Ever since Noma took the culinary world by storm, Scandinavian food has been getting sexier by the day. So it’s probably no surprise that the number of Scandinavian cafes and restaurants in Amsterdam has been steadily going up over the past few years. For a long time, there was only Scandinavian Embassy (which is a story for another time, but suffice to say if I ever go back it will have to be in disguise)… More recently, Kessens and Selma’s have opened to an Amsterdam public that welcomes most new cuisines with open arms. And rightfully so.
Selma’s Nordic Bakery Café
The first thing you notice about Selma’s is the décor: it’s all relaxing pastel hues of pink and turquoise. You feel calmer just for being there (note to self: should probably go and work in Selma’s when feeling particularly stressed). The coffee is also excellent: a strong flat white with just enough milk and plenty of smooth, fruity flavour. And because Selma’s is along the Jan van Galenstraat away from the tourist centre, the service is pretty good too – Selma (whoever she is) evidently knows that she needs to keep a local crowd coming back for more.
But onto the important bit: the food.
I could’ve stayed at Selma’s all afternoon. Come to think of it, perhaps next time I will.
Kessens Swedish Café
In contrast to Selma’s, the interior of Kessens is stark and minimalist. But still (curiously) relaxing in its own way. The coffee is also good – not as full-bodied as Selma’s but still very drinkable, and suitable for those chillier autumn days when you’re looking for a slightly longer hot drink. Again, the service was friendly and efficient – in Kessens’ case, despite the fact that it’s more or less on the corner of the Rozengracht and Prinsengracht.
Going full Swedish on the menu front, I ordered the traditional gravlax prepared with aquavit and dill. It came on soft but well-textured, fresh, brown, thick-cut bread; and it was served with a dressing that was more of a dipping sauce, but tasted like a thick, sweet vinaigrette. It was simple and not particularly creative, but it was well made and hit the spot.
For dessert, my lunch buddy and I split a so-called princess cake: with its wafer-like crispy base, vanilla sponge, red fruit jam, whipped cream, and a thin green marzipan layer over the top, I didn’t expect this puffy cloud of sugary colours to be something I’d like… but in spite of myself, I found I did.
I’d have no trouble recommending either Kessens or Selma’s to visitors and Amsterdammers alike. Time will tell, but I’d put money on the fact that Scandinavian food will be more represented in Amsterdam in the future. And in the meantime, I’d probably best get my disguise on and head back to Scandinavian Embassy…