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By Vicky Hampton

There’s been a lot of talk about pizza in Amsterdam lately. With the arrival of nNea and Beppe – both sporting Neapolitan credentials – it seems the city is taking its pizza more seriously than most outside of Italy. And yet there are a lot of pizzerias that have been around for years that I’ve still not tried. So in the past week, I set about changing that.

Wednesday: La Zoccola del Pacioccone

Before the fateful Ajax vs. Tottenham football match, I carb-and-wine-loaded at La Zoccola del Pacioccone. This is a pizzeria I’ve had recommended to me on a few occasions, but it’s sat on my To-Eat List, ignored, for months if not years. I’m not sure why, because the toppings were a delight to eat: the burrata was pleasantly buffalo-tasting, and the prosciutto was rich and generously sliced. Meanwhile, the ‘nduja on our second pizza was properly spicy, and the mozzarella was smoked – adding an excellent depth of flavour.

Burrata and prosciutto pizza at La Zoccola del Pacioccone

My only criticism (and I guess this is kind of crucial) was the crust: while there was nothing wrong with the dough itself, I suspect that the oven was not hot enough, or that there were too many pizzas cooking in there at once. Our pizzas lacked a firm, crispy base, and instead were slightly flabby and rubbery in texture. With that being said, I’d still go back to La Zoccola for the toppings alone…

Friday: Porchetteria

Mr Foodie had been angling to go to Porchetteria in de Pijp for some weeks, so on Friday we popped in straight from after-work drinks in search of… porchetta. Naturally. But we were soon to discover that while Porchetteria does serve a couple of porchetta dishes, it is essentially a pizza parlour. And while this was clear when we later looked at the website, the name felt misleading.

False advertising aside, we enjoyed the food we ate there a lot. When we arrived, we were the only customers so the man serving us (who I assume was the owner) took the time for a friendly chat and offered us an off-menu starting point for our meal: a tagliere (the Italian word for chopping board) of salami, prosciutto, a spicy sausage from Bologna and some mouth-watering burrata – all served with crispy slices of focaccia drizzled with olive oil.

Tagliere at Porchetteria Amsterdam

The tagliere being no small portion to start with, we decided to share a porchetta dish next. Described as a Roman-style pizza bianca ripiena (filled white pizza), the porchetta came in a sort of focaccia sandwich stuffed with burrata and lettuce as well as the pork itself. While it tasted delicious, it was hard to discern the porchetta through the creaminess of the cheese. This was perhaps also down to the fact that there were no noticeable fennel seeds or herbs running through the meat as you’d expect from porchetta – it tasted essentially like simple roast pork. Perfectly pleasant but not what we were expecting.

Pizza bianca ripiena – filled with porchetta and burrata

The pizzas at both restaurants were comparable in price: €15 at Porchetteria and about €17 at La Zoccola, while a glass of simple house red wine was around the €5 mark. I enjoyed them both in different ways, but I also felt that both could’ve been improved upon with fairly obvious tweaks. More pizza research needed? It’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it…

The post Pizza two ways: Porchetteria and La Zoccola del Pacioccone appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

I seem to have been on a bit of a Chinese food kick lately… So after sampling the dim sum at newly opened Full Moon Garden and the Peking duck at confusingly named Sichuan Food, I was ready to dip my toe (or rather, my bamboo skewer) into the hotpot at Yuan’s.

I’d been tipped off about Yuan’s Hot Pot by a foodie friend, who knew from experience that a hotpot is better shared with a group of buddies who aren’t squeamish about double-dipping. So eight of us headed to the Rijnstraat last Friday on what must’ve been one of the coldest days in May for a while – in other words, perfect hotpot weather. It was lucky we’d made a reservation, because the restaurant was packed and there was queue out the door for the next available table (it soon became apparent why). The décor is simple to the point of utilitarian, ordering is done via iPad, there are random screens showing Chinese TV, and half the clientele look to be Asian in origin. It couldn’t have got any more authentic without being literally in Chengdu. Things were off to an excellent start…

Each table comes with a hollowed-out centre in which a pot of steaming broth appears. Most people opt to keep one half of the broth non-spicy, and to have the other half topped up with a nuclear-looking chilli paste. If you’re a chilli addict like me, you’re in spice heaven. From there, you simply order a variety of meat (generally on bamboo skewers), fish, veggies, noodles and all manner of other things to throw into the pot until they’re cooked and ready to eat. It helps to have a modicum of common sense about cooking times in this situation: a thin slice of beef needs to be dipped for literally a few seconds before gobbling it straight down, whereas a skewer of chicken may take a few minutes. For adventurous eaters, there are also plenty of options to challenge your palate: think frog’s legs, chicken feet, tripe, and various organ meat. Like I said, this is about as authentic as you’re going to get in Amsterdam.

