Coming together in Amsterdam
Exciting twists on old techniques make dining in Amsterdam a novel experience.
Eat With hosts Martine and Olav
If I’d booked dinner in a Japanese puffer fish restaurant, I’d expect to be congratulated on my bravery… but I hadn’t. I’d simply reserved a place at an ‘Eat With’ meal in Amsterdam. Yes, I was going to sit down to dinner with hosts I didn’t know, along with guests I didn’t know either, but I was surprised when a few friends said they wouldn’t have the courage to try it. In fact, since the concept was launched in 2012, thousands of happy ‘Eat With’ diners testify that the formula works: enjoying an excellent meal with interesting new acquaintances makes for a great evening.
The online booking form for Amsterdam gave me 16 options; I went for ‘bistro dinner on an Amsterdam canal’. It proved to be a fine choice. Martine and Olav, the hosts, had run a popular French restaurant in Amsterdam for years. Olav still organises walking tours of Amsterdam. Together they are charming hosts with the knack of drawing people together.
On the night, seated around the dining room in our hosts’ art-filled home, we were presented with four truly delectable courses — appetiser, starter, main course, dessert – each varied according to individual preferences (two guests were vegetarians, another on a gluten-free diet). Each course was matched with wines chosen and introduced by Olav. Fellow guests included a young business couple who live in Amsterdam, the young woman’s parents from England and a charming well-travelled couple from rural USA. It was like attending an old-fashioned dinner party.Conversation flowed, there were lots of laughs and a sharing out of sightseeing tips. We lingered for almost three hours. It seemed extraordinary value for €58.
Details at eatwith.com
The following evening, acting on a suggestion from one of my eat-with dinner partners, a friend and I had a meal at De Struisvogel (The Ostrich). We walked right past this unassuming restaurant before realising it was down a steep flight of stairs in a basement. Once you negotiate the stairs you find yourself in a cosy and welcoming room; the atmosphere is friendly and relaxed and the food is simply great.
A three-course menu was €29.50 and there were plenty of choices. My companion had the old-fashioned soup of the day, followed by wild venison steak and then barely managed the delectable warm apple tart. I enjoyed a green salad followed by baked codfish fillet, and followed that with the rich chocolate tart. House wine was excellent. The Struisvogel is right on the canal at Keizersgracht 312 at the corner with Berenstraat. Open Sunday to Friday from 17.30 ’til close’, Saturday 13.00 to 16.00 and again from 17.30. Details and book at: restaurantdestruisvogel.nl
3 to try
Comfort food from your home away from home
Stamppot, mashed potato and kale. This is a famous Dutch comfort food. So are sausage and beef stew. One way to sample them all is to have a meal at Moeders, a quirky restaurant famous for home-style cooking. Order the Dutch Ricedish for a tasting of several Dutch specialities all on one plate. Or order only what strikes your fancy. It will be served up on its own in generous fashion. Moeder means Mothers in Dutch; photos of customers’ mothers cover the walls. The mismatched crockery dates from opening night some 30 years ago, when customers brought their own dinnerware and ‘donated’ it. Moeders, at Rosengracht 251, is open every day from 17.00 to midnight and on weekends from noon. Noisy and crowded, book ahead or come early.
Sample the Dutch take on the classic pancake
Pannenkoeken, a Dutch pancake. They are thinner than American pancakes, almost but not quite as thin as the French model. Very large, sometimes a foot across, they are made of flour, milk, salt and eggs. Plain ones may be served with syrup, appelstroop (an unspiced apple butter) or powdered sugar. Pancake houses compete to offer a wide variety of options, sweet and savoury, including cheese, oregano and salami for a pizza-pannenkoek. Pancakes are served warm and can be rolled up and eaten in the fingers or with a knife and fork. Amsterdam has a number of pancake houses where you can sample this treat, either as part of a meal or as a meal in itself. They are informal family style places. The website of a popular chain of pancake houses is
If it’s gouda enough for half the world…
Gouda, a Dutch cheese. Named after the city of Gouda, this popular cheese accounts for half of the world’s cheese consumption. A semi-hard cheese with a rich flavour and smooth texture, Gouda is typically made from pasteurised cow’s milk, although sheep’s or goat’s milk is sometimes used. There are seven different types of Gouda cheese, categorised depending on age. Enjoy a tasting in the Reypenaer Dutch cheese tasting room, an atmospheric classroom in the cellar of the 17th-Century townhouse where the Reypenaer Cheese showroom is located; evaluate six different sorts of Dutch cheese with a glass of wine or port under the guidance of an expert cheese taster. Tasting lasts one hour and costs €17.50.
For times and to book a place, https://bit.ly/ET-AMS-cheese