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Dec 162014
 December 16, 2014  Amsterdam food guide 7 Responses »

Bar Mick (Dutch eetcafe) 4 Star Rating
Spaarndammerstraat 53 (Westerpark), 020 370 2273, website

Cafe de Klepel (French) 5 Star Rating
Prinsenstraat 22 (Jordaan), 020 623 8244, website

Hugo's Bar & Kitchen (European) 5 Star Rating
Hugo de Grootplein 10 (Westerpark), 020 751 6633, website Book now

Jacketz (International) 5 Star Rating
Kinkerstraat 56 (Oud-West), 020 774 0640, website

Jun (Indonesian) 4 Star Rating
Frederik Hendrikstraat 98 (Westerpark), 020 785 9185, website Book now

Little Saigon (Asian) 5 Star Rating
Zeedijk 88-90 (Nieuwmarkt), 020 737 2491, website

Omelegg (Lunch and brunch) 4 Star Rating
Ferdinand Bolstraat 143 (De Pijp), 020 370 1134, website

Salsa Shop (Mexican) 5 Star Rating
Amstelstraat 32-A (Rembrandtplein), , website

Smokin Barrels (American) 5 Star Rating
Beukenplein 22 (Oost/Watergraafsmeer), 020 693 3555, website

Trela Plein (Lunch and brunch) 5 Star Rating
Spaarndammerstraat 55 (Westerpark), 06 26300123, website

Yummie (Asian) 4 Star Rating
Spaarndammerstraat 35 (Westerpark), 020 330 3985, website

I don’t know what you other Amsterdammers think, but I reckon it’s been a great year for food in Amsterdam… We’ve seen the opening of the Foodhallen – literally one of THE highlights of my year, foodie or otherwise. Tonnes of new Vietnamese restaurants and hole-in-the-walls have been popping up; my own neighbourhood (the Spaarndammerbuurt) has had an epic year in terms of new restaurants and bars launching; and we’ve seen every food trend from burgers to tacos to jacket potatoes making their mark on the city’s culinary scene. Amsterdam, you have outdone yourself!

My Top 10 Amsterdam Restaurants for 2014*

*Actually there are 11 because these are made up of all of my Restaurants of the Month for the past year… which would make 12, apart from the fact that I forgot to pick a new restaurant in February! Also worth noting: a few of these restaurants opened in 2013, but I didn’t get around to trying them until 2014. The order below is based on the dates I reviewed them – they’re not ranked as there’s no way I could pick a favourite, and a second favourite, and a third favourite… or even a least favourite, for that matter.

1. Hugo’s Bar & Kitchen

I’ve been back to Hugo’s a few times since it opened in November 2013 – sometimes for the cocktails (I still ask for the Hugo the Great, even though it’s not on the menu anymore); sometimes for the chocolate dessert (they coat a whisk in chocolate sauce and invite you to lick it off – it’s almost indecent); and sometimes for a full-blown three courses. Every time, it’s been creative, decadent yet affordable, and (above all) delicious.

Read my full review of Hugo’s

Bar Mick Amsterdam burger

Bar Mick’s “Big Mick” burger

2. Bar Mick

The Spaarndammerbuurt’s Bar Mick has become my local over the past year. I’ve celebrated successes, drowned sorrows, started business plans and put the world to rights at that bar, and I love it a little more every time I order my usual Ciney beer and a hapje. The bar’s frontman, Dick, has a smile for every customer, and works harder than most other Amsterdam bar staff put together. So much so that he prompted my Dutch neighbours to ask me: “Don’t you find him just a bit too friendly – like he’s trying so hard all the time?” Errm, no, Dutch neighbours – that’s what the rest of the world calls customer service. (Dick – don’t listen to ‘em!)

Read my full review of Bar Mick

3. Omelegg

I have had an endless battle with the poor excuses for omelettes I’m frequently served in Amsterdam (thin, dry egg pancakes rolled up with cold stuff in the middle), but then along came Omelegg and changed everything. Basically, Omelegg just knows how to make an omelette – that’s all you need to know.