I enjoyed pretty much everything – which is hardly surprising since if you serve me anything dipped in chilli broth, I’m sold. The vegetables were a particular highlight – somehow the leaves really trapped the flavour of the broth more than the meat and fish did, which I wouldn’t necessarily have expected. The only thing I wasn’t a fan of were the noodles: made from sweet potato starch, they were glutinous to the point of being impossible to eat, and so slimy that it took several attempts just to pick them up. But that’s a small negative in an otherwise fabulous experience.

The prices at Yuan’s are insanely reasonable too: we spent €35 per person, but a) we are all big eaters; b) we kept ordering and ordering and ordering; and c) we drank boat loads of beer and white wine as well. I think the average diner could easily come away having spent €25 or less. For an experience that transports you straight to Chengdu, that’s money well spent.

The post Yuan’s Hot Pot: a Taste of Chengdu in Amsterdam appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

According to Google, Sichuan Food on Amsterdam’s Reguliersdwarsstraat was the first Chinese restaurant in the Netherlands to be awarded a Michelin star, holding one star for over a decade from 1993 until 2005. When I went to visit in 2019, it looked like not much had changed since the early 90s: pink satin tablecloths, paper doilies on every plate, elaborate hostess trolleys on wheels… even a futuristic but dated toilet seat that lifts up and down with the wave of a palm.

But hey, oldies can still be goodies – right? Despite its name, Sichuan Food is known not for its (umm) Sichuan food, but for its Peking duck – traditionally served in three courses. But since the duck takes 30 minutes to prepare, we sated our initial hunger with some dim sum and an old-school cocktail (kir royales and dry martinis seemed fitting, under the circumstances). On the dumpling front, the ha kau was a little watery, while the siu mai was like a bad burger – solid lumps of processed pork. Better were the fried chicken dumplings, although you can’t see them here as they were on the layer below. Underwhelming dim sum at Sichuan Food

Still, on to the main event: the duck. First up, it was served in the classic Peking pancakes with hoisin sauce and shredded cucumber and spring onions. While you may be used to rolling these yourself, at Sichuan Food, they assemble them for you – stuffed with the crispy skin of the duck and loosely rolled in homemade pancakes that are thicker than the kind you generally see. They tasted delicious, although the oil pouring out of the duck skin was at times overpowering.

The famed Peking duck…

Next, we were served soup made from a thin duck broth with slices of the duck and some spring onions floating in it. The duck meat itself was good, but the skin quickly morphed from crispy to soggy and flabby – not a great mouthfeel.

Duck soup – complete with several doilies

Finally, the remainder of the duck came fried up in various capacities: the breast was served in a traditional orange sauce, while the rest of the meat had either been finely diced and fried to be rolled into lettuce leaves, or stir-fried with onions and peppers. The former was probably the best in terms of flavour and texture, while the lettuce wraps were lacking in both. Note the “rose” made from a radish on the side on the plate – when was the last time you saw one of them?!

Duck three ways – and a radish rose!

Dinner came to €60 each, with the duck courses alone reaching €38.50 a head. Sichuan Food made us pay €5 for a bottle of water, which sends me livid every time it happens. Perhaps bottled water was the norm in the 90s – it’s not anymore. But that was my conclusion across the board: an inescapable sense that this is a restaurant little changed in 30 years. And in a culinary scene that’s evolved in leaps and bounds since the 90s, that’s no longer going to cut it. Perhaps Sichuan Food is still in a few guidebooks, but there’s only so long it can rest on former glories.

The post Sichuan Food’s Peking Duck: Resting on Former Glories appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

For obvious reasons, I rarely eat at the same restaurant twice – let alone multiple times. When you’re continually under pressure to find new places to write about, it’s not really an option. There are a few notable exceptions (A-Fusion, Fou Fow, La Perla), but they’re a subject for another post. So it had been an entire decade since I’d last been to Indonesian restaurant Blue Pepper by the time they invited me for dinner there. I looked back at the review I’d written at the time, discovered that they’d made some significant changes over the intervening years, and decided it was high time I gave them another try.

