Tag Archives: Amsterdam Restaurant

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

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.

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

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.

VerguldenEenhorn11

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.

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

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.

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

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.

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

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.

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

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.

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

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.

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

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.

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

De Vergulden Eenhoorn Restaurant Amsterdam

Restaurant ‘La Vallade’ Amsterdam

Restaurant 'La Vallade' Amsterdam

Restaurant ‘La Vallade’ Amsterdam:

In 2017 I’ll have lived in Amsterdam for 20 years, 20 years!  And in the last couple I’ve noticed a pattern developing in my preferences for eating out.  I’ve been going back more and more often to the restaurants I discovered in my first years here.

Maybe it should worry me that I don’t feel the need to jump on every new eaterie that opens its doors, maybe I should be concerned I’m not the first to get out my smart phone and start snapping shots of it to plaster over social media, but, if I’m honest, that really isn’t my style.  After all there’s plenty of people talking (if only briefly) about the latest flash in the pan trendy place where style (and sometimes not even that) takes preference over substance, or the newest most tasteless must eat of the moment.  When it comes to food I prefer places that have earned their stripes.  Restaurants who do what they do well, cooks who care and understand good food and good eating.  And that’s probably why I go back to the same places again and again.  I go for quality and I want to enjoy my food.  This doesn’t mean that I have to go fine dining, in fact I’d rather not, I much prefer a more informal setting.

La Vallade epitomizes ‘my’ type of restaurant.  As the name suggests, the style is French, I’d say bistro, and it has a fixed menu. When you walk in you could be forgiven for thinking that the cosy little place has been plucked straight out of a French village with its quirky décor and warm atmosphere.  The 5 course menu costs 35,50 Euro and is prepared from fresh seasonal ingredients.  The chefs work on a rota, each day or two it’s somebody else’s turn, but they cook the same menu and I can honestly say of all the times I’ve been here, I’ve never had a bad experience, or even a mediocre one, it has been consistently very good.   Every Monday the menu is vegetarian, which as a meat eater I can confirm is just as delicious for a carnivore as a vegetarian.

I know a fixed menu isn’t for everyone, but I really love leaving the food choice to the chef.  You see, when people know you cook they tend to either stop inviting you to dinner or they get so stressed cooking for you that nobody enjoys the evening.  I wish they would just make something they love to eat and not get all tied up in new recipes with complicated techniques and unfamiliar ingredients, I don’t think I’m a food snob and enjoy nothing more than being cooked for.  Anyway, that’s one of the reasons I love La Vallade, I don’t need to decide on what to eat, I don’t need to decide on what to cook and I don’t even need to choose from a menu, so there’s no dilemma’s about what I might enjoy more or regrets when I see a fellow diner’s plate.

The menu changes regularly and with the season, but on my last visit this is how it went.

The Menu

Squid with Black Squid Ink Risotto and Seafood Bisque Sauce:  This was technically perfect.  The risotto was oozy and the squid was tender, the sauce sublime, everything seasoned exactly right.

Restaurant 'La Vallade' Amsterdam

Seasonal Salad:  A simple fresh salad with a light vinaigrette is exactly what you need to prepare you for the main event.  Sorry I don’t have a photo, but I got a bit greedy and ate it before I remembered to take a shot.

Roast Guinea Fowl with Dauphinoise Potatoes, Wild Spinach and Port Sauce:  The bird was tender and succulent, the potatoes creamy but light, the spinach gave freshness and the sauce gave a deep background note which brought the whole dish together.  I can’t tell you how impressed I was with this chef’s ability to bring out flavour.

Restaurant 'La Vallade' Amsterdam

The Cheese Course:  This has to be what I love the most about a French restaurant.  The always serve cheese.  No matter how simple the place is, no matter the price range, there will always be cheese, how civilised is that?   What was it Brillat de Savarin said?  ‘A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with only one eye’.   This cheese board was simple, with a couple of Dutch cheeses and a couple of French.  It didn’t follow the standard pattern (white, red, blue bacteria, goat/sheep and hard cheese) but the combination worked really well and it was served at room temperature (in my opinion the mark of a bad restaurant is to serve chilled cheese) and the brie was perfectly ripe.

Restaurant 'La Vallade' Amsterdam

Madeline with Rhubarb compote, Vanilla Mascarpone and Toffee Sauce:  The elements of this dessert were made very well, but the toffee sauce clashed a bit with the rest of the flavours.  I wouldn’t say it was bad by any means, in fact, I’m probably being very picky because I’d been so spoilt by the previous courses.

