I should better re-name this post “first-date restaurants” because when I was single, tapas places seemed to be my first port of call for a casual drink and a bite to eat on pretty much every first date I had in Amsterdam. But, of course, tapas-style food can work on many occasions. Amsterdam is not exactly awash with good tapas, but here are a few places that don’t disappoint…
I first visited Madrid after leaving a cookery workshop hungry. Yup, you read that right. Desperate for real food after three hours of raw cacao nonsense, we found ourselves at Madrid, ordering our way through the entire tapas menu. Now, it’s my go-to Spanish spot every time I’m in Oud-West. Try everything from the patatas bravas to the chorizo to the dates with spek.
I discovered La Oliva back in 2009: a Basque bar/restaurant specialising in pintxos, sort of a cross between tapas and bruschette. Ordering works by pointing at what you like the look of: try a selection of these bread-based concoctions, including figs stuffed with blue cheese, tortilla, aubergine with tomato sauce and rocket, asparagus and tuna wrapped in ham, jamón iberico, and roasted vegetables with goat’s cheese. The Rioja is excellent, too. The terrace might not be huge, but its Jordanian location makes pavement dining seem almost Mediterranean.
“Tapas” may be a little misleading in this case: Pikoteo specialises in a sort of modern, fusion tapas the like of which I’ve not seen before in Amsterdam. It’s Spanish meets South American. The smoked beef carpaccio with truffle and shaved Idiazabal cheese was hands down my favourite dish: bold but delicate, pungent but refined, all at the same time. Plus, they have a good wine and cocktail menu.
A long-standing Amsterdam tapas institution, Pata Negra has three locations across the city – one on the Canal Belt, one next to the Oosterpark, and another in the Eastern Docklands. With enormous legs of jamón everywhere, and freely flowing wine, you can’t go wrong. Try the flavoursome manchego cheese, the grainy melt-in-your-mouth ham, and the tasty patatas bravas.
Apparently Ron Blaauw’s had his cheffy fingers in this Spanish-meets-Latino pie, which is probably part of the reason why ESCOBAR is so damn good. It used to be a jazz club and was formerly a bath house – which is to say that it’s surprisingly large for de Pijp. It therefore has a reasonable amount of pavement seating if the Dutch weather is feeling particularly Spanish. The evening I went, ceviche was served leche de tigre-style, so that the fish was almost milky, but punctuated by a marmalade-y citrus fruit, red chilli and red onion – sweet and sour, citrus meets spice. Hot dishes included pimientos de padrón (fried green peppers), albondigas (meatballs) and navajas (razor clams with broad beans). Tacos came stuffed with shredded pork, red cabbage, tomato salsa, smoky pineapple, and spicy mayo – I loved the texture, the heat and the flavours, although I wouldn’t recommend them to those who can’t handle chilli. ESCOBAR’s atmosphere is festive, the service attentive, and the food some of the best tapas in town.