mistake the building for something else. The brick-fronted and gabled building is a former schoolhouse, built in 1907. Eventually the school moved elsewhere, and Hagedis moved here in 2001, along with the other establishments and residents of the former tax office buildings.
Dutch for ‘lizard’
Inside, the restaurant is light and airy, with high ceilings and brightly coloured artwork. Hagedis is Dutch for ‘lizard’, and this name is reflected in some of the decoration. The building retains many of the original ‘school’ features such as tiled floors and walls as well as the sign for the ‘docent’ (teacher)’s rooms in the area where the bathrooms are now located.
Since we visited as a comparatively large group, we booked in advance. Tables did fill up during the course of the evening. Reserving a place is recommended, but eating here may also be possible without calling in advance.
Hagedis serves organic vegetarian food, with vegan and gluten-free options clearly marked on the menu. The menu is divided into starters, mains, fondues and desserts, as well as the ‘meal of the day’ listed on their board.
The dish which the restaurant is most known for is the ‘vegan cheese fondue’, made from cashew nuts, and available for two people to share per serving. This was one of the main reasons we visited, and therefore the selection most of us ordered.
Unfortunately because we were a large group, we were being served by all the staff at once, each taking down parts of the food or drinks order. This made the service erratic, and when the food came they had miscounted so we were one fondue short.
The wait staff seemed very confused about how this had happened or how to resolve it. Each fondue comes for 2 people in a large heated metal lidless kettle, served with large plates of bread and salad, plus a small portion of roasted vegetables. The obvious solution was for us to just share the plates and the fondue which had already arrived, until the remaining items appeared. This worked fine and our missing food arrived shortly after.
In this land where even adults frequently drink a litre of milk a day and many lunchtime meals are based around cheese, fondue is very popular and many Dutch families even own their own home fondue cooking kit.
However, Hagedis is unusual in offering a vegan version. Texture-wise, it had the same warm gloopiness as a cheese fondue and the flavour made it equally as filling. Cashew nuts can be made creamy in a similar way to cooked cheese, so the overall effect was not dissimilar to the traditional cheesy version.
In order for fondue to work, the mix has to be suitably mild and not too rich. The cheese versions offered by other restaurants can have too much flavour, leaving some diners with a dairy-overkill headache and the feeling of having eaten far too much. The cashew flavour of this vegan version was mild enough to avoid that, but still rich enough and creamy in texture so we all felt full afterwards.
Chunks of bread
We all had one criticism, however, being that most of the dipping items were really just chunks of bread. A wider selection and larger portions of vegetables would have greatly improved the meal. In comparison, Amsterdam’s Fondue & Fondue (https://restaurantfondue.nl/) serves their cheese fondue with a large selection of raw vegetables including cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and celery.
The other dishes met with a mixed reception. We combined all the €3.50 bread and dips starters as a sharing plate, as well as maize chips with salsa sauce — also €3.50. The vegan option of seitan casserole served with parsnip puree for €14.50 looked good, but had an overriding carrot flavour.
The €10.50 tomato, Parmesan and ricotta pasta was considered both tasty and filling. In addition to the vegan fondue, there are also cheese-based versions. There are four tapas dishes for €4.50 and €5 each, or a selection of all four plus bread for €18.50.
Hagedis also offers a range of desserts and coffees. The €6.00 steamed pears were sold out, but other options include a gluten-free cheesecake, or an apple and plum cake both costing €3.80.
The restaurant is child-friendly and has a separate ‘kids menu’ where all mains cost €6.00, as well as having a designated play area.
They also serve a range of wines and beers, plus a wide range of hot teas and soft drinks.
We shared our bill, bringing it to €27 each. Hagedis has a pleasant atmosphere, good food and friendly staff, despite the fact the large group confused them. I might not make the trip to Den Haag only to come here unless with a vegan craving a fondue, but would probably re-visit if I happened to be in that part of town.
Rhiannon Magor / Expatica 2012
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