Category Archives: Amsterdam

Eye Bar (Noord, Amsterdam)

I’m just back from a few days in Amsterdam, and of course that meant I had the pleasure of wandering along picturesque tree-lined canals and peering across the water at pretty, tall houses. But sometimes, it is also interesting to find yourself in a part of town that might not be on the list of tourist hotspots, but which is changing and which brings with it a distinct buzz. In my case, I went to the “new” northern quarter of Amsterdam.

Noord is a corner of the city that is clearly about to change. Years ago, a trip to Amsterdam involved arriving at the main station, and heading south towards the charming old buildings and leafy canals as soon as you could. North? Oh no. The mighty river IJ (pronounced “eye”) marked the end of the city and beyond was terra incognita as far as the visitor was concerned, most probably unexciting territory won from the water. In short – not promising territory for those more interested in Dutch Masters and vintage flea markets.

But the times are changing. The city is building a new metro line to connect this quarter with the rest of the city. I’m sure it’s quite a feat as they have to deal with all those canals. As part of the renovation project, a new film museum has already opened on the north of the river. It gleams like a sleek yacht belonging to an unknown millionaire and has a cladding that is something of a nod to Dutch artist MC Escher, made from tessellating trapeziums (isosceles trapezoids, if you’re keen on geometry…I think).

But there is no need to wait years for the metro to be finished – just jump on the (currently free) boat behind the main station (which leaves every 5 minutes) and you’re on the other side of the IJ in, well, the blink of an eye. So what does this place offer the visitor? Besides some rather grand architecture of the building itself, there is a rather fantastic little cafe and restaurant, the Eye Bar-Restaurant.

I have to confess that it took me a moment to work out the clever name – it’s a play on the fact that it’s a cinema, and it’s on the River IJ, so the whole complex is called the Eye. In my case, it clicked after about 10 minutes. I like it.

The decor is wood and lots of black and white (a nod to the history of film) and the Eye has large glass windows offering vistas of Amsterdam. Now, let’s be honest, Amsterdam seen from here is not exactly picturesque. However, you do get to enjoy big skies and lots of sun dancing on the water. It’s actually all really rather lovely.

I didn’t arrive at the Eye at the right time for lunch, but I can recommend it as a place for coffee and cake. During my visit, they had only three sweet options on offer, which might seem a little bit thin. Just apple, lemon and chocolate.

However, what there might have been lacking in quantity was more than made up for in quality. The lemon and chocolate cakes came from Patisserie Holtkamp, and the apple tart (appelgebak) was from Patisserie Kuyt. A promising start!

Now, I need to confess that my picture really does not do this applegebak justice at all. It’s very much a tart – a buttery, crumbly base with generous amount of apple slices, currants, flaked almonds and cinnamon. Absolutely delicious.

I wondered if this was a healthy apple tart? Probably it was getting there, apart from some sugar and the rather heroic swirl of whipped cream along the side of the tart. But to have had it without the cream? Well, it probably would not have been the same experience. If you arrived flagging and ate a slice of that with your coffee, you’d leave happy and ready to take in more of the city.

Would I go back? Most certainly. The service was good, the coffee and cake excellent, and the Eye Bar has a spectacular terrace that allows you to make the most of a sunny day, or large windows to let in lots of light while protecting you from the elements. It’s also an area that is sure to change in the near future, so I’m sure I’ll pop back in if I’m in the neighbourhood.

Eye Bar-Restaurant, IJpromenade 1, 1031 KT Amsterdam. Tel: +31 (0)20 589 1402.

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On Location: Stout! and Villa Zeezicht (Amsterdam)

I just got back from a fun long weekend in Amsterdam. Pandering to many Dutch stereotypes:

We were there for a wedding which took place in quite a curious location – the Tassenmuseum (Museum of Bags and Purses). A fun little venue, made even more fun by the fact that during the reception, we were allowed to wander round and look at the exhibits with a glass of fizz in hand. As the weather cleared, we moved out into the garden to enjoy the sun, where the museum’s overly-friendly but moulting resident feline decided to rub itself against my new black suit. Cats!

Over the weekend, I was also at the arts festival De Parade in Utrecht. There are loads of little plays, songs and cabaret performances to attend, plus a great selection of food, from excellent Italian food to traditional Dutch street food. I also loved the art installation on the railway building in Utrecht. Looks a little like an alien invasion!

In the downtime in Amsterdam between weddings and culture, I hit upon two little foodie gems.

Firstly, I finally got some good appelgebak (Dutch apple pie) at Villa Zeezicht. Lots of nice fruit, lots of brown sugar and cinnamon, with nicely cooked pastry and a decent dollop of lightly whipped cream. In slightly chilly weather, this was just heavenly with a cup of coffee. They also offer this with a scoop of cinnamon ice-cream, which would be perfect when the weather is a little warmer.

Zeezicht also has a great (large) terrace by the Singel, where you can enjoy the sun, the apple pie and their tasty broodjes (sandwiches).

My other find was Stout! on the Haarlemmerstraat. This is a very up-and-coming street with boutiques, shops, delis and restaurants, just a few minutes walk from Amsterdam Centraal station. I passed it at lunchtime, still a little the worse for wear from the wedding the day before, and my eye went straight for the “Old Holland” sandwich. This was a whole grain roll, with ripe tomatoes, rocket, very mature Gouda cheese and truffle-infused mayonnaise. This was, by quite some way, the most delicious sandwich I have had in quite some time. The cheese was nice and strong, the bread excellent, and the truffle flavour just sublime. A gorgeous snack in a nice place, with friendly staff where you can watch the world go by. Should you find yourself with a little spare time while waiting for a train in Amsterdam, dodge all the tourists and check out the Haarlemmerstraat!

Villa Zeezicht, Torensteeg 7, Amsterdam 1016. Tel: +31 20 6267433.

Stout!, Haarlemmerstraat 73, 1013 EL Amsterdam. Tel: +31 20 6163664

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On Location: Oost Pizzeria (Oost, Amsterdam)

This is the last in the recent wave of Dutch-themed post. On my recent trip to the Netherlands, I arrived back late in Amsterdam from a couple of days in the Dutch outback (subsisting mainly on beer and gouda cheese), and thoughts inevitably turned to a decent pizza. We went with our host to a pizzeria in the Oost district of Amsterdam which, in a clear moment of inspiration on the part of the owner, was called Oost.

I am always struck by just how different a neighbourhood restaurants is in other cities as compared to London. Even in good old N16, places are often rammed, loud and you need to book. Other places just don’t seem to be as busy, and I love being able to decide to go somewhere, entering, choosing a table and sitting down. Sounds strange, but living in a city where you can end up fighting strangers for table space, this is a rare treat. Oost is just such a relaxed “easy” place. The menu is pretty straightforward – simple antipasti, half a dozen pasta dishes, a dozen pizzas, and they just seem to get on with what they are trying to do very well.

We went for a selection of crostini (mozzarella/tomato, mushrooms with truffle oil, and goat’s cheese and fig jam) which really hit the spot. I was going to take the mushroom/truffle version, but then decided in the interests of trying new things, the goat’s cheese with fig was the way to go, and frankly I am glad I did. I first had fig jam a few weeks ago on a visit to Brussels fell in love with it, and I am happy to report that I am still in a very meaningful relationship with the candied fruits of ficus carica. This had a light sweetness and freshness that you often do not get when goat’s cheese is coupled with honey. In short, yum.

For the main, it was, of course, a pizza. I went for one with artichoke, goat’s cheese and rocket. I realise that this is actually a phenomenal amount of goat’s cheese in one meal and it was surely a sign that I was not really thinking about what I was doing after spending hours stuck in motorway traffic coming back into Amsterdam, but I happen to love goat’s cheese, so not really an issue. Anyway, the pizza was fab – nice and crispy and with a generous amount of toppings, but not overloaded It was also surprisingly light – I typically ask for less mozzarella on pizzas as they can often be very greasy, but this one was not. All in all, a nice dish. It doesn’t (quite) beat my favourite in London, but as they are clearly not competing, I guess I never have to choose between them.

