Amsterdam City Blog restaurants, shops, people and life in Amsterdam


Favourite places in West

After well over a year of living in Amsterdam West, I've just realised that I haven't written a whole lot about the places I like to go here. That needs rectification! Because there are a lot of hip, new and happening places to go in West. Here's a list of favourites:

Cafe Zurich
Smack-dab on the edge of Mercatorplein. The exterior looks decidedly odd, it always makes me think of half a heart, complete with short bits of artery sticking out the top. But don't let that fool you. Inside it's lovely and homey, with a huge fireplace in the centre of the round space.

The staff is friendly, and the food is good (eventhough having dinner here is somewhat pricey). In the summer there's an enormous outside seating area. Also serves excellent lunch, with sandwiches and such for around 5 euro (affordable!).

Coffee and the menu at Bar Spek, Baarsjes, Amsterdam
Bar Spek
This is a new place on the Admiraal de Ruijterweg (right next to the bridge). There used to be another restaurant here (called 'In de Baars'), that we never got around to going to. But Bar Spek is fantastic. Levi and I have had dinner here and were welcomed in in the most friendly fashion.

The food is affordable and ok, if not overly fantastic. The pizzas are good though! Styling is fun and quirky, with a pig on the business cards ('Spek' meaning bacon) and the business ends of a few streetlanterns mounted on the wall.

This is a place a little bit off the beaten path. If you take the Vespuccistraat off the Jan Evertsenstraat, then take the first left. Cook is on the first corner, with a big outside seating area on both sides of the street. The inside has recently been enlarged. It used to be tiny, but now it's more than twice the size.

Cafe Cook in De Baarsjes, Amsterdam WestCook's got a great atmosphere, with a livingroom feel. None of the furniture matches, and the overall effect is homey, relaxed, ecclectic and clean. The staff is nice, but I've only ever had drinks here, I really want to go and have dinner here sometime soon!

Bar Baarsch
It's been a while since I've last been to this modern bar on the Jan Evertsenstraat. As a cafe it's incredibly busy on Fridays and Saturdays. I've had lunch and dinner here on occasion and it was good. I like that they have free wifi and games. It makes you feel welcome to feel at home.

Downside is that it can be too busy. I remember wanting to have dinner here on a Tuesday evening once, and not being able to find a place to sit.

So if you're in the neighbourhood: do drop by! There's plenty of good places to have lunch or dinner.

For info, go to their websites:
Café Zurich
Bar Spek
Bar Baarsch


Authentic Italian flavours at Mazzo

Tomorrow I am having my wisdom teeth taken out. It's my first time at the dental surgeon and it scares the living daylights out of me. So, to celebrate my last days of being able to eat solid food, my friend Matt and I had dinner at Mazzo on the Rozengracht in Amsterdam.

Mazzo on the Rozengracht in AmsterdamI've been wanting to go to Mazzo ever since Matt sent me an article on it on The Cool Hunter. It is a huge place, with an industrial and modern look, and yet a very homely feel about it. The enormous Chesterfield on the left wall looks inviting, but I'd advise against choosing to sit there, as it makes eating off of the low table a challenge.

Antipasti misti at Mazzo in AmsterdamWe started with the antipasti misti, which turned out to be a lovely big plate full of bruschette, cuts of meat and salads. We shared everything and enjoyed most of it (I especially loved the bruschette and the small pulpo salad).

Then we both had a pasta. Matt chose the Arabiata, I had the Carbonara. The pastas come in two sizes: small for around E9,- and large for around E13,-. Very tasty and good value too! It's also very Italian: the pasta is not smothered in sauce, like the Dutch tend to make their pastas.

Mazzo's signature Pizza MazzoLastly, Matt and I shared a pizza Mazzo. It's the one with buffalo mozzarella, lardo (baconfat), rocket and truffle tapenade. The bottom was thin and crisp, somewhat like the romans like their pizza. The topping was fresh, rich and gorgeous. We had thought to try a few desserts too, but it turned out we were full after the pizza. Next time, Mazzo, next time!

There were so many things on the menu that I'd love to try. A cold pizza Primavera for one, Stuzzichini (fried nibbles, like croquettes and stuffed olives) and the toasted tramezzino from the lunch menu. I definitely need to come back here!

Rozengracht 114
020 3446402



De Proeverij at Landmarkt Amsterdam

Levi has this thing for organic food. He wants to know that any piece of meat that lands on his plate comes from an animal that's had a good (and preferably full) life. Organic tomatoes are less watery and have more flavour, as do organic potatoes and cucumbers, etc. My mum pointed out to us that a new market place has opened its doors in Amsterdam East: Landmarkt Amsterdam.

I had a dinner date with my mum this evening (Levi had other plans) and she took me to De Proeverij, which is the restaurant at Landmarkt.

kitchen @ De Proeverij

photo courtesy of Landmarkt website

Great food
Well now! The staff is uncannily friendly (so unlike the rest of Amsterdam) and has a sense of humour. We ordered squid, fries and a ceasar salad. The salad was quite chunky and was amply sprinkled with parmesan and anchovies. The fries were made from unpeeled potatoes (which I love, it gives them more taste), golden brown and crunchy. But the squid was the best thing: incredibly fresh, and therefore soft and fleshy. Fried in oil with garlic. Yum!

The squid is listed with the snacks, and the fries as a side dