The best pub in Maastricht, Sjinkerij de Bobbel
The city of Maastricht, in the south of the Netherlands, is famous for it’s university. As you might expect with it being a student town, Maastricht is home to over 300 bars (Maastricht has the highest density of bars in the Netherlands), and Sjinkerij de Bobbel Maastricht is one of the best pubs in Maastricht.
I was invited by the Maastricht tourist board to stop into Sjinkerij de Bobbel Maastricht. Located on Wolfstraat in the main shopping area and close to the lovely Our Lady’s Square (Onze Lieve Vrouwplein), Sjinkerij de Bobbel Maastricht is kind of a cross between a bar and a pub where you can get food (eetcafe). De Bobbel, which means fat-bellied bottle of gin) is famous for serving bobbelke, a type of brandy-based clear liquor to which secret ingredients are added to make different flavours.
There are four varieties to choose from – herbal (a bit like Jaegermeister), bitter sweet (think Campari), fresh sweet and very sweet (peach and almond). These range from 25-32% alcohol so it’s potent stuff. I was surprised to find I preferred the fresh sweet flavour which has notes of vanilla, caramel and cinnamon. Although the bitter bobbelke actually tasted better, and was far more drinkable, mixed with bitter lemon. The affable owner also recommended pairing the sweeter ones with dark chocolate, which left a kind of marzipan after taste.
It’s not just the drinks that attract people to this traditional Maastricht pub. Winner of the best cafe in the Netherlands 2012, Sjinkerij de Bobbel Maastricht serves typical Maastricht dishes such as beef stew in a sweet sauce. The menu at Sjinkerij de Bobbel Maastricht changes twice a year and the owner told us where possible he likes to use local suppliers. Sadly we didn’t have time to eat here but Sharps did get to sample some Geulhemmer Kloostergrottenham, an award-winning regional speciality. Pigs that come from the heart of Limburg are used to make the ham. But what’s unusual about it is that the ham is salted dry for a month and a half, then cured in a cave for 9 months. Sharps said it had a rich, smokey flavour.
When we visited Sjinkerij de Bobbel Maastricht there were no students in sight. Possibly because with its laid-back atmosphere Sjinkerij de Bobbel Maastricht attracts a slightly older crowd (think over 40), so you don’t have to fight your way to the bar to get served. Plus, there’s no music at Sjinkerij de Bobbel Maastricht which again means you can sit and chat without having to shout to be heard. I particularly liked the cosy feel of the old world decor – dark wooden tables and chairs, rows of tankards running along the back wall, and green gin bottles that were actually clocks.
I was surprised then to learn that Sjinkerij de Bobbel Maastricht has in fact only been around for about 30 years. Fortunately you don’t have to be a genius, or go to university, to realise if you’re after a taste of Maastricht, Sjinkerij de Bobbel Maastricht is the place to go.