For dessert, I plumped for the affogato (espresso over vanilla ice-cream). This was nice, but I have had better (yup, we’re back to LondonEats’ favourite pizzeria in Clerkenwell again). My own preference is for very cold ice-cream, so that when the espresso goes over, the ice-cream stays very firm. It is also important that the ice-cream is not too sweet, so that the flavour of the coffee shines alongside the vanilla, rather than just supporting it. The ice-cream was still good (if just a touch softer than I like it), but I appreciated the hazelnut macaroon biscuit with it, which made for a contrasting texture with the ice-cream and coffee.

Would I go again? Definitely. The food was very nice, and if the only weak point was that the dessert was good rather than stellar, I can live with this. The decor is fresh and inviting, the service friendly and, when summer comes, one very impressive looking south-facing terrace. Bring on the sunshine, and I may well be back.

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On Location: marqt (Amsterdam)

On my recent visit to Amsterdam, I was taken to marqt, a rather fancy new food store.

I was not too certain if the focus was on organic or just good quality, but the place looks amazing and has the air of a chic boutique with concrete floors and walls and bright minimalist lighting. Food is displayed on the shelves in a manner approaching art (check out the rather cool stripped-back design on the milk) and I would defy anyone to go in and come out empty-handed. Much hipper and fresher than Wholefoods or Planet Organic, but certainly not cheap. If you are around the Rembrandtplein area, I really recommend popping in for just about anything your heart desires, from fantastic fresh bread (observe the baker actually kneading the bread!), fish, fruit, cheeses etc. Postcards are fine, but a little edible gift for the nearest and dearest really shows you were thinking of them, and so much of a culture is linked to its food!

But my mission is food, not (just) style, and after sampling the bread on offer, I did indeed buy a few things. My absolute favourite is the Groningerkoek, a sort of teacake made from syrup, rye flour and spices. It’s a little like German Christmas biscuits and utterly delicious, and I am just sad that I was not able to bring a second one back to London.

I also have pink muisjes, literally “little mice”, which are aniseed balls. These are put on buttered rusks and served when a baby is born, so I will produce these as part of my contribution to an upcoming baby naming day here in London. It is supposed to be in a garden, assuming the weather perks up. Fingers crossed!

Finally, I picked up some anijsblokjes, sweet aniseed blocks that are dissolved in warm milk, which I imagine makes for a comforting drink when it is chilly outside, and some hagelslag, which are real chocolate sprinkles for eating on bread.

As they say in the Netherlands – Lekker!

(and in case you are wondering – I had my fill of gouda on the rest of the trip, so I wasn’t feeling the need to buy more here!).

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On Location: Café de Jaren (Centrum, Amsterdam)

Today is quite exciting as LondonEats goes international. I am currently in the Netherlands and this presents a great chance to cover a few places that are quite different from London. The weather here is great, very conducive to a stroll though the streets in the spring sunshine while dodging the famous Dutch devil cyclists.

One of the most famous culinary exports from the Netherlands is Dutch Apple Pie, so when I saw this on the menu at De Jaren in the centre of town, I went for it straight away.

This was completely different from what I was expecting. I had an image of the usual apple pie in my head, but instead it was about 5 inches tall and filled with lots of sliced apple. This was one of those moments when you think you are getting one thing, but are pleasantly surprised to get something even more exciting than you had thought.

However, today is also a first as I can’t say that I actually loved it all that much. There was a lot of apple and not too much crust, which I think is the right way to make an apple pie, but the crust was soggy and seemed a but undercooked from all the juice from the apples, and it could have done with a bit more cinnamon. I like to mix the apples with a little brown sugar, a generous pinch of spice and some salted butter before putting them in the pie shell, so I though this lacked a little something. The pie was also oddly warm on top but cold at the bottom, and I am not really sure why this happened. I find sweet dishes are often best served at room temperature!

So on balance, it was a nice cafe and had good coffee, but I think I need to look elsewhere for an apple tart fix next time I come to visit. Hopefully my version of an apple pie will also be up here in the near future.

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