When it comes to food, I’m a sharer. Or at any rate, when it comes to your food, I’m a sharer. One of the things the Honey Badger quickly learnt when we started dating was that whatever dish he ordered, he had to be prepared to lose half of it to me. Sometimes of course this would be pre-discussed: we’d order two things we both liked the sound of and then go halvsies. Other times, it might seem like we’d ordered separately, but if it turned out I didn’t actually like the dish/drink/ice cream/[insert anything edible] I’d ordered, and if his looked rather nicer, then I’d insist we were going to share all along. Some people may find this annoying. Luckily for them they don’t have to live with me.
Paskamer is Dutch for changing room, but the place is a sort of wine bar-cum-restaurant serving food that’s loosely French-Mediterranean. So who knows where the name comes from? Because they offer around 50 wines by the glass, you can pair a different one with each dish you order, or just plump for a bottle to split with your pals. I think we accidentally did both, which is probably why I ended up so drunk. Anyhoo… the food is almost perfectly designed for sharing: oysters on the half shell were silky and salty. Finely sliced pulpo (octopus) was smoky and ever-so-slightly spicy from the smoked paprika and chilli mayo on top. Yum. Sweet potato chips were suitably crispy on the outside yet comfortingly mushy on the inside, and nicely salted.
Less good were the rillettes, which were too finely pulled and a little too dry. I am a rillettes snob but I missed an (un)healthy whack of duck fat. Deconstructed panzanella was less nice than the regular (constructed?) version of this classic bread and tomato salad – it was heavy on acidity and missed the rustic thrown-togetherness of its predecessor. The jamón was good, but didn’t add much to the salad. These bum notes aside, Paskamer does a great job in providing a glorious range of hapjes that you can easily turn into a whole meal. Our server was also pretty knowledgeable about the wine, and happy for us to try before we bought. The customer service alone was reason enough to go back – but with that pulpo too… I might have to order a portion all to myself.
I’ve been banging on about Little Collins’ brunches since 2012. Whether you’re after corn fritters, kedgeree, eggs Florentine or a full English, there’s an international breakfast dish with your name on it. However, I only fairly recently discovered their dinner offering (they’re now open Wednesday-Sunday in the evening as well as the daytime) and – perhaps unsurprisingly – I was equally impressed. The menu is international, but heavily Asian-fusion led – think pork belly with kimchi, or cod with coconut milk and kaffir lime.
Dishes come out as and when they’re ready – hence why it makes sense to share rather than wait for your dining companion’s choice to arrive. We were advised to order 2-3 dishes per person, which is something I’ve heard dozens of times before and always err on the side of caution (i.e. by ordering 3-4 just for myself, because heaven forbid I’m not completely full by the end of dinner). However, portion sizes at Little Collins are significantly bigger than other restaurants with the same concept – we ended up ordering only five dishes between the three of us and it was plenty.
My favourite last Friday was a cauliflower number with freekeh, pine nuts and herbs. It doesn’t sound like much (or rather, it sounds more like an Ottolenghi dish I often make myself), but it was stand-out delicious. The pork and duck salad was also a winner, as was the cod with cockles. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a dish at Little Collins (at either brunch of dinnertime) that I didn’t love!
We were the first people to arrive at Americano Bar & Kitchen on a Friday night, and the barman looked somewhat surprised that we were there two hours before our reservation. Little did he know we’d pre-looked at the cocktail menu and figured we had quite a lot to get through… My favourite was one that sounded like (and tasted like!) a caprese salad. Odd as that comes across, basil, olive oil and black pepper make surprisingly good cocktail ingredients when paired with gin and a herbal syrup.
Despite its name, Americano’s menu is more or less Italian – I presume it’s supposed to be a reference to Italian New Yorkers and the unique hybrid of Italian-American food that’s come to be associated with them. To start, however, we shared a dish that felt more Dutch than either Italian or New Yorker: tiny Hollandse garnalen (shrimps) with a dill, apple and mayo dressing, served with a thin and crispy crostino. Steak tartare was fancier than I think it should be – but then again it always is in Amsterdam; people here seem to be scared to serve it the French way: bold and simple, letting the dish speak for itself.
Mains included a risotto with celeriac, thyme, fennel and walnut that was very rich and creamy. I opted to add scallops to it for an extra €4, but I’m not sure it added much and I probably should’ve stuck to the vegetarian version. Speaking of which, we tried another fabulous cauliflower number, this time with wild rice and fresh herbs. It was fresh, nutty, aromatic and pleasantly light yet satisfying.
Tiramisu for dessert was too big and too rich for me, but then again I am a complete wuss when it comes to pudding. My friends enjoyed the chocolate parfait, but I had already reached peak food coma by this point and have literally no idea how I got home – let alone how I managed another cocktail in between times. Thank god my friends took embarrassing photos on my phone to prove it. And nope – that’s one thing I’m not willing to share.