Betty’s: Vegetarian food that’s worth the bike ride
Imagine you have a group of friends. In fact, you probably actually have a group of friends. Let’s say there are five or six or seven of you who hang out on a regular basis. You go to each other’s houses, share problems with each other, celebrate the good times… And then, for whatever reason – career, love, family – two of them move away. And we’re not talking Brabant – we’re talking somewhere far away, like Sydney or Tokyo. You’re not going to see each other for months, maybe even years. Of course, you still hang out with the other friends in your group, and you still have a great time together. But you often miss your friends who moved away.
That’s how I’m feeling about burgers and sushi right now. I’m still having a great time with vegetables and cheese and pulses and eggs – I just wish burgers and sushi were here with me too. (By which I mean burgers made with beef and sushi made with fish – for the pedants out there.)
With all that being said, there have been moments – many moments, hours in fact – when I’ve not thought about them at all. One such moment was my evening at Betty’s. First of all, it’s worth noting that I biked 7 km – yes, seven kilometres – to get there (there being the Rijnstraat). This from the woman who routinely makes appointments in the Westerpark so she can roll out of the front door five minutes prior to the meeting. I was there with two old colleagues, one of whom had cycled from the same neck of the woods as me. It was minus 2 outside. Stakes were high.
Betty’s serves a fixed three-course menu for €35. At least, it’s possible we could’ve had less than three courses – but I felt like we needed the calories after all that biking at sub-zero temperatures. Included in the price is bread with some of the best-tasting olive oil in Amsterdam. So good, in fact, that we all took a bottle of it home with us afterwards.
Most of the food was served “family style”, as the Americans would call it: on large dishes to share and serve yourself at the table. Our starter platter comprised baby roast potatoes (think patatas bravas) with a red pepper sauce, and a coriander pesto; roasted tomato and red pepper stew that the proprietor described as shakshuka without the eggs; aubergine “caviar” – smoky roasted aubergine in warm spices and tomato – much tastier than its fish roe namesake; and a creamy walnut, apricot and mint concoction to top our bread and olive oil. The antipasti were so good I’d have been happy to stick with them all evening.
If Betty’s starters were broadly European in origin, the mains ventured further afield on the veggie-culinary map. A veritable banquet of global plant-based dishes. There was coconut rice and peas served with perfectly spiced chana dal with mango. There was bleedingly-pink roasted beetroot salad with a side of pickled starchy-white lotus root that was sweet, sour and hot simultaneously. There was a loosely dubbed “sloppy joe” made with creamy but firm white beans in tomato sauce, avocado and sauerkraut, which sounds odd but was fantastic. The list goes on.
After my sad cheesecake experience at Meatless District, I was nervous about veggie dessert. I needn’t have been. The lemon cheesecake here was rich with dairy products (thank god!); the cranberry cake was tart yet sweet; the chocolate orange torte was gooily dark and sticky; and the salted caramel and chocolate tart was – well, salted caramel and chocolate tart. ‘Nuff said.
Meanwhile, the service was smiling, informative, and unhurried. We arrived at 6.45 pm and didn’t leave till gone 11. I can only assume that the two bottles of wine and three bottles of olive oil that we added to the bill were sweetener enough not to kick us out.
Betty’s was a triumph – not just as a vegetarian restaurant but as a restaurant full stop. Its only sin is its location. Betty’s, if you’re reading this, would you consider opening a branch in West?