Unlike dinner, which demands you to linger over it, preferably with a bottle of wine and some good company, lunch can fulfil a variety of functions.
The Fine Dining Lunch: Moon @ A’DAM Toren
Disclaimer alert! I was invited to a “preview” lunch at Moon by their PR agency – hence a) I didn’t pay, and b) the menu might have changed by the time it opens to the public. Those caveats aside, I had a pretty good experience. Following a few hapjes of smoked almonds, poppy-seed cheese straws and crostini with hummus, a tequila and lime cocktail appeared in the form of a “pearl” in a black oyster shell – very dramatic, although a little sweet for me.
From here, the presentation went up another notch: foie gras was served in a moon-and-stars formation, atop beef tartar and served with beetroot and a kaffir lime dressing. For me, it was gilding the lily: the foie gras and tartar were competing too hard with each other, and I found the fusion element of the kaffir lime to be a bridge too far against the classic foie gras.
That being said, fusion seemed to be very much the theme of the lunch, and from thereon in it worked rather better. Our scallop ceviche came with a tangy wasabi cream and green apple sorbet – while not a typical ceviche, the combination of raw fish and zesty horseradish worked amazingly well. Next up, our bowl of vichyssoise soup came with Dutch eel, avocado and asparagus – it was a perfectly balanced dish that reflected some of the excellent ingredients to come out of northern Europe at this time of year.
Our meat course comprised beef with broad beans, pea shoots and an expertly made bitterbal. The dish was offset with a lightly spiced jus that again involved kaffir lime leaves – but this time to much better effect. I missed dessert because even freelancers can’t take three-hour lunch breaks, but I was reliably informed by my table companions that it was pretty darn good.
Dishes are €15 each, or you can choose the “Menu Eclipse” that we had for €60 (there was also a cheaper lunch menu for €40). And did I mention the view? Moon is on the 19th floor of the recently regenerated A’DAM Toren over the IJ behind Centraal Station. It rotates a full 360 degrees over the course of 90 minutes, giving you panoramic views over Amsterdam in every direction.
The Quick and Healthy Lunch: SLA
I first discovered SLA one day after a Pilates lesson. I was having one of my “detoxes” (by which I means 24 hours in which I try not to drink and generally fail), and wanted something satisfying but healthy to get my energy levels back up after a vigorous hour of shaky upper-ab curls. SLA’s “vegan rainbow” salad was excellent value at €8.50 for a huge bowl of leaves, roots (carrots, beetroot, turnip and so on), a great dressing, and a sort of curry ball thing on top. It was so good that I went back a week later and tried the spinach falafel bowl, which involved various grains, hummus, marinated cauliflower – plus of course the spinach and falafel you’d expect. I can only vouch for the Utrechtsestraat and Westerstraat locations (although they have three other branches in Amsterdam), but they do takeaway and delivery too. As someone who wrote a book about simple, quick, lunch options, I’m pretty fussy when it comes to salads, and am frequently disappointed. SLA has not let me down once.
The Brunch-style Lunch: Metropolitain
For those days when breakfast slips into lunch slips into daytime drinking (i.e. weekends), only brunch with Bloody Marys will do. I had a visitor staying, so we wanted to go into the centre of town to do some souvenir shopping (her daughters adore Nijntje, aka Miffy); however, since shopping on an empty stomach is never a good idea, I was browsing Instagram for somewhere central to eat. And lo, Metropolitain appeared!
Occupying the same spot that used to house Paper Planes (and apparently part of Café de Paris – but let’s not hold that against them), Metropolitain has a menu of international brunch dishes, fancy teas and coffees, and brunch-time booze “to survive the day” (their words, not mine!). Bloody Marys were tasty, though they did use that Big Tom brand of pre-mixed spicy tomato juice that everyone seems to be so fond of these days. (I want a Bloody Mary with an actual bartender’s signature mix!)
To eat, I ordered the “spicy skinny omelette” – an egg white omelette served in the pan with various veges and goat’s cheese. But before you fall off your chair, I also added bacon (it came as an option for €2) and asked if I could make it a chubby version instead – using whole eggs instead of just whites. The waitress told me egg yolks should be no problem, so I was surprised when my omelette turned up and the only orange thing in it was cubed pumpkin. On further questioning, the owner came over and explained the eggs had already been separated – which would’ve been fine if I hadn’t been promised something the kitchen couldn’t deliver. Plus, it didn’t make a lot of sense: surely there are plenty of whole eggs in the kitchen when at least 50% of the other dishes on the menu use them?
My friend ordered Eggs Metropolitain, which came poached with oh-so-2016 avocado, bacon and Hollandaise. The eggs were a little disappointingly overcooked, and the avocado was a rather miserly blob on the side of the plate. The best thing about the food was the chilli fries – but mostly because I am addicted to chilli. Service while we were there was friendly and (mostly) efficient, despite the mix-up over the eggs. And frankly, anything is better than my disastrous Breakfast Club experience a couple of months ago. I won’t be rushing back tomorrow, but given its ultra-central location, I’m fairly likely to give Metropolitain a second chance (and next time I won’t be ordering a skinny anything).