Read my full review of Omelegg

Omelegg Amsterdam

Omelegg knows how to make a proper omelette…

4. Jun

While there are many Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, you don’t see many new ones spring up nowadays. So I was happy to see Jun making a name for itself just off the Hugo de Grootplein. It’s not as cheap as some of its competitors, but the food is good quality (especially the soups) and the owner is lovely – if you like it spicier, just ask him!

Read my full review of Jun

5. Café de Klepel

Café de Klepel has been around for a while, but I only discovered this gem of a Jordaanese restaurant on my birthday this year. It serves classic French/Dutch dishes, great cheeses and organic wines, and the service is professional, too. Take your parents, take a date, take a colleague – it’s a great spot for any occasion.

Read my full review of Café de Klepel

Little Saigon Amsterdam spring rolls

Spring rolls from Little Saigon

6. Little Saigon

Vietnamese food has been trending like crazy in Amsterdam in 2014, and nowhere has been doing it better than Little Saigon. A cheap and cheerful little café on the Zeedijk, it serves hearty banh mi and pho, plus fresh spring rolls and a host of tasty (non-alcoholic!) Asian drinks. A great option if you’re out shopping in town and looking for an affordable lunch spot.

Read my full review of Little Saigon

7. Trela Plein

Another new Spaarndammerbuurt favourite, Trela Plein seems to be home to the entire Greek population of Amsterdam every Sunday. And for good reason: Alexandros and Giannis are dealing in the best line of bougatsa you’ll taste outside of Athens. Try the spinach and feta, or the beef and onion, or even the vanilla custard… perfect brunch fare.

Read my full review of Trela Plein

Salsa Shop Amsterdam - tacos

My somewhat over-filled (my fault) tacos from Salsa Shop

8. Salsa Shop

Tacos have also been taking off this year, and newcomer Salsa Shop is proof that a fixed venue serving tacos, burritos and not a lot else can work. These guys operate a production line of fabulously fresh fillings, including meat, veggies, cheese, guacamole, sour cream and salsas, which you can mix ‘n match yourself. Most of the salsas (I discovered) are supplied by Best Coast Taqueria. So now you’re supporting two local taco businesses in one fell swoop – hurrah!

Read my full review of Salsa Shop

9. Yummie

Yummie recently moved from the Haarlemmerdijk to the Spaarndammerstraat, and I’d venture to say its sushi got better in those 500 metres. It’s always been tough to find good sushi in Amsterdam (and the search will no doubt continue in 2015), but the Yummie team are doing a good job at a reasonable price. And you can’t say fairer than that.

Read my full review of Yummie

Yummie sushi - Amsterdam restaurant

Sushi that literally is yummie

10. Smokin Barrels

Arguably my most exciting find of 2014, Smokin Barrels sells affordable lobster, posh burgers, mean G&Ts and great beer… And what’s more, it all comes quickly and with a smile. I just love this place. That’s all.

Read my full review of Smokin Barrels

11. Jacketz

A little taste of England, Jacketz has been serving up (you’ve guessed it) stuffed jacket potatoes in Amsterdam’s Oud-West since the autumn. (Although they’ve been busy in Leiden for much longer.) Whether meat or veggie, cold or hot fillings, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as a jacket potato for lunch in the middle of a busy work day.

Read my full review of Jacketz

Smokin Barrels - Amsterdam - surf n turf

Surf ‘n turf at Smokin Barrels

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Dec 092014
 December 9, 2014  Amsterdam food guide No Responses »

I had an epiphany the other day: instead of replying individually to the hundreds of emails I get asking the same questions, I could just write a few posts answering those very questions. FAQ posts, if you will. This in the hope that either a) people will google their question and find the answer on my site before emailing me; or b) failing that, I’ll at least have a ready-made answer all set to send them. This is so bloomin’ common sense-ical I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. In fact, every other blogger worth their SEO salt has been doing it for years – so I guess it’s time to jump on the bandwagon?

Question: I’m coming to Amsterdam over the Christmas period – which restaurants are open on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (Tweede Kerstdag to some of you!)?

