Gone are the days when fish restaurants meant starched white tablecloths and stuffy waiters. Today’s seafood restaurants and fish cafés are catering to an altogether less formal clientele. Plus, with meat consumption looking like a less and less sustainable option, fish and seafood has become the protein of choice among the younger generation of climate-conscious diners. There are lots of pescatarian options in Amsterdam nowadays, so I’ve divided this list according to type and occasion.
Parts of this post are taken from my Amsterdam Restaurant Guide. Want to find out more about seafood restaurants plus all the other cuisine Amsterdam has to offer? Download the guide here:
Best fine dining: Vis aan de Schelde
Despite what I just said about the death of white linen tablecloths, Vis aan de Schelde is probably the most upscale of all the fish restaurants on this list – smart, chic and with a price tag to match. But it’s definitely worth it: in addition to oysters, caviar, lobster and fruits de mer, diners can select the monthly changing Chef’s Menu from €48 for three courses. The day I went, my favourite dish was probably the haddock with scallop, pata negra ham and black venus rice, although I also enjoyed the monkfish wrapped in pancetta and served with fish croquettes, kohlrabi and purees of aubergine and peas. The service and wine pairings are also top-notch.
Best concept: Pesca
While Pesca calls itself a “Theatre of Fish”, it could perhaps be better described as a market: on entry, you’re invited to peruse the catch of the day, and choose your fish by weight or by the piece. There’s no menu, as the seafood on offer differs depending on availability. Plus, Pesca’s dynamic pricing policy means the price of the fish decreases during the day so as to sell out and avoid food waste. Having selected the fish (each of which is prepared differently) and side dishes, you then step into a wine market, where a member of staff is on hand to help with wine selection. Once at your table, the food is prepared and served to be shared. On the Sunday lunchtime I visited, I loved the softshell crab with mango and jalapeno, the fresh oysters and the grilled octopus. Plus, Pesca’s patatas bravas were also some of the best I’ve ever tasted.
Best local seafood restaurant: The Good Companion
Tucked at the end of Westerstraat, this cosy neighbourhood find has been serving up its signature fish & chips since 2017. And while the Brits among us are thrilled at this (the cod and chips that I tried came complete with mushy peas, Sarsons vinegar and tartare sauce – exactly as they should), it’s taken the rest of the community a little longer to get on board. But the word is now out: The Good Companion serves up seafood that’s almost exclusively caught off Dutch shores. And their menu features not only the fantastic fish & chips, but also feisty ceviche, plump oysters (prepared a few different ways – it’s definitely worth venturing away from the classic lemon), grilled seabass and home-canned sardines. Plus, they do Happy Oyster Hour on Saturday afternoons, a mussels promotion on Tuesdays, and a Sunday-brunchtime crawfish boil – the latter of which I’m very excited to try given my Louisiana connections. The ultimate in comfort seafood.
Best international fish restaurant: Bar Fisk
Bar Fisk is a combination of Middle Eastern flavours, ultra-fresh fish and killer cocktails. The food is designed to be shared but is larger than tapas-sized portions. Highlights for me were the corvina tartar, which was essentially a cross between ceviche, tabbouleh and smoky aubergine: literally three of my favourite things on one plate. Mackerel (cured rather than cooked) was served with roasted cauliflower, chilli and a tahini sauce: again, there were so many of my best-loved ingredients here that I couldn’t fail to love the dish. Squid came with earthy beetroot salad and crunchy roasted pecan nuts. Golden fried sardines arrived swimming in a peppery dressing atop a marine blue plate. And pan-fried bream fillets were served simply with some roasted garlic, toasted almonds and yoghurt. For me, it’s the combination of Middle Eastern flavours and fresh Mediterranean ingredients that really sets Bar Fisk apart.
Best for smoked fish: Frank’s Smokehouse
For 20 years, Frank was peddling his smoked fish and other delicacies from his tiny shop out the front of his smoking kitchen. Lots of locals knew about Frank’s as a specialty food shop, and you’d see his wares on restaurant menus around the city. Then, a couple of years ago, he decided to branch out into the restaurant business himself – serving his own excellent smoked goods as part of a broader menu at Frank’s Smokehouse. Don’t miss his Alaskan wild smoked salmon, but for the full range of smoked fishy flavours, order the Best of Fish – a selection of five smoked fish to share between two.
Best for ceviche: Sjefietshe
I’m not sure what’s so difficult about pronouncing the word “ceviche”, but apparently were a Dutch person to say it phonetically, it would sound something like Sjefietshe. I don’t know why I find the name of the restaurant slightly annoying, but I do. Luckily, however, that was the only thing that annoyed me. The ceviche itself was just as I’d anticipated: it came in six different versions, all of which sounded heavenly. Sadly I could only manage two, so I made it the classic ceviche – with crunchy chulpe corn and red onion that had been slightly pickled from the acidic leche de tigre – and the shrimp and haddock ceviche, which came with a slightly sweeter (but still pleasantly sour) combination of pumpkin puree, coconut milk, hot yellow chillies and crispy puffed rice. Both were full of delightfully bright, feisty flavours, and went wonderfully with a pisco sour. The only dish I wasn’t such a fan of was the fish cakes; they tasted ok but the filling was grey and gelatinous, with an eerily homogenous texture. But stick to the ceviche and you’ll be more than happy!
Best for fruits de mer: Seafood Bar
You can’t really go wrong with a huge platter of fruits de mer and a bottle of chilled Sancerre so long as the seafood is unfailingly fresh. The “Fruits de Mer Seafood Bar” was a colourful sculpture of fishy delights arranged artistically over ice. The gamut ran from heavy hitters like lobster and oysters through to understated molluscs like winkles and clams. And at €62 per person (ok, we drank half a bottle of wine each), it wasn’t cheap. My American guest felt that seafood requires more of an intimate setting, especially for the price; I’m not sure whether I agree, but the restaurant’s industrial chic is certainly a sign of our fuss-free, post-austerity times.
Best for mussels: Mossel & Gin
The best of the Westerpark’s restaurants that I’ve visited, Mossel & Gin serves (you’ve guessed it) mussels and gin. The mussels come in one of six sauces: classic (the usual moules marinières), Thai, Roquefort, truffle, Dutch bacon and mustard. I went for the Thai version on the grounds that I wanted to try something different, but not so different that it involved blue cheese and seafood (which doesn’t sound like a match made in heaven to me – but I could be wrong!). The Thai mussels were pleasantly fragrant, creamy from the coconut milk, and came with dippable bread, chips and salad. The lobster croquettes we shared to start were rather delicious, as was the fantastic G&T (there are ten to choose from). Don’t miss the outdoor terrace in summer for perfect park dining.