When I first started to research places to eat in Amsterdam, a few people said “Oh, you don’t go there for the food.” Well, in a way they were right, but they were also wrong. It’s true, the standard of food in a typical cafe, bar or lunch spot, is rather banal – lots of bread, cheese and ham. We even found mustard soup on the menu (okay, not so banal). Which is fine, if you eat those things, but not so much if you don’t. (Amsterdam is challenging for the gluten and dairy free among us). On the other hand, with just a little research and the willingness to travel, on foot mostly, but the trams are great too, you can find some real gems. Here are a few we came across.
- For a really special night out, we checked out the Michelin-starred Bridges inside the Sofitel Grand Hotel. It’s about a 5-6 minute walk from Dam Square. It’s spacious, modern European inside and the menu when we were there was mostly built around seafood. Expect fairly modest plates, but beautifully prepared – exquisite to look at and intriguing to eat. We ordered the tartar of mackerel decorated with curls of kohlrabi (11 euros); the langoustine fried on sourdough (14 euros); the pan fried scallop with cauliflower, dashi and foam butter (11 euros) and a salad with asparagus, green tomato, a perfectly poached egg and hazelnut dust (9 euros). For us, this was enough – of course, we had dessert too – but there were main courses to choose from including a hare dish. Overall, a great spot for a special dinner.
- For lunch, or a place to spend the afternoon out of the cold, then De FoodHallen is a must. It offers an enormous array of food vendors, all under one stylish brick and glass roof. I loved it so much I wrote an entire post about it which you can find here.
- If you find yourself around Dam Square at lunchtime, don’t even think about eating right on the square. It’s tourist hell central. More expensive. Lower quality. Crowded. Instead, take one of the side alleys and lose yourself a little bit. Just a few streets off the square you’ll find more reasonably-priced, decent food. Great for lunch, with friendly service, was Cote Ouest. I was thrilled to find gluten-free gallettes on the menu – buckwheat crepes loaded with salad, a fried egg and bacon. Delish and only 12 euros.
- We ventured off the beaten track for dinner one night and headed to Le Garage a French bistro of sorts housed in an old repair shop. The menu is a little hit and miss. Stick to the basics like roasted chicken (29.50 euros), and you’ll be fine. Experiment with things like radish spaghetti ($16.50 euros) and to be honest, you might feel ripped off. For my money, Bridges was way better value for money with superlative execution. However, the desserts at Le Garage were great – we had floating islands complete with chocolate car, and a beet-inspired dish with ice cream, meringues and roasted beets. With coffee they bring madeleines, whipped cream and a giant log of bitter chocolate which they shave at your table. For this alone, the visit was well worth it.
- A great lunch spot is De Plantage. Located near the botanical gardens, it has a grand conservatory feel to the space, lots of tile and glass – it’s huge! We went right after Christmas and the joint was packed. Service was rather slow as a result, but the food was good, although very bread-heavy with lots of tartine open-faced sandwiches. We ordered a good spinach salad (8.75 euros), mushroom soup (7.50) and a mozzarella toasted pita thingy for Monkey (5.50).
- Amsterdam is also known for its Indonesian food. We ate our last meal at Thai restaurant, Bird, in the red light district. With a 30 minute wait (and I HATE waiting in line) we hoped it would be worth the hype. Sadly, I can’t recommend it. The food was heavy, salty and just not good. Skip it unless you are truly starving and really can’t find anywhere else to go.
Other recommendations that came my way but we didn’t have a chance to visit include: Michelin-starred restaurant, Bord’Eau and this spot, which housed in a greenhouse in south Amsterdam, sounds intriguing: De Kas. For Italian, try Casa di David on the Singel canal. And lastly, a great carb-loading spot for lunch is apparently Jacketz – Europe’s first baked potato chain. We saw someone’s plate of starch through the window and it looked mighty fine.
If you’re staying in an Airbnb and need to buy provisions, check out the Saturday organic market at Noordermarkt (cheese stall pictured above) We also wandered through Markt – a great looking deli near Rembrandtplein with lots to tempt the palate.
Lastly, for something sweet, be sure to check out Puccini Bomboni – a wonderful chocolate store in the Nine Streets area – an array of marvelous boutique stores weaving across three canals. From the sublime to the unusual, expect large mouthfuls of delicious chocolate. Yum! Happy travels.