Answer: This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are a few of the swankier places I’ve heard are open via various newsletters and press releases I receive. And it’s Christmas – so you want to go swanky, right? Incidentally, I’ve not actually been to all these places – so I’m not recommending them (I’m not even reviewing them), I’m just telling you they’re open for business…

Restaurants open in Amsterdam for Christmas 2014


I’ve not eaten at Floor17 (although I know a man who has: check out Dutchified’s video) but I have had cocktails at Floor17’s bar. And one thing’s for certain: whatever you think of the food, the view (from 17 storeys high) is amazing. This year, chef Richard Matulessy has put together at 7-course Christmas menu for your delectation.

Conservatorium Hotel

I once had cocktails at the Conservatorium Hotel when I was reviewing it for the World’s Best Bars. The experience nearly bankrupted me (I didn’t get paid expenses), but if you’re feeling flush then chef Schilo van Coevorden has dreamt up a couple of Christmas options. Take your pick from Asian-inspired Taiko (think lobster sashimi and soy-glazed partridge) or keep it more traditional with pumpkin soup and beef wellington from the Conservatorium Brasserie

Bluespoon Restaurant Amsterdam

Bluespoon Restaurant – part of Amsterdam’s Andaz Hotel


Last year, I had a very nice dinner at Bluespoon, which is good news because the Andaz Hotel’s restaurant is serving up family-style Christmas brunches and dinners on 24, 25 and 26 December.


French meets modern Dutch at this popular high-end kitchen and dining room in de Pijp. Chef Jasper is serving a 6-course Christmas menu, including scallops, duck-liver pate and pork belly, while sommelier Tim can recommend a wine pairing to match.

Carter Bar & Kitchen

I’ve had literally no experience of Carter whatsoever, but Iens tells me they’re serving classic Christmas dishes with a modern twist: ravioli with smoked mozzarella, venison with sprouts, mackerel, oysters and chocolate desserts. At €42.50 per person, it’s the cheapest of the bunch, too.

De Palmboom

Beef, pumpkin soup and mackerel tartar are all on the menu on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at De Palmboom. The Boxing Day menu takes a similar format but courses are different (they still look seasonal and fairly meaty, however). I’ve never eaten at De Palmboom, but its central location looks handy for visitors to Amsterdam.


I’ve only eaten at Envy once and I was none too impressed with the diet-sized portions and sullen service, so I never went back. But that was a long time ago and they’re still going strong, so maybe they’ve improved. On Christmas Day and Boxing Day, they’re serving a five-course dinner, and on Boxing Day only (26th Dec) they’re serving lunch too.

Julius Bar & Grill

The grill specialists are serving a three-, four- or five-course menu, including jumbo prawns from their Big Green Egg BBQ (naturally) and roasted rib eye. You’ve got to hope the service will be quicker than when I ate at Julius, however, or you’ll be there till New Year’s…


Mazzo is keeping it Italian with a Christmas menu featuring antipasti to start and Panforte with Vin Santo sabayon for dessert (the main in the middle looks more traditional). On Boxing Day, they’re also serving an antipasti-led brunch, so it’ll be Buon Natale all round. I’ve eaten at Mazzo and it wasn’t a great experience (are you starting to see a theme in my opinion of these IQ Creative restaurants?) but it seems to be popular so what do I know?

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Dec 022014
 December 2, 2014  Food for thought No Responses »

No one knows how to pronounce it. Is it “foh”? Or is it “fuh”? Whichever way you choose to enunciate your vowels, one thing’s for sure: pho is bloomin’ delicious. Especially on a hangover. Or even on a Friday night, which is when I was invited to check out My’s Vietnamese cookery workshop at the Peter Pan Kookstudio in Amsterdam Noord. (Disclaimer alert: this is one of the few occasions I’ve been seduced into accepting a freebie! Hence I’m writing about it, but I’m not giving it a rating – there’s no such thing as total objectivity in these situations.)

My's Vietnamese cookery workshop - Amsterdam

Our teacher: My

After a round of Proseccos and an introduction by My, the class of 12 were divided into pairs and each given a dish to work on. Let me mention at this point that my cooking date for the evening was Shoshannah from Awesome Amsterdam, who – for those who’ve never met her – is an effervescent little saucepot of a 5-foot-nothing Calfornian. Things were always going to get feisty pretty quickly, and of course we were the first pair to pipe up with which dish we wanted to prepare. Opting not to fight over who would get to make the pho, we plumped for the Vietnamese roasted chicken.

