When I first moved to Amsterdam as a student in 2001, French restaurants were the height of fashion. Things have moved on since then, but there’s still some good French food to be found if you know where to look. Some of it is more old-school than others, but these are all top-quality restaurants.
Café de Klepel
Café de Klepel is a cosy, unassuming little French restaurant right by the picturesque Jordaan neighbourhood. 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.
Auberge Jean et Marie
Opening in de Pijp neighbourhood in 2016, Auberge Jean et Marie is testament to the trend that top-notch, high-end French food has made a comeback. The interior is as classic as the food: all white tablecloths, dark wood, classy tones of grey on the walls, and a touch of stained glass. Even the terrace outside looks like a French brasserie spilling out onto the pavement. Culinary highlights for me included the coarsely textured, gamey pâté stuffed with chestnuts and pistachios; and the smooth, coral-coloured bisque that was full of flavour from brown shrimps and deftly sliced fennel.
I would happily go back to Rijsel’s converted schoolhouse interior for some of the kitchen’s much-touted rotisserie chicken. Mine came with cubes of roasted root veg, dressed butter lettuce, and seasoned roast potatoes with mayo. Meanwhile, one of my table mates tried the onglet (hangar steak) and reported it to be tender and tasty as well. For the less carnivorous, there are actually fish and vegetarian options as well – but most people go there for the chicken. It’s all about top-notch comfort food.
Cantine de Caron
Occupying one of the huge brick buildings of the Westergasfabriek, Cantine de Caron has the feel of a bustling French grand café – complete with white tablecloths, proper silverware and flowing wine. The restaurant’s size makes it somewhat easier to score a table, too. The evening I visited was autumnal, so we started with some charcuterie and bread to share, followed by a comforting dish of slow-cooked beef cheek with stewed cannellini beans. Pure wintry warmth.
The Belhamel is one of those places that’s truly stood the test of time (it’s been run by its current owners since 1998) but I’d lived in Amsterdam for 13 years before I finally made it there for the first time. Now, having witnessed its art-deco charm, canal views, romantic ambiance, and of course its classic but excellent French-led food, that seems somewhat unforgivable. During my lunchtime visit, I tried Belhamel’s scallop and jumbo shrimps with puff pastry (think vol au vent, but less 80s) and beurre blanc. Pair it with a glass of oaky Chardonnay and you’re in classic French heaven. Be sure to try their signature white chocolate cheesecake with raspberry coulis, too.
Up one of the leaf-lined stone stairways on the Herengracht is Brasserie Ambassade – the relatively recent (2015) addition to the Ambassade Hotel (1953). The interior pairs starched white tablecloths and ornate chandeliers on the ceilings with modern art on the walls. Here again you’ll find classic French cuisine – it’s not cheap but it’s done well. Think escargots gratinated in properly garlicky butter, rich foie gras with tart berry coulis and sweet brioche, flat-iron steak cooked to a perfect medium-rare, crispy confit de canard with gamey duck jus, and even the odd salad for the vegetarians… Prices for the á la carte menu are around the same as the Belhamel, or you can get the three-, four- or five-course lunch menu for a fixed amount. Champagne is advisable.
I first found Wijnbar Boelen soon after I moved here, when de Pijp was the (only) place to go out at night. After a long absence, I recently rediscovered it as a lovely spot for a glass of wine and a plate of cheese or charcuterie after work on a Friday evening. They do good, classic main courses as well: steak, duck and the like. It’s not cheap, but it’s very good quality French food and wine, and the service is extremely attentive.
Looking for more must-eats? Download my comprehensive Amsterdam restaurant guidebook here.
On your travels and want to use this article offline with GPS-guided navigation? Download the travel guide app via GPSmyCity!