Sometime last year, I was writing an article about steakhouses in the Netherlands for an industry magazine. At the time, I hadn’t eaten at Loetje but I included them in the article because of their incredible success story: opening 18 branches across the country since their inception in Amsterdam exactly 40 years ago. (Before I get lynched by the journalism police, the article was not a review of the food – it was about the business concept behind gourmet steakhouses in Holland.) There’s a Loetje branch just a few hundred metres from my house, but I’d tried and failed to get a table there a couple of times before. Which is how it came to pass that in my 13 years in Amsterdam, I’d never tasted their famed ossenhaas.
At Loetje, they only serve one cut of steak: ossenhaas – aka fillet in Britain, tenderloin in America, and probably several other names elsewhere. As someone who’s been eating ribeye and bavette for the past decade or two, ordering a fillet steak also felt nostalgically like I was back in my Dad’s restaurant in the ’90s. Loetje’s steak comes one of three ways: with their signature “Loetje jus” (essentially: a tonne of butter); with the same Loetje jus plus sambal; or with the Loetje jus plus onions, chicken livers and bacon. Being a chilli addict, I naturally ordered the second option, known as “Biefstuk Bali” for its spicy sauce.
Red meat, butter and spicy sambal – you’d think it couldn’t go too far wrong. And indeed, the meat was medium-rare and tender. But the sauce was so salty and greasy that it overpowered the steak completely. And there are so many more flavourful, texture-rich cuts of beef these days that serving only ossenhaas feels wilfully anachronistic. Equally blast-from-the-past, the steaks come with sliced white bread – again, of the kind you’ve probably not eaten in a decade or more (unless in the context of a hangover and a bacon sandwich, in which case it’s excusable).
The chips and salad were good, and gave a welcome respite from the too-salty sambal sauce. And the wine I tried was all very drinkable. But
Dinner at Loetje cost €40 per person, including three glasses of wine.