De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam
The Cutest Place to Eat
It’s in the lowest part in the city of Amsterdam (I’m talking below sea level here) that you’ll find De Vergulden Eeenhorn (The Gilded Unicorn) restaurant, but don’t let that worry you, there’s no danger of getting your feet wet unless you decide to jump into the nearby canal. Which, when you see it, illustrates perfectly just how below sea level you are because the water is a good few meters above your head. It’s hard to explain, it’s weird Dutch thing, the water being above you and I don’t mean in a viaduct or anything. Anyway, I’m not writing about water, I’m writing about food.
The whole area where the restaurant is situated is reclaimed land, it used to be a lake, a long long time ago, but the Dutch drained it to extend their city. Sorry, I’m back on the subject of water again, but it is an obsession in the Netherlands and it can be difficult to tell a story without mentioning it.
De Vergulden Eenhorn is beautiful, I don’t think anybody would argue that point. It’s an old farm house, complete its original outbuildings and dates back to 1702. It looks a bit out of place, smack bang in the middle of some social housing and a modern residential development. Not what you would expect, but if you want to get the best out of Amsterdam, you have to keep an open mind, stop following all the tourists around the centre and expect the unexpected.
The building has ‘rijksmonument’ status which means it is protected.
The interior is large, but warm and welcoming, the décor has been cleverly chosen to give a very contemporary feel but with a nod to the building’s original use. The extensive garden is planted with beautiful wild flowers and there’s plenty of room for eating outside or you can lounge in the picnic area in one of the deckchairs.
The food at De Vergulden Eenhorn is pure, they pride themselves on making everything on the premises including the delicious and refreshing juices and lemonades. The Vergulden Eenhorn is a great example of one of, in my opinion, the best food trends to emerge in recent years – going back to basics. Nothing fancy or technical, just good ingredients, produced locally, maybe even organically and sing with flavour. The chefs are confident and skilled enough to bring out the best in the simple flavours and let the ingredients do the work.
I really enjoyed my gado gado salad with chicken (you could have it without chicken too, for a lighter or vegetarian version of the dish). Gado gado is an Indonesian speciality, which, in its essence is basically a salad made up often of beans, beansprouts, cucumber, cabbage, tempeh and eggs. The ingredients can vary but there is one thing that is essential to a gado gado and that’s the peanut sauce – and it has to be a good one. The salad at De Vergulden Eenhorn didn’t contain all the traditional elements, they created their own version and the peanut sauce was swapped for a fantastic peanut dressing – which, I am still trying to recreate at home.
The mackerel salad was a classic. Not many places have mackerel on their menu, it has fallen out of favour for some reason, but if you’ve never tried it I urge you to do so, it’s super tasty and is one of our most sustainable fish here in northern Europe. De Vergulden Eenhorn’s version was expertly combined with horseradish dressing which set off the rich fish flavour perfectly.
This restaurant is local to me, it’s about 10 minutes walk from my front door, but I specifically waited to try it out, it’s been open since 2015 but I’ve only recently started going. Why? Well, it’s a personal idiosyncrasy I suppose, but there is method in my madness. So many restaurants open and close in this town, so quickly you can hardly keep up, so, I like to give them time to get established, sort themselves out and be around long enough that I can take them seriously, because I want to be able to feel comfortable in the tips I give to readers and clients, I want to recommend quality.
I am now very happy to recommend De Vergulden Eenhorn to you, I know you’ll enjoy the surroundings, the atmosphere, the service and the food. But, don’t tell everybody, I want to keep this just between us, for a little while longer anyway.
One more thing, they have plans to offer accommodation, but are awaiting permission – so watch this space.