Vietnamese cookery workshop Amsterdam

The ingredients for our Vietnamese dishes all ready to be prepped

Our drumsticks needed a marinade of soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, garlic and chilli, and our red onions needed chopping. But once that was done and we’d nosed around other people’s cooking stations to figure out what they were up to, the devil found work for idle hands, as it were. Needless to say, we’d raided the liquor tray within half an hour, and were busy improvising caipirinhas for the entire class shortly afterwards. (Being careful, of course, not to use the lime and mint that were reserved for the dishes. Hmm… sorry.)

Vietnamese chicken skewers-Amsterdam

The skewers (we totally failed to take a photo of our own dish!)

Slightly tipsy by this point, we fried off our chicken pieces and put them in the oven, along with some chicken and vegetable skewers that our classmates had made. Just before the end, I brushed the former with a delicious honey-vinegar combo – but it really was as quick and simple as that. Meanwhile, we attempted to help the others out by making a few spring rolls (there were two varieties: prawn and mango fresh rolls, and tofu-vege fried rolls) but I fear we may have been more hindrance than help.

Vietnamese spring rolls - Amsterdam

Fresh spring rolls – always a favourite

The piece de resistance, however, was the pho itself. Due to the length of time needed to boil the oxtail pieces and simmer the resulting stock with various toasted spices, the broth took the longest out of any of the dishes – but the result was worth the wait. We ate our pho with beef, noodles, beansprouts, herbs, chillies and (the crucial ingredient) plenty of fish sauce. But the great thing about pho is you can make it as hot, sour, salty or fragrant as your taste buds can bear.

Pho-Vietnamese cookery workshop-Amsterdam

The finished pho

Dinner was a veritable feast with five different dishes on offer, which made up for the fact that we only got to make one or two of them. At €56 per person, one thing I’d caution: go to eat, go to have fun, but don’t go expecting to come home having learned how to make multiple complex dishes. Yes, you’ll get the recipes afterwards, but time and space dictate that you won’t get involved in making everything yourself. Plus, the principle of the lowest common denominator means that experienced cooks may not feel challenged.

With these caveats, I’d highly recommend signing up to take one of these Vietnamese cookery workshops; My is a fun, personable teacher who clearly loves her native food. Plus, she didn’t get mad at us for drinking all the rum – bonus!

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Nov 262014
 November 26, 2014  Restaurant reviews 1 Response »

Jacketz (International) 5 Star Rating
Kinkerstraat 56 (Oud-West), 020 774 0640, website

There’s not a lot I miss about England – I was never much of a one for marmite or excessive politeness. But I do make an exception for jacket potatoes (or “stuffed potatoes” as I’ve been informed they’re known in the US, following blank looks from my American friends at the mention of the word “jacket” in relation to the humble tuber). When I lived in London, I can remember getting takeaway jacket potatoes with baked beans and cheese (my favourite combo) at lunchtime for just a few quid. I can’t even recall where we bought them from now – surely Pret a Manger and Eat don’t sell anything so calorific? But buy them we did – and just the thought of the jacket potato I was going to eat for lunch was enough to get me through the misery of the morning commute on the Tube.

Jacketz amsterdam restaurant

Inside Jacketz…

So it was with nostalgia as much as delight that I greeted the news of Jacketz: a new jacket potato shop that’s just popped up on the Kinkerstraat. I didn’t need to be told twice; as soon as I got the email, I was there for lunch the very next day with Scary French Lady.

The menu is the same kind of mix ‘n match concept they have at Salsa Shop: you choose your potato (either a half or a whole – and these bad boys weigh half a kilo each!), followed by your main filling, topped with various optional extras, and finished up with your choice of sauce. The potatoes themselves are fluffed up with salt, pepper, olive oil and crème fraîche – frankly, I could’ve eaten mine just like that.

