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.
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!)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.