A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
When I lived in Paris, I ate out a lot. And I mean, a lot. The food is good, the wine even better and there’s nothing out of the ordinary to go to dinner with friends on a weekly basis or even to nip out alone for a restaurant luncheon. In the Netherlands, the eating out culture seems to mirror that of the UK more than that of any continental francophone neighbours. Eating out in Holland usually includes me putting a euro in the kaassoufflé dispensing machine at Smullers in Leiden Centraal (if you don’t understand any of that, then it’s probably best to keep it that way) rather than sitting down with a knife and fork. However, when I have eaten out, it’s usually been at Fresh ‘n’ Fast.
It may sound like an unappealing drive-thru at the side of an American highway, however Fresh ‘n’ Fast is one of Leiden’s most popular eateries, particularly amongst the student population, with its winning combination of low prices and a tasty menu. Class dinners, friends’ birthdays and people visiting me in Leiden have all inevitably led to a trip to this fun joint where the burgers are the main draw but where there’s plenty more choice for those who fancy something a bit different. For those looking for something maybe a little healthier, you can even customise your own salad; here, the waitresses will bring you a little form for you to tick what you want thrown into the mix and when you’re done, they’ll take it off to the kitchen for the chefs to realise your imaginary creation. Also don’t be fooled by the lowly word ‘salad’ – the portions are massive and are more than enough as a main course.
I, however, usually plump for the burgers and have so far managed to sample a fair proportion of those on the menu. The weirdest-looking one on the menu – the ‘Surf n Turf’ – is actually my favourite. Who would have thought of putting smoked salmon and tzatziki in a lamb burger? Not I, but it works surprisingly well and isn’t half as odd as it sounds. If you can’t settle on just one from the long list of burgers then don’t worry: how about choosing three? The ability to be able to order a trio of three mini versions of burgers from the menu gives you the chance to try more of them without the commitment of having to munch your way through 200g of the same thing. However, be warned: the so-called ‘mini’ versions are 100g themselves so with three of those on your plate, you probably won’t need to be ordering fries on the side… Last time I dabbled with three completely different fillings: the FF burger with bacon and mustard mayo (deliciously smoky), my favourite Surf ‘n’ Turf (naturally) and the Cod burger with pumpkin and tzatziki (a bit soft – I was expecting it to have more of a fried outside – but tasty none the less).
If you’ve room for dessert, grab a ‘make your own salad’-style ice-cream menu where you can pick from a range of ice-creams, toppings and sauces. We may have ordered a green tea ice cream with speculaas and ginger sauce ‘voor de lol’ (‘for fun’), however it actually turned out to be kind of moreish! My betting is, however, that you won’t even get that far. One of the Fresh ‘n’ Fast burgers with a plateful of wedges on the side and you’ll be feeling pretty full. Whatever the occasion (including simply being too lazy to throw together a weekend lunch), make time to visit this not-so-secret eatery in Leiden and you’re guaranteed not to leave unsatisfied.