Jacketz jacket potato amsterdam

Jacketz’ jacket: overflowing with porky, cheesy goodness

I went for a half-jacket (which is odd for me, I know, but look at the size of the thing!) filled with pulled pork in a so-called “whiskey maple sauce” (it tasted like homemade BBQ sauce, and I’m not complaining) topped with cheese. I opted out of any additional sauces because the BBQ effect seemed sufficient, but I could have added garlic, tartar, pepper or honey-mustard sauces, not to mention hummus or pesto. It’s hard to image which fillings some of these were supposed to go with, but perhaps I’m just not thinking out of the jacket-potato-shaped box. (Incidentally, they do takeaway jackets in boxes that fold out into handy potato-sized plates – genius.)

If you’re having trouble deciding, head over to the open kitchen where there are some suggested combinations listed on the wall. I was sad not to see my beloved baked beans and cheese, but then again I expect the humble jacket has modernised somewhat since the early 2000s. Think beetroot salad with goat’s cheese, salmon in herb-kwark, and chili con carne (ok, that last one sounds familiar). And all for an average of about €8 – it might not be as cheap as it was back in the day in England, but you can’t put a price on a taste of home.

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Nov 192014
 November 19, 2014  Restaurant reviews 4 Responses »

Dwars (Dutch) 3 Star Rating
Egelantiersstraat 24 (Jordaan), 020 625 5306, website Book now

Beer – once the preserve of old men in brown cafes – seems to be enjoying a bit of a revolution in Amsterdam at the moment. We probably have the hipsters to thank (or blame) for this, as microbreweries and craft beers seem to be something of a hipster movement – and since Amsterdam is full of them (hipsters, that is) it’s no real surprise that beers that you’ve never heard of before are suddenly on every menu. What’s more, there are beer tours springing up all over the place (check out Amsterdam Craft Beer Tours, for instance) and even beer workshops (Dutchie Amsterdam has two dates coming up this winter).

But there’s one restaurant that’s been dealing in beer a little longer: Dwars. Opened in early 2013, Dwars claims to specialise in Bourgondisch Limburg-style dining (i.e. the kind of bon vivant attitude to food and service you usually associate with the south of the Netherlands and our Belgian neighbours rather than with North Holland) as well as artisanal beers paired with each dish.

Naturally, we started with a beer aperitif of Gulpener Ur-Pilsner, which was surprisingly light and not too bubbly. The dinner menu itself didn’t take a lot of decision-making time, as there’s just one main course, a selection of three starters (or you can order all three if you fancy a five-course menu), and a simple cheese vs. dessert choice to be made at the end.

Dwars restaurant Amsterdam - pork belly piccalilli

Pork belly and giant piccalilli

I started with the pork belly (no surprises there) served with “piccalilli” – I put it in inverted commas because it was really a deconstructed version: lightly pickled vegetables in a thin sauce, rather than the jarred relish I’m used to from England. Still, the spice on the pork belly was good, and the veges crisp and subtly sour, so I wasn’t complaining.

The main was a combination of wild boar stew, venison fillet and a sort of trio of beetroot. It all tasted very organic and well made, but there was something that wasn’t quite singing to me… It wasn’t helped by the fact that none of it seemed all that hot, but it’s hard to put my finger on what was missing.

Dwars restaurant Amsterdam - wild game

Venison, wild boar and beetroot

Uncharacteristically, I opted for the sweet dessert rather than the cheese course – the former being best described as a sort of Dutch rice pudding. I wasn’t wholly convinced by it (the Dutch description included the word “pap” – which seemed about right), although I did like the stroopwaffel ice cream it was served with. I didn’t think the sugary square of puff pastry added much, but the caramel sauce was a welcome addition.

The Honey Badger got the cheese, however, and damned it as supermarket cheese as soon as we got home. I took his point: regular old Gouda and komijnekaas in plankjes aren’t restaurant cheese in my book, either, however organic they may be.

