On the face of it, it seemed the breakfast gods had taken pity on the Westerpark. No longer would we have to bike all the way to de Pijp to go to Little Collins or Bakers & Roasters; we were to be blessed with our very own brunch spot, named after everyone’s favourite 80s film: The Breakfast Club. I’d never been able to get into the branch next to de Foodhallen, but as the Haarlemmerplein branch opened literally last week, I reasoned that it must surely be possible to get a table at 11 am on its first Saturday in business.
Well, I guess it was – sort of. We were perched on the end of someone else’s table, which actually turned out to be a survival tactic rather than an annoyance – but more on that later. Having taken our seats, we borrowed our neighbours’ menus and decided what we wanted to order. It took us a while to flag down someone to order from, but this is Amsterdam and I was (at least to start with) in a forgiving mood. Precisely 45 minutes and three inquiries later, our drinks arrived. The first time we questioned where our flat whites might have got to, we were met with a dismissive “it’s really busy today – you’ll have to wait”. There was no possibility that our complaint might be valid and that our order might never have made it through to the barrister. By the third complaint, my patience was in much the same place as my drinks order: nowhere to be seen.
Eventually, our dishes arrived: steak and eggs were well cooked if under-seasoned, and the bread could’ve arguably benefited from toasting. The “Chipotlaise” was great, however – spicy and creamy, which I suppose is what you’d expect from a spice-spiked Hollandaise. Chicken and waffles were crispy, on both counts. Which is mostly good when you’re talking chicken: the meat was coated in a coarse crumb that resembled fried cornflakes, but again was under-seasoned. The too-crunchy waffles, however, were a pale, dry, processed shadow of their Belgian cousins. It didn’t help that the Breakfast Club had a delivery while we were sitting there, which included several boxes of ready-made waffles. The hot sauce was the best thing about the dish, which is surely a bit embarrassing.
The coffees and smoothies, when they finally came, were fine – the Breakfast Club at least appears to have a decent coffee machine, albeit a slow one. Plus, there’s free water that you can help yourself to – well, when the jug hasn’t run out, and when there’s no mint leaf blocking up the spigot. Which was about 50% of the time. Don’t expect any loo roll in the toilet, however – that would be too much to ask.
Breakfast came to €35 for two, which is not an insignificant amount – especially when you factor in how hard we had to work just to get served at all. Even having some kind of table section system could have helped reign in the breakfast carnage; as it was, all half-dozen members of the wait staff were running around any and all of the tables simultaneously, their faces a combination of confusion, disdain and lack of training.
The problem is this, however: the Breakfast Club is on my doorstep – and I am lazy. So there’s every possibility that I’ll end up back at this place in a matter of weeks. I’m hoping that what I witnessed last weekend was just teething troubles, and that with some managerial support and training the Haarlemmerplein will have a brunch spot to be proud of. But right now it has a very long way to go…