Lt. Cornelis: Dutch food worth braving the tourists for
Please note that since writing this blog post, Lt Cornelis has closed down
Foodie Disclaimer Alert! I was invited to eat at Lt. Cornelis by the restaurant’s PR manager – as regular readers know, I’m always honest (sometimes brutally so!) in my reviews, but there’s a chance the food and/or service was different because my identity was known.
Ok, now that’s out of the way, let’s get on with this! When I wrote a post a couple of months ago about Dutch food in Amsterdam, I was struggling to think of enough (good) places that served authentically Dutch food. I couldn’t even come up with a Top 10 (I featured about seven restaurants in the end) – and even then I was scraping the barrel with pancakes and broodjes. So when Dutch restaurant Lt. Cornelis invited me to eat, I decided it was worth the lack-of-objectivity risk and took them up on their offer. What made me more curious still is that the restaurant is just off the Spui, right in the heart of tourist central; could it really be any good?
The building itself is several hundred years old, and has been converted using a slightly strange mix of traditional and modern décor. Replicas of paintings by the Dutch masters of the Golden Age adorn the walls, some of which move like holograms – it’s a little unnerving. But keep your peepers for the table because the food is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the taste buds.
After an amuse of calamari (not the battered, fried variety) with a yoghurt and herb dressing, plus slices of smoked sausage with pickles, we moved onto a round of three starters. A salad of smoked ham, apple, chicory, beetroot and other vergeten groenten was crisp, refreshing and tasting firmly of Dutch soil. Fresh mackerel with seasonal rhubarb and an interesting mustard-seed dressing was similarly satisfying – and made more beautiful with edible flowers. Even the humble cheese kroket was elevated through the use of oude kaas made from unpasteurised milk.
It was the mains, however, that really demonstrated the talents of the chef. My cod was crispy of skin and milky of flesh, served with parsnip three ways (puréed, roasted and fried into chips) and spitskool – a conical-shaped Dutch cabbage that Lt. Cornelis had BBQ-ed to smoky perfection. The sauce had just a hint of cheesiness to it (which may or may not have simply been the combination of the other ingredients playing tricks on me) and the delicate brackish flavour of sea aster.
My friend’s risotto was made with barley instead of rice, Jerusalem artichokes, leek that had also been BBQ-ed, and messenklever cheese. It was more autumnal than summery, but extremely tasty at any time of year. A decadent, creative stunner of a vegetarian dish.
For dessert, the rhubarb made a comeback with seasonal red berries (in both regular and sorbet format) and a foamy cinnamon cream. It was light enough to devour even after all the courses that had come before it, despite being served with a melba-toast-esque sliver of kruidkoek (spiced fruit bread).
It’s not completely clear to me how much we would have paid for what we ate had it not been free – the prices on Lt. Cornelis’s website range from €35 for three courses to €47.50 for five. But I enjoyed dinner so much that next time I have visitors in town who want to experience “Dutch food”, I’ll probably go back and find out…