Tag Archives: tourism

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: Vertigo 42 (The City, London)

When I go out, I have a strong, strong preference for down-to-earth places that serve great food and are a relaxed place for a drink.

But…every now and then…it is nice to go to something of a landmark bar. And this is very much the case with Vertigo 42, located at the top of one of the tallest buildings in the City. As you can see, from street level, it’s a long, long way up. A whole 42 floors.

Now, this is not the sort of place that I would normally drop into for a casual drink. This is in part because you need to book ahead, but also because this is a champagne and cocktail bar, with the sort of prices that you would expect from this sort of venue in the middle of London’s financial centre. You get the point…

All that said, the whole reason for going is that it does offer some of the most amazing views across London, especially on a clear day as the sun is setting. You can gaze at the Shard of Glass that is being built on the south bank of the Thames, admire the sun setting over west London (and really understand what prompted to Kinks to write their famous hit) and take in the London Eye, Tate Modern and Houses of Parliament and St Paul’s Cathedral. Towards the east, you can see the towers of Canary Wharf and the nearby 30 St Mary’s Axe (better known as the Gherkin).

You can see below why I recommend getting there as the sun is setting – you’ll see London in the daylight, then enjoy the sun setting and seeing the city light up in front of your eyes. Even at these prices, the views are stunning.

After all that boozing at the top of the tower, a little wander through the chilly streets was much-needed before going off to dinner. To put it all in context, this is the more familiar view of St Paul’s Cathedral at night.

Would I go back? Well, as I said, it’s not a place for a casual drink, but great to visit or impress guests. Just be aware that the best views are for twos or fours (towards Waterloo – sunsets! landmarks!) so be sure to extract a guarantee about where you’re sitting if at all possible. Be prepared for a hefty bar tab, but remember – those views!

Vertigo 42, Tower 42, 25 Old Broad Street, London EC2N 1HQ. Tel: 0207 877 7842. Tube: Bank or Liverpool Street.

LondonEats locations map here.

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