“Amsterdam city is the home of the world. That makes the gastronomic scene colourful, fresh and creative.” Michael Möser, editor at Business Traveller and guest author of Bleisure Traveller
The culinary continents meet in the canal city of Amsterdam. Asian, African, Argentinean – the list of possibilities is vast. But you shouldn’t search long. In the narrow canal tangle with partly dense tourist swarms one would literally perish. Go for specific recommendations or rely on your intuition. The vegetarian Vietnamese can be a stroke of luck, the Mexican around the corner perhaps not necessarily. There’s a lot going on in young Amsterdam. Where yesterday an Indian filled his Tandoori oven, tomorrow it could already be a bistro. Go after your nose – sooner or later it will lead you to one of the many Indonesian restaurants whose scent hangs over many streets. Order a “rijsttafel” (rice table) with one hundred different dishes. There’s something for everyone – and that’s basically the culinary motto for Amsterdam food.
But let’s get started: Goedemorgen in Amsterdam! If not in a hotel, you can start the day at any corner of the city centre. A renowned address is the “Café Americain” in the Amsterdam American Hotel, right behind the Leidseplein (Leidsekade 97). It is old style and reminds one a little of Viennese coffee houses.
The “Singel 404”, again – the name is the address – is located near the Spui, the popular place in the city centre, and offers a nice view of the canal. Students and locals who come in and out of the canal also enjoy the large selection of delicious sandwiches (open from 10.30 a.m.). And, of course, they swear by their national coffee: the “upside down coffee” (Koffie verkeerd) – the Dutch counterpart to latte. What many may no longer have on their radar: In the Golden Age, Amsterdam was the most important trading port for tea and coffee in Europe. Perhaps this is where the Dutch love of coffee comes from. However, visitors to Amsterdam quickly learn the difference between coffee shops (bars where soft drugs like marijuana are sold) and cafés: brown pubs and taverns serving drinks and simple dishes (see below). And to be on the safe side, you should visit one of the beautiful old Grand Cafés, most of which are located in historic buildings.
A little later perhaps a Dutch snack is the right thing – for example with a borrowed bicycle, the “Fiets”, almost food on wheels. Of course, the thick Dutch fries or the croquettes have a tradition – you can, but you don’t have to. A typical speciality is also raw herring and fresh matjes. Stalls and shops selling fish can be found on almost every corner in Amsterdam city.
Typical of Netherland cuisine also are bitter balls – crispy fried meat ragout balls, which are also available in almost all pubs. And: Stamppot, a truly traditional example of Dutch cooking. It literally means ‘mashed pot’, and in a Stamppot you will find mashed potatoes, which are mixed with other vegetables such as cabbage, sauerkraut, carrots, onions or spinach and often served with a brown sauce and sausage or a minced meat ball.
If you want to try something really sweet, use stroop wafers (syrup wafers, photo): two thin wafers held together by a layer of delicious caramel syrup. Stroop wafers taste best warm and freshly baked at a street market. Pofertjes are delicious mini pancakes with a little icing sugar on top. These pancakes are available at the “Pannenkoekenhuis”, but also at street stalls.
Business lunch under the stars
If you’re still in business or if you’re back, the clear lines and the lack of frills in “Johannes” could be the right thing for you. In 2016, Roderik Goores took over as head chef. He used to do the cooking in the (still excellent) restaurant “La Rive” and gives his dishes the unique flair of French and Southern European cuisine. The menu is updated every month and you can find original dishes with matching wines.
Or try a new interpretation of traditional Dutch cuisine – this is what Chef Luc Kusters conjures up in “Bolenius“. The Michelin-starred restaurant in George Gershwinlaan offers a fine two-course menu for the perfect business lunch and a five-stage menu for an extensive dinner.
Englishman Christopher Naylor is the chef at the recently reopened Vermeer restaurant in the NH Collection Amsterdam Barbizon Palace. Albert Roux’s student has been a brilliant chef there for over ten years. He was awarded a Michélin star in 2011 and prefers to cook with seasonal products, especially vegetables, some of which he fetches directly from the hotel’s roof garden. The best quality has absolute priority here, so the menu has recently been somewhat reduced to bring the subtleties of the dishes to perfection.
Jacob Jan Boerma, who has already been awarded three Michelin stars as chef of the restaurant “De Leest” in Vaassen, took over the gastronomic management of the NH Collection Amsterdam Hotel Krasnapolsky a few years ago. Whether for a relaxed lunch or dinner, the “Grand Café Krasnapolsky” offers a unique culinary experience with a view of Dam all day long. At the beginning of 2016 his new restaurant “The White Room” (a Michelin star) opened in the hotel. The name says it all, everything here shines in white, garnished with gold, under the high ceiling, which is supported by enormous columns. Jacob Jan Boerma is cooking here in the tradition of French cuisine and prefers to work with regional products (photo). A good tip is also the spacious hotel bar “The Tailor” with its cool chic and a great view of the events at Dam.
And if you like fashionable style while eating, you should reserve a table in the restaurant with the apt name “Fashion’s” opposite the Amsterdam’s World Fashion Centre. This is where couture meets French cuisine. The food is just as chic as the fashionable artworks on the walls and the marble catwalk entrance. Classic dishes such as French onion soup are served, as well as unusual culinary creations such as tandoori tuna. If you don’t have much time for lunch, you can also find sandwiches and salads on the menu. Tip: Make sure to reserve before the business talk, e.g. at www.couverts.nl
Politically correct “brown pubs
The many beautiful old pubs or the simple neighbourhood bar on the corner “remain”: “brown pubs” play an important role in city life. They owe their name to their mostly dark wooden furnishings, which have turned brown from cigarette smoke. Guests here read their newspapers over a cup of coffee or drink a beer with friends after work – the “brown pub” is a kind of second home for many Amsterdamers. Each one has its own character and therefore often its own audience. Several brown pubs claim to be the oldest in Amsterdam. What is certain is that the history of these establishments actually goes back to the 17th century.
- Café Karpershoek (Martelaarsgracht 2) (photo): Here the floor is still covered with sand, as was usual in the 17th century.
- In ‘t Aepjen (Zeedijk): It is located in one of the oldest buildings of the city from 14th century.
- Café De Druif (Rapenburgerplein 83): Since 1631 you can have a glass or two in the “Traube”.
- Café Papeneiland (Prinsengracht 2): It is said that at the beginning of the 17th century a coffin manufacturer and a funeral director stood behind the counter here.
- Café In de Wildeman (Kolksteeg 3): This bar was ranked among the top 10 most popular bars and pubs in the Netherlands.
- Café ’t Smalle (Egelantiersgracht 12): This is where Pieter Hoppe started his Genever distillery in 1786.
- Café De Dokter (Rozenboomsteeg 4): This bar is less than 18 square metres and is probably the smallest pub in Amsterdam.
Michael Möser …
likes to relax. Amsterdam hits the right spot as he watches the colourful hustle and bustle between the canals, reading the newspaper and having his “Koffie verkeerd”. He discovers not only strange people, but sometimes also suspicious restaurants.