Restaurant 'La Vallade' Amsterdam

La Vallade,
Ringdijk 23,
1097 AB Amsterdam

Amsterdam Private Food Tours

If this has made you hungry for more, why not book one of my Private Amsterdam Food Tours?  Just you and your own party with some of the very best food the city has to offer.

Hoftuin Restaurant Amsterdam

Hoftuin Restaurant Amsterdam: 

Social responsibility at its most delicious!

I used to think that the Hoftuin restaurant was part of the Hermitage museum because it’s directly behind it in what I also thought was the Hermitage’s grounds.  I found out recently I was wrong on both counts.

Hoftuin Restaurant Amsterdam

What I didn’t notice or didn’t think about was the actual location which is in the garden area of an organisation connected to the Protestant church.  I knew that they had buildings there ‘hofjes’  which are houses or apartments let out to people who are members of the church or who are willing to abide by their regulations.  I know that sounds really strict, but it’s because they don’t want people to ruin their buildings or cause problems for neighbours.  The ‘rules’ for these places are normally based around social behaviour rather than linked to the religion or the church.

Hoftuin Restaurant Amsterdam

So, as it turns out the ‘Hoftuin’ restaurant is an initiative of this group.  Their idea is to help the more vulnerable people in our society and have lots of projects to help the homeless, illegal immigrants, refugees or people who are, for whatever reason struggling with life and in this case do so by employing  them in the kitchen.  As much as I admire this initiative, it goes without saying though, I wouldn’t be writing about them if I didn’t enjoy their food.

Hoftuin Restaurant Amsterdam

They serve simple fresh fare, some of it from their own garden, so the menu is seasonal and mostly vegetarian.  What they don’t produce themselves they buy from local producers who use fair-trade products and sustainable production methods – there’s no coca cola here!  I always have their hearty sandwich with hummus and marinated Portobello mushroom with peppery radishes.  It’s delicious and probably the reason I’ve hardly tried anything else on the menu.  Although I only hear positive noises from fellow diners.  And, I can tell you the fries are crisp and fluffy – perfect.

Hoftuin Restaurant Amsterdam

The location is fantastic.  In a garden set back off the street and behind the Hermitage museum.  The building is modern, light and airy with a funky edge – you can sit here or on a sunnier day you might prefer outside on the terrace.  It’s like a little oasis in the centre of Amsterdam that only locals and museum visitors seem to find.  I’m keeping it in the back of my mind should I ever organise a party, it’d be perfect.  Search it out if you’re in the neighbourhood, even if you only have time for a coffee – it’s worth it.

Hoftuin Restaurant Amsterdam

Carels Restaurant Amsterdam

Carels Restuarant Amsterdam

Carels Restaurant Amsterdam:

A few months back I started to hear excited rumblings from all foodie corners of the city  ‘Carels is coming back!’ They said.  At first I didn’t want to show my ignorance so I just nodded and said ‘hmmm’.  After a bit of research I understood what all the anticipatory fuss was about.

It turns out that Carels Café Restaurant was an institution in ‘De Pijp’ in Amsterdam.  A traditional, classic Amsterdam brasserie and drinking spot that was always full, always ‘gezellig’ (fun, comfortable, cozy), and the food was always good.  The menu was small and hardly ever changed.  Another good sign was it had many many regular guests, loyal for years.  Then, almost 30 years ago, it closed.  I haven’t been able to find out why, could have just been one of those things, but this is Amsterdam, this is the hospitality industry in Amsterdam, so you never really know.

Carels Restaurant Amsterdam

The restaurant, under new ownership has been resurrected.  They opened their doors at the end of last year.  The concept has been updated, but not, (thank you, thank you!) to be a copycat of so many new eateries in the city.  They have kept the best bits of Amsterdam brasseries (or as they are called here ‘eetcafes’).  And that is: small menu: no pretentions: good quality meat, especially steaks: fresh fish: seasonal daily specials: beautiful bar area.

When I first came to Amsterdam this style of restaurant wasn’t hard to find, but now, they are becoming fewer and further between.  Being replaced, at a rate of knots, with soulless, mediocre restaurants (think American style burgers and lobster, smoothies, juice and yogurt bars) each one cheaper and nastier than the last.