And I was glad that I did. Blue Pepper is essentially serving a fine-dining-meets-rijsttafel version of Indonesian food. Which could be ideal if you have a client you need to impress, or it’s your dad’s birthday. That’s not to say that the atmosphere is stuffy or pretentious, but the service is a cut above your regular Amsterdam restaurant, the presentation of the food is a notch fancier, and you can order paired wines with everything. I’ve seen this before at Mama Makan, and the flavour suffered as a consequence. But at Blue Pepper, you’ll still find the punchy flavours and chilli kicks you’d expect from the best Indonesian food. Indonesian grasshopper, anyone?!

Now that I’ve totally spoiler-ed my own review, what did we eat? Grasshoppers, for one. Blue Pepper’s amuse-bouche was the second time I’ve eaten a grasshopper (the first time being at Rollende Keukens a couple of years back) and I can confirm that this was an improvement. It probably had a lot to do with the kering sauce (which tasted much like ketjap manis) that would make any insect taste like a crunchy, sweet, umami snack.

Blue Pepper has opted to serve their rijsttafel in courses, rather than plonking everything on the table at once. Of course, that changes the pace of the meal – which could be good or bad depending on your preference. But it also allows you to savour each item individually, to pair wines accordingly, and (let’s be honest) to charge more. So our first proper course was a scallop with orange, macadamia nuts and samphire. Uncharacteristically delicate for Indonesian food, but no less sweet and delicious for it – especially when served with a glass of Prosecco.

Scallop with orange, macadamia and samphire

The second course comprised three mini-dishes in one: a pulled-goose fried spring roll with a sauce fragrant from cloves and cinnamon; a palate-cleansing fruit combo of pineapple, mango and cucumber with a sweet sauce; and a spicy guinea-fowl curry that was pleasantly hot on the tongue. It was, admittedly, a little hard to tell that the goose wasn’t duck, and the guinea fowl not plain old chicken, but I appreciated the restaurant’s attempts to win people over to lesser-used ingredients.

With the satay course, we were back in more familiar territory. Chicken satay came with the requisite peanut sauce, while lamb satay came with a soy-based sauce. New for me was curried jackfruit satay, which I’ve had before disguised as pulled pork but never stuck onto a satay skewer. It was pleasant enough, but I doubt I’ll ever become jackfruit’s biggest fan.

Satay three ways

Next came a rather more traditional selection of four rijsttafel dishes: spicy prawns, beef rendang, gado-gado and pickled vegetables. The prawns were so good we ended up ordering seconds, while the rendang was so melt-in-the-mouth it could have been made with beef cheek. This may be regular rijsttafel fare, but the quality is still impressive.

I’m never big on Asian desserts (or desserts in general, for that matter), but the sweet course at Blue Pepper was worth my risking a sugar crash. First, we were instructed to eat what looked like a tiny yellow flower. Five seconds later, I felt like my mouth had been woken up by a lightning bolt. It made the combination of orange-blossom sorbet, mango panna cotta and forest berries all the fruitier.

Blue Pepper’s dessert (magic yellow flower on the bottom left)

Had we been paying, dinner would’ve cost €57.50 for five courses, plus €31 for the wine pairings. Admittedly, a €90 dinner is not something you’re going to indulge in every night. But for a special occasion – especially for those seeking an upscale Indonesian experience in Amsterdam – I think it’s worth the price tag. And for me, it was definitely worth giving Blue Pepper a second chance to make a first impression…

The post Blue Pepper: a second chance to make a first impression appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

When I moved to the east side of Amsterdam, I figured it was high time I updated the location categories on my restaurant finder so that Oost was no longer one, big, all-inclusive mass. I separated Watergraafsmeer into its own neighbourhood, and also split off the Plantage since it’s not technically in Oost anyway. But having done so, I realised something very strange: I hardly had any – any – restaurants in the Plantage area of my map. Why hadn’t I gone out to eat more in the Plantagebuurt? Was it because there weren’t many restaurants there? Or because I didn’t know anyone who lived in that area? I started doing some research about where to eat in the Plantage and, while the coverage of good restaurants seemed to be less than elsewhere in Amsterdam, one name kept popping up again and again. Box Sociaal. I set out to investigate…

Run by Antipodeans, Box Sociaal is (perhaps unsurprisingly) known for its brunch. And indeed they seem to do a good line in the usual suspects from eggs Benedict to breakfast sandwiches, but they also have some more creative-looking menu items like the yum cha waffle or what looks like a pimped-up PBJ sandwich. Pictured here is the Eggs Benny & the Jets with added ham, which was generally pretty good. One of these days someone is going to make a killing making English muffins and selling them to every brunch joint in town, but until that happens I guess the best we can hope for is toasted sourdough. The eggs were a tad on the runny side, but the spinach and ham were good and the Hollandaise well-made. Plus the little potato croquettes you can see on the side were a cute and tasty addition. Eggs Benny & the Jets at Box Sociaal

But the first time I went to Box Sociaal was in fact for dinner, and I’m pleased to report their evening menu is just as tasty. We split a plate of halloumi fries to start, which were hot and crispy (and slightly sweet from honey and thyme), with a cooling mint-yoghurt dressing. As mains, we tried the cassoulet – which was pleasantly experimental but still close enough to its bean-based roots. It was topped with a slice of pork belly with crispy skin (you can’t go wrong there) and the beans were creamy and perfectly cooked. I didn’t get much of the Toulouse sausage coming through though, which was a shame. Meanwhile, the beef cheek was fantastic – melt-in-the-mouth and umami rich from a thick Asian-infused stock. While the rice and cucumber/daikon salad it came with were pretty plain, it didn’t matter – the beef cheek was centre stage.

Foreground: cassoulet. Background: beef cheek.

Drinks-wise, Box Sociaal’s coffee and juices are excellent, and they have a decent selection of wines by the glass. They had a kimchi theme going on the evening I was there, so I also tried a kimchi cocktail. The citrus and spice was nice, although I couldn’t taste much alcohol, but I got definite garlicky notes from the kimchi. I like that they dared to be different, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work. My brunch came to €20, while dinner came to €46 – so about mid-range for Amsterdam these days. And the service was impeccable, which meant I had no problem leaving a tip either.

I’ll return to the Plantage for Box Sociaal alone. But the question still remains: where else should I eat in the Plantagebuurt? Let me know in the comments below!

The post Where to eat in the Plantage: Box Sociaal appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

It was all the way back in 2013 (I can’t believe that’s six years ago already) that I started my series of posts about searching for tacos in Amsterdam… Over the intervening years, I concluded that the only tacos I really liked came from pop-ups like Orale Taqueria and Best Coast Taqueria. But this was problematic because you could never guarantee a good taco experience when you needed it. So I was thrilled to discover that the folks behind Best Coast opened their own permanent venue in the Bilderdijkpark in West: Flora. It took me a little while to get there (now that I’m an Oost dweller and still inherently lazy) but get there I did last Saturday. And I’m more than glad that I made the trek…

I was with five of my very best friends in the world, and it had been a while since we’d all been together – so spirits were high before we started. That said, spirits were even higher after a margarita and a sharing plate of nachos. The latter were freshly fried and topped with queso fresco, black beans, Mexican crema, two types of salsa – one green tomatillo and one red and smoky – as well as some raw radish, onion and coriander to garnish. The ingredients were all properly layered up, so you didn’t end up with a glut of dry tortilla chips left over at the end. Perfect for sharing between two or more people. Loaded nachos at Flora

Needless to say, we ordered every variety of taco on the menu. While there were two meaty ones – spicy carnitas (pulled pork) and achiote chicken – my favourite had to be the elote tacos: filled with roasted corn and refried black beans, and topped with the most incredible sauce of nuts and chilli (the menu informs me it’s called salsa macha – I’d never heard of it but I’m desperate for more).

Flora also serves a couple of different quesadillas, so we decided to try them too (the advantage of being in a group). One was filled with kimchi, which was pretty tasty although I’m never totally convinced by the combination of cheese and kimchi. I preferred the other: stuffed with pickled cactus and topped with more cheesy, creamy goodness. All the dishes came with three salsas of varying heat and intensity (I am a huge fan of the smoky pineapple) but honestly with this much flavour going on you really don’t need to add anything extra to the dishes.

The best tacos in town!

Dinner totalled €35 each including a couple of drinks, and kept us going throughout an evening of dancing and drinking at De Nieuwe Anita just down the road. Of course, I felt my age the next morning when my hangover kicked in, but for a moment there it felt just like 2013 again… only with way better tacos.

The post In search of tacos in Amsterdam, part 9: Flora appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

Pancakes, crepes, pannenkoeken… whatever you call them, and whatever size and shape they come in, they make an excellent, filling, low-budget meal. Holland and pancakes go together like Sonny and Cher, but it’s actually extremely rare that I eat pancakes in Amsterdam. Except, that is, when I have a hangover. Then these carb-rich beauties are exactly what’s needed to stave off whatever ails you. And the Dutch do them particularly well: you mustn’t visit Amsterdam without trying one of the pancake houses the city has to offer. Here are a few of my favourite pancake eateries in the capital… Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs

My most-loved pancake house is Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs, which is (unsurprisingly) up an extraordinarily steep and narrow flight of stairs – even by Dutch standards. It’s a tiny place, and easy to miss, but worth it once you get inside. Teapots hang from the ceiling in every size and shape, while the pancakes are the diametre of dinner plates and as thick as pizzas, with both sweet and savoury toppings. Try a hearty classic like ham and cheese (add pineapple if you’re feeling the Hawaiian thing), or go sweet with apple, cinnamon and whipped cream.

Pancakes at Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs Madam Pancake

Luxuriously thick, fluffy, American-style pancakes seem to be having a bit of a moment in Amsterdam right now. And it makes sense, given the country’s passion for pannenkoeken. It’s not often that I eat out in the Red Light District, but I recently made an exception when I accepted an invite from Madam Pancake. Tucked down an alleyway replete with sex shops and snack bars, this pancake house attracts its fair share of tourists, but for good reason. The coffee is strong, the orange juice freshly squeezed (and comes with a shot of hangover-relieving pressed ginger on the side) but most importantly the pancakes are as they should be. Warm and pillow-soft, with plenty of maple syrup and excellent bacon (or fruit, or salmon, or pretty much any pancake topping you can think of). The breakfast deal costs €18.50 and will set you up for the day.

Madam Pancake’s fluffy American stack Pancakes Amsterdam

Mr Foodie had been living here nearly four years before I finally remembered to take him out for pancakes. And where better to try them than the place of the same name? Pancakes Amsterdam serves some of the best versions in the city, and while you will see plenty of tourists, locals do treat themselves to the occasional pancake there too. Of course, you can order the regular toppings (bacon and cheese, apple and stroop, and so on), but you’ll also find some more adventurous combinations. I tried one of the house specials: camembert, ham, chicory and raspberry sauce – it sounds odd, but it was strangely addictive. The Honey Badger went for a sweet-n-savoury combo of bacon, bananas and chilli – it was equally tasty so I demanded we share.

Pancakes at Pancakes! Typically Dutch hangover fare

The post Where to eat pancakes in Amsterdam appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

January. Whether it was dry, vegan, low-calorie or gym-fuelled, I for one am glad it’s over. A month closer to spring. A month closer to finishing the six-month project that has me working so hard that I’ve not posted a restaurant review in almost three weeks. Partly because I’ve barely had time to eat, but mostly because I’ve definitely had no time to write. Which is why I find myself frantically struggling for inspiration on a Sunday afternoon, mainlining cappuccinos in the café down the road.

I asked Mr Foodie what I should title this article. “The Lion, the Hummus and the Aperitivo,” he said. I love it but my SEO doesn’t. So instead I simply bring you three new restaurant concepts for the new year in Amsterdam: the Lion’s Head Brew Bar (actually open for three months but like I said, I’m behind on stuff), Eastern Mediterranean chain NENI, and Cecconi’s Aperitivo Hour at Soho House. If I’m going to write my first review in three weeks, I might as well write three at once… Lion’s Head Brew Bar

I ended up at the Lion’s Head Brew Bar pretty much by accident. A friend was having birthday drinks at a bar down the road, and we were looking for somewhere to eat beforehand. Touting itself as a South African-German mashup, the Lion’s Head’s menu features Bavarian schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) and kölsch beer on the one hand, and pork belly with kimchi and fruity watermelon wheat beer on the other. Plus a smattering of American buffalo wings and Tex-Mex nachos thrown in for good measure. It was either going to be genius or disastrous.

Stellar nachos at Lion’s Head Brew Bar, Amsterdam

Fortunately, it was the former. The nachos alone were a revelation in a city where I’ve had so many bad experiences I’d more or less given up ordering them. Excellent slow-cooked chilli beef was layered in with homemade tortilla chips, pleasantly chunky guac, sour cream, and a few jalapenos for the spice fiends amongst us. Meanwhile, the hot wings were coated in the Lion’s Head’s own buffalo sauce – excellent, but the addition of ranch or blue-cheese dip would’ve been the proverbial cherry on the cake. Steak and eggs were tender, smoky, creamy and full of flavour. And even the pumpkin ravioli was a pleasure to eat, with good bite to the pasta, savoury notes from the sage, and a little crunch from the toasted nuts on top. My only criticism was of the salmon, which tasted solely of the nori seaweed it was wrapped in and the miso jus it was swimming in – the salmon flavour was lost completely. But the other stellar dishes and the moreish home-brewed beers more than made up for it.

Wintry pumpkin and sage ravioli

Dinner came to €43 each, including a tip that we were happy to leave – the service was outstanding, too. The Lion’s Head Brew Bar hasn’t come up in any press releases I’ve received, and nor do they appear to be doing any PR. It’s refreshing (and increasingly rare) to simply stumble across a restaurant that I’ve never heard about, and discover a team of people doing great things. One to watch.

NENI

In stark contrast, NENI’s PR is almost inescapable. With a preview tasting, a press dinner and an opening party – all of which obviously hosted at NENI’s enormous premises in the converted Citroën garage – there can’t be a food writer in Amsterdam who hasn’t eaten there. And it’s not even officially open yet. But none of that detracts from the quality of what NENI is offering.

Charcoal-roasted aubergine (photo courtesy of NENI Amsterdam)

The owners (Haya Molcho and her four sons) have Israeli, Romanian and Spanish roots, so you can expect an Eastern Mediterranean party on your palate. The hummus is silky smooth, the aubergine smoky and grassy with olive oil, the seabass crudo laced with pomegranate – even the olives are outstanding. The veg-led dishes were definitely the highlight: try the sabich – think the Israeli answer to focaccia, studded with aubergine, eggs, tahini, a tangy mango sauce and a fresh, fragrant, herb-rich salsa. Try also the generous fish cakes with char-grilled vegetables. I was less impressed with the meat dishes, including the chicken shawarma which didn’t elevate itself any higher than its snack-bar counterpart. Prices are very reasonable, the service friendly, and the atmosphere… well, the atmosphere was a little hard to imagine without 200 journalists and bloggers swarming around. But that might be reason enough to make the trek back to Stadionplein and find out.

Cecconi’s Aperitivo

Last but not least, those who have not been fortunate enough to score a table at the hottest Italian ticket in town (and that includes me) will be pleased to hear that Soho House’s restaurant and bar Cecconi’s is: a) open to non-members; and b) now offering an Aperitivo Hour Monday through Wednesday between 3 and 6 pm.

Order a typically bitter Italian cocktail – think Negroni or vermouth & tonic – and you’ll be treated to free plates of aperitivo-style snacks as and when they emerge from the kitchen. We tried the zucchini fritti (fried courgettes) with a mayo-based dipping sauce, simple margarita pizzette, and pillow-soft meatballs in tomato sauce. The latter were perhaps my favourite, but all were well executed – as was my Negroni.

Negroni and zucchini fritti at Cecconi’s Aperitivo Hour

I’ve still not ben to Cecconi’s for dinner, and I’ve heard mixed reports – some say the lobster pasta is to die for, others that the dishes lack soul. So if any of you actually have managed to get a table, let me know what you think in the comments below!

Disclaimer: I was invited to both NENI and Cecconi’s as a food writer, and didn’t pay for my meal/aperitivo. 

The post New in Amsterdam: Lion’s Head Brew Bar, NENI, Cecconi’s Aperitivo appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

When I lived in West (which I did up until about eight months ago), I was forever sending messages to the owner of Little Collins in de Pijp: “There’s a venue just opened up in the Spaarndammerbuurt – how about a second location?!” Or: “What about this place in the Staatsliedenbuurt? I think it has a horeca licence!” I guess she finally got the hint because a couple of weeks ago, Little Collins announced that they’d just opened at a second, bigger location on Bilderdijkstraat. Great news for those living in West… which goddamnit no longer includes me! (But seemingly includes every other Westside dweller in town – I saw three people I knew on the opening weekend alone.)

Much like their first location, Little Collins West has an industrial vibe and an eclectically international menu. But it’s bigger so you should, in theory, have more chance of scoring a table. So far, I’ve popped in for both brunch and dinner: the former was as hectic as ever (Amsterdammers are still obsessed with brunch, it seems) but the latter was a more leisurely affair. Whatever time you choose to eat, cocktails, coffee and caboodles of flavour are the order of the day. Winter comfort at Little Collins West

In the evening, I highly recommend you order the milky-soft white beans with succulent beef cheek, deep-green kale and punchy chorizo (pictured above) – a wintry, earthy, satisfying dish with a surprising lightness of touch. Another highlight is the ray, served with brown butter, black garlic and pickled ribbons of celeriac – a delicate fish that’s elevated by umami flavours that are real heavy hitters.

Also worth a try is the lamb kofte, which comes with cauliflower puree, cumin-spiked flatbread, dukkah, a so-called green chilli salsa verde and – at brunch-time only – a fried egg. Mr Foodie rightly noted that the green stuff was more chimichurri than salsa verde, but that didn’t detract from the overall quality of the dish.

Bottom left: ray and celeriac; top right: cauliflower and tahini

Drinks-wise, Little Collins offers a good selection of wines by the glass (I particularly liked the Pinot Noir Gamay) and twists on a few classic cocktails – think Mezcal Negroni or Maple Old-Fashioned. And, if you’re into the whole Dry January thing, the bartender (formerly Tales & Spirits) will even make you a virgin cocktail. Prices are friendly, service is friendly – everything is, frankly, friendly.

My only hope, now that I live just across the river from de Pijp, is that Little Collins’ original location will be a little less busy from now on…

The post Little Collins: Western Promise appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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By Vicky Hampton

When I was five or six, my parents took me to London to see the musical Cats. It was quite possibly the first time I’d ever been to the theatre, and it was a magical experience that has stayed with me ever since. I could still remember my anguish as the faded Glamour Cat poured her heart into Memory, and my sheer joy at the energy of Skimbleshanks, the Railway Cat. I must have gone on about it a lot, even in my 30s, because for Christmas Mr Foodie gave me two tickets to the production currently playing at the RAI Theatre in Amsterdam. It’s the original English version that was performed in the West End for over 20 years – and it’s in Amsterdam for just three weeks. I was, as you can imagine, beside myself with joy.

To make the most of our theatre evening, we decided to catch an early dinner at The Roast Room – a spaciously grand grill restaurant at the northern end of the RAI complex. Downstairs, you can order bar food and the night we were there it was packed – the RAI evidently provides a constant crowd of theatre goers and conference visitors. But upstairs, you can make a reservation at the rotisserie – it was significantly calmer, so I was thankful we had. The Butcher’s Platter at The Roast Room, Amsterdam RAI

The menu is predominated by steaks, but you can also order various other meat and fish options – The Roast Room is catering to a wide audience. We, however, decided to go classic and order the Butcher’s Platter – a selection of ribeye, flank steak and sirloin. I’d heard good things about The Roast Room a few months ago when I’d been doing research for an article about steakhouses, so I had high hopes. And the flank steak (on the left in the picture) lived up to them: flavoursome, juicy, and tender to the teeth. The other two, however, were disappointing – the ribeye in particular was tough and tasteless, while it was the cut I’d usually expect to like the most.

As sides, we tried the fries with tarragon mayonnaise, which were good but could’ve done with being fluffier in the centre (there is such a thing as being too crispy). Meanwhile, the roasted pumpkin with Brussels sprouts and bacon was fine, but why use sliced bacon instead of crunchy lardons?

We only had one glass of wine each (although admittedly it was a Californian Pinot Noir and the second most expensive red by the glass) and dinner came to €50 each including a tip. For one course, with one glass of wine. I don’t remember when Amsterdam got this expensive, but I can understand why some of the Dutch feel they’re being forced out of the city. Fortunately, Rum Tum Tugger, Magical Mr Mistoffelees and their Jellicle friends made me forget all about it… Cats, you bring back memories – in every sense.

The post Pre-theatre dinner at The Roast Room appeared first on Amsterdam Foodie

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