Dwars restaurant Amsterdam - dessert

Rijstpap, stroopwaffel ice cream and puff pastry

It’s at this stage that I have a confession to make: I drank wine. I know, I know – the whole point was to do the beer pairing thing! But my stomach just can’t take it: something about the volume of bubbles means there isn’t enough room for the food (or, at least, that’s what it feels like). Luckily for you, however, I was at dinner with a true beer drinker – one who doesn’t fall at the first hoppy hurdle. Dutchman Doorn – the handsome chappie who stars in this review of Smokin Barrels – is here to save the day:

“I had the Vuur en Vlam from De Molen with the starter. It went well but it wasn’t that special. With the main, I had the limited edition La Trappe. That pairing was way better. During the starter I thought of it as more of a gimmick (which I always thought a bit about beer pairing), but with the main they really complemented each other. Which is weird because compared to the food it was a reasonably mild/light beer. La Trappe tastes great by itself but was also perfect with the main because you get this sort of hearty stew versus fresh, cold beer. You’d expect the other beer they recommend to be a better fit (it was a Dubbelbock, and bock always goes great with game). You wouldn’t expect the La Trappe to work but it did.”

So there you have it: if you’ve got the stomach for it, Dwars is the place to go for beer pairing. As for me, I guess I’ll be sticking to the Pinot Noir…

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Nov 122014
 November 12, 2014  Restaurant reviews No Responses »

Oolong (Asian) 3 Star Rating
Ferdinand Bolstraat 13-15 (De Pijp), 020 663 3223, website

You know you’re heading inexorably towards middle age when you catch yourself staying in Monday through Thursday, and realize that most evenings at home with your partner involve eating dinner on the couch while watching the tele. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this – it’s just not a normality that I feel ready to embrace quite yet. So, last Wednesday evening, I initiated “Date Night”. The idea was that we’d meet out in the centre, go somewhere different, and have ourselves the kind of spontaneous evening that seems to be harder to come by these days.

We met in de Pijp at new(ish) dim sum and cocktail bar Oolong. The Honey Badger had arrived before me and, knowing his audience, had already ordered us a round of cocktails. One was the heavenly Oolong’s Tail, which was smooth from the Bourbon, spicy from the so-called “Oolong Mix Spices Liqueur”, tangy from the lime, and punchy with that old-fashioned hit at the end from the bitters. We tried other, fruitier drinks (the lychee-rich Li Na, for instance, and the berry-fresh Light of Wisdom) but none were nearly as appealing as the Oolong’s Tail. Save yourself a 10-minute decision-making process (it’s a long cocktail menu) and order it!

Oolong cocktails Amsterdam

The fabulous “Oolong’s Tail”

When we sat down for dinner, the dim sum menu was equally long, so we both opted for the €18 fixed dim sum selection so we could try a bit of everything the chef recommended without having to choose. The first offering was nothing too special: assorted deep-fried cigar-shaped rolls that looked like kaastengels and vlammetjes, containing various mixtures of prawns, cabbage and shiitake mushrooms. So far, so borrelhapjes.

Next came the steamed dim sum, which definitely got my preference. Ha gau and siu mai to kick off, followed by scallop dumplings, chicken dumplings and various others I lost track of. It’s worth noting at this point that when we first ordered the dim sum menu, the waiter told us that for some people it was enough food while for others not, and that if we wanted to supplement the menu we could order extra duck pancakes and garlic scallops, for example. Being the Amsterdam Foodie, I suspected that the menu was not going to be sufficient but I remember saying something along the lines of: “We’ll probably order extra but let’s see how we get on first”.

Oolong - dim sum - Amsterdam

The middle course of many dim sum…

So it was with some confusion, then, that a plate of duck pancakes arrived, followed by two garlic scallops… Both delicious, but were they part of the menu or were we paying extra? We waited for the bill to find out, and discovered that we’d been charged an additional €17 for two dishes we’d never agreed to order. We probably would’ve got the duck pancakes anyway, but knowing we had dessert to come, we were full at that point and would not have ordered the garlic scallops too.

Dinner – with all the extras plus two cocktails and a glass of wine apiece – came to around €110, which wasn’t outrageous given what we had, but probably shouldn’t become a Wednesday-night habit. Next time, however, I’d like to be asked before being “upsold”. All this being said, there will be a next time – if only for that Oolong’s Tail

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