Standing outside Carels I felt my spirits lift.  My heart sang at the sight of all that wood and those big windows.   The interior is, in my opinion, beautiful.  Classic, modern, Amsterdam.  The greeting is friendly and not overly formal.  Professional.  The staff know what they should be doing and they know the menu.  There is an area like a sort of conservatory, glass covered and that joins on to the bar.  I came to eat, but I realised that you could easily just have drinks here – they have a great snack menu too, and they are open for lunch.

This is what I chose:

Spumante ‘Il Grigio: €7,00 per glass:  I know, I can’t help myself.  After going on about all that traditional Amsterdam stuff and I go and order some Italian fizz.  Ok, but it was good.

Carels Restaurant Amsteram

A glass of house wine, red, Domeine Mont d’Hordes, grenache/shiraz €4,50: Perfect with my steak.

Confit farmhouse chicken with winter salad: €9,50:  Tender, sweet and flavoursome chicken that melted in the mouth with a crunchy, simple winter salad.

Carels Restaurant Amsterdam

Steak with Fries and Salad: €23,50:  This was the meat dish of the day.  I ordered it medium rare and it was perfectly cooked.  Served with some Jerusalem artichokes which was a great match.  Fries served of course with lashings of mayonnaise, Dutch style, and the salad was simple, crispy and fresh.  The sauce with the steak, a gravy was sweet and had great depth of flavour.

Carels Restuarant Amsterdam

Cheese Board: €11,00: As well as being one of my favourite ways to end a meal, ordering a cheeseboard is always a bit of a gamble.  I don’t do it everywhere.  The reason?  Well, as simple as it seems, most restaurants get it horribly wrong.  But here I had no reservations about asking for it.  I enjoyed the meal and the service so much that I knew everything would be ok.  And of course, it was.  Cheese served at room temperature, just the right side of ripe and classic flavour and cheese type combinations.

Carels Restaurant Amsterdam

Carels
Frans Halsstraat 76, 1072 BV Amsterdam
+31 (0)20 – 73 72 479

 

 

Thuis aan de Amstel – a home from home

 

Thuis aan de Amstel

Thuis aan de Amstel

‘At Home on the Amstel’, that’s what the name means.

The area where Thuis aan de Amstel is situated has a new name, the ‘Amstelkwartier’, and is in the rather rapid process of getting a new look.  Thuis aan de Amstel is in the middle of all this re-development in what used to be where the old gasworks was.  Most of the area has been flattened and is already being covered in new hotels and apartments.  All except a couple of buildings with (luckily) ‘monument’ status.  This means that they can’t be knocked down, in fact, they can’t be altered much at all, because of their distinct style or historical importance.  The building which has been known as ‘Thuis aan de Amstel’ since 2013 was the home of the directors of the gasworks and their families up until the 1960’s.

Thuis aan de Amstel

 

Needless to say the building is fantastic, still more or less in its original style (built between 1907 and 1913).  It’s open for breakfast through lunch, evening drinks and dinner.  Upstairs you’ll find rooms that have been set up as unique, quirky conference spaces where you can have meetings or workshops.  They use the building to display artists’ work and have live jazz music on Sunday afternoons.

Thuis aan de Amstel

The food always seems to be exactly what I’m looking for.  Lots of hearty salads and soups, pasta’s risotto’s as well as fish, meat and creative vegetarian options.  There are plenty of sandwiches, and you really must try the home baking.

Thuis aan de Amstel

The food, like the atmosphere is authentic, pure and honest.  Simple flavours that have been treated with care and speak for themselves – nothing fussy, just tasty.  They always hit the season on the head too.  Now, winter time, there are still lots of my favourite salads but with roast winter vegetables and berries.  And I’ve enjoyed their pea soup more than a few times – a Dutch winter classic slow cooked and nutritious, just what you need to set yourself up for a walk along a frosty Amstel river or to warm you after a bracing cycle.  In summer the glass doors at the front of the house are open and the terrace is in full use by cyclists, walkers, locals, rowers.

Thuis aan de Amstel

The food is as sunny as the garden terrace overlooking the river.  And, the garden isn’t just there for show – it’s been put to good use.  They grow lots of herbs and some vegetables which are of course used in their dishes.

Thuis aan de Amstel

There’s something really special about this place.  I think it must be a combination of the building, the location, the food, the atmosphere and the staff.  I can so easily sit there for hours, alone or with company.  It’s such an easy and pleasant place to be, to eat, to enjoy, to drink.  They couldn’t have chosen a more perfect name because it is indeed exactly like being ‘At Home on the Amstel.’

Thuis aan de Amstel