Amsterdam has 165 canals and hundreds of restaurants to match. A small city it only takes a couple days to get your bearings, but getting lost in the myriad of food choices is easily done. While traditional Dutch food isn’t often waxed lyrical about, ‘The Venice of the North’ has a diverse range of eateries to sample whatever your tastes, including some foodie hot spots that may have you appreciating Dutch cuisine like never before.
In an unassuming part of Amsterdam’s Canal-belt is my favourite place to eat Indonesian, Tujuh Maret. The welcome is warm and the space has little touches that make it even more homely, including a little box of reading glasses in case you forget yours at home. What most people come here for is the rijsttafel (which literally translates to rice-table) – a banquet of 12 small dishes that range from mild to sweet and spicy and are accompanied with various relishes and rice.
Rijstaffel is a ‘Indo-dutch’ creation that was inspired by Nasi Padang, an Indonesian meal of rice surrounded by a range of vegetables and meats, and was essentially borne from the desire to show off and eat as many different types of Indonesian dishes in one sitting. From sweet tempeh, aubergine with red chilli, chicken satay to tangy sour cucumber, Tujuh Maret offers a feast of delight. So if you’re coming for dinner have a very light lunch and prepare to leave very happily stuffed.
In 1906 the KAS bank was built where the Duchess is now housed. Set within the former counting house the cavernous space, complete with an extensive stained-glass roof, a healthy amount of dark green marble and hanging lights that exude a low warmth, is a swanky Michelin star restaurant that oozes style and a little bit of mystery. The vast dining hall is adjacent to a bar where you can grab a cocktail, next to ‘painted’ portraits that are actually LED screens, before or after you eat.
The sheer scale of the place and the glamour would feel like a distraction if not for the solid foundation of first class food. Expect to see dishes like soft and buttery salt baked whole sea bass, thinly sliced octopus carpaccio with bottarga, and tender herb crusted lamb cutlets with braised onion.
Atmospheric and with a focus on the flavours of southern French and Italian cuisine, The Duchess hits all the right notes and is a treat for more than just the taste buds.
Overlooking the Montelbaan tower that was built as one of the original fixtures of the walls of Amsterdam in 1516 is Greetje – a cosy wood panelled traditional Dutch restaurant that will leave you dreaming of Dutch food long after you’ve left. Traditional with creative twists here and there to keep it exciting, Greetje has a focus on seasonal, homemade and locally sourced ingredients and produce. A quality of flavour which you can taste in the simplest of carrots and the warmth of the homemade bread, accompanied with a terrine of pork fat and apple and a slightly sweet beetroot butter.
Enjoy dishes like a creamy steamed mackerel rillette with refreshing sweet and sour cucumber and warming wild duck with buttery potato cakes and sweet onion, whilst sitting amongst a good mix of locals and tourists. If you do decide to go Dutch, make sure to reserve and I would also recommend trying the Spoom. A small offering in between the starter and the main, the Spoom is a sweet and slightly tart mix of black currant sorbet mixed with champagne, vodka and a touch of mint. It, much like Greetje itself, was delightful.
FoodHallen Amsterdam is an indoor food market with 21 huts of high quality food that range from Mexican taco’s to Japanese sushi, Vietnamese street food, French patisserie and Mediterranean meze. The space alongside various halls with other attractions like a library and a ‘filmhallen’ is a part of a large complex that used to be a tram depot, and is perfect for any foodie or if you’re travelling with a picky eater.
A hot spot all hours of the day this is a place where you need to guard your table. Tourists and some locals alike descend like bees to honey on this sweet shop of gastronomy. To try a traditional Dutch snack head to the ‘De Ballenbar’ stand to sample ‘bitterballen’ (essentially bite sized meat and gravy croquettes) where alongside the classic beef option you can experiment with more unusual flavours like Thom Kah Kai or old cheese and spinach.
If you’re not feeling the fried meat there are many plant based options on offer, including a great stand called Padron where you can grab a fresh plate of their namesake – perfectly pan-fried Padron peppers. And if you’re in a need of a beer (which you should traditionally have alongside your bitterballen) head to the Beerbar where you can sample two brews specifically produced for Foodhallen or take your pick of more than 60 different local and international beers.
Not a fan of the crowds? Head to the hall at lunchtime on a weekday where the buzz is still present but a little less boisterous and your chances of swiftly grabbing a table goes up considerably.
A short (and free) ferry hop over the IJ river to Amsterdam Noord is Stork. Another industrial foodie hot spot in Amsterdam, Stork is the city’s largest seafood restaurant. One that truly comes alive in the summer as it’s position, large windows and south facing terrace look directly out over the water, making it the perfect place to watch the traffic on the IJ go by.
With a dedication to seasonal and sustainably sourced seafood, this restaurant is really all about the fish. The portions are large (coming with the head attached unless asked not to) and range from succulent scallops with lentils and pancetta to salmon with subtly sweet langoustines, grilled sea bass and pan fried dover sole.
It’s the perfect place to bring a large group and sip on some champagne with your oysters or fresh lobster as you watch the sunset over the water, and is a restaurant with a view not to be missed.
Enter through an old apothecary and into Jansz, a rather romantic restaurant that carries itself over a series of rooms, complete with an open kitchen and large windows that either look out onto the bustle of the narrow street opposite or calm waters of the canal. The warming tones of copper and soft lighting lends a relaxed elegance to the restaurant which also reflects its focus on simple modern European cooking with a few twists that make the flavours pop.
Expect to see dishes like a meltingly soft tuna tartare and scallop served in its shell, a light lemongrass touched duck with lentils and thyme and salmon infused with dashi served on creamy black rice and crispy asparagus.
There are some more traditional Dutch notes too, which you can find most obviously in the ‘VLA’ option for dessert, a creamy curd/custard concoction covered with chocolate sprinkles (hagelslag) that my Dutch friend enjoyed telling me repeatedly how to pronounce.
Jansz, like the former apothecary that used to be housed here, will have you feeling much better leaving than you did when walking in.
The Pancake Bakery & Pancakes Amsterdam
Walking through the streets of Amsterdam you’ll notice a repetition of signs, that aside from the green circle of Heineken spotted about the city, are usually the marks of one of Amsterdam’s many pancake houses. Dutch pancakes are slightly thicker than a crepe but not as raised as American pancakes. While the Dutch mini pancakes ‘poffertjes’, that are traditionally served with a dollop of butter, are little circular clouds of fluffy pancake happiness that are so good it’s surprising how few people know about this powdered sugared treat.
If you’re prepared to wait, then head to The Pancake Bakery situated on the Prisengracht (Prince’s Canal). A cosy pancake retreat that usually has queues out the door, this place has an extensive menu of pancakes across the sweet and savoury spectrum and prides itself on taking the art of the pancake very seriously. Set in an old 17th century Dutch East India Company warehouse with some of the features still remaining to this day, the Pancake Bakery once you’re in, is worth the wait.
However, if time is of the essence or if you have a vegan in tow, then head to Pancakes Amsterdam. Although a bit of a tourist magnet, Pancakes Amsterdam has different outposts across the city, an extensive menu (including a vegan pancake), prompt service and the pancakes still taste great.
The Pancake Bakery: https://pancake.nl/en/
Pancakes Amsterdam: https://pancakes.amsterdam
Getting to Amsterdam
If you hadn’t heard the Eurostar now travels directly between London and Amsterdam (a journey of 3 hours and 55 minutes that takes you right to Centraal station) and it’s also enlisted the help of Michelin-starred chef Raymond Blanc to try elevate it’s cuisine for business premier passengers on the way. The menu created by Raymond Blanc, consists of three courses of seasonal dishes, combining French and British cuisine and only uses sustainable ingredients of local provenance, an approach that has won them a Sustainable restaurant association award (something no other transport provider has so far done). I do however, have to confess that the chocolates that are only offered once you’ve passed Brussels (sorry MEP’s) were still my favourite. From a local chocolatier in Amsterdam it was nice to arrive in the city of canals with a sweet treat. Lecker, lecker indeed.