As a Westerpark local, I seem to spend many a day and evening enjoying the perks that the park has to offer… And since the Westergasfabriek’s turnover of tenants provides an endless supply of new material, I’m writing a three-part series about the latest restaurants to have sprung up in the area. The first week, I reviewed “the good” (well, good-ish): Mossel & Gin. The following week, I revealed “the bad”: Pizza Pazzani. And this week, it’s time for the last in the series: InStock.
I love the concept of InStock. It takes its name from the idea that the kitchen cooks whatever’s “in stock” – literally. A little “food rescue” van drives around half a dozen Albert Heijn stores in the Amsterdam area, picking up food that would otherwise be wasted because it’s nearing its expiry date. The chefs then create a dinner menu every Friday and Saturday and a brunch menu every Sunday based on whatever’s available – with the obvious aim of reducing the huge food waste problem we have in the western world. And a commendable aim it is, too.
However, I don’t know if it’s the food or the chefs (and admittedly, all the staff are new to the business, so we should give them the benefit of the doubt), but there’s something just a bit school dinner-y about everything. Yellowing broccoli that’s been steamed and then roasted meets white sauce with not enough cheese. Harrira soup is good but under-seasoned. Meatloaf is fine but uninspired (although I loved the grape compote). Apple crumble is comfort food (but you see what I mean about the school dinner effect, right?). Rhubarb toasts with goat’s cheese would be good were it not for the fact that the only leftovers Albert Heijn had that day were those weird little crunchy canapé toasts. And cold melon soup has the slight fizz of over-ripe fruit.
Then again, all this could have been in my head. Because it’s difficult – especially living in the Netherlands and knowing that I’ve unwittingly been sold full-price products in the supermarket that reached their use-by date the next day – it’s difficult to conjure up an appetite for leftovers. My feeling is that in America (or even in the UK), where food is whisked off the shelves long before any self-respecting Dutch person would be happily eating it, this concept might work better. The food that’s wasted genuinely shouldn’t be. And nor should it be in the Netherlands, of course. But when I’ve seen yellow broccoli being sold in my local Albert Heijn, I dread to imagine the state it’s in by the time it ends up in InStock’s food rescue van. They’ve got a tough job, and one that will require a lot of creativity if they’re to elevate their meals above school dinners.
That being said, at €10 for two brunch dishes it’s hard to complain. Plus, the smoothies are decent (if you can get over that slight tang) and the staff have genuinely put their hearts and souls into what they’re trying to achieve. Their attempts to make cappuccino with leftover coffee creamer were disastrous, but they had the good grace to accept my feedback as constructive – and if you go back now, I trust you’ll have a better coffee experience. InStock has got some way to go, but I’m hopeful they’ll get there. Leave your experiences in the comments below, and I’ll be happy to give them a second chance in a few months’ time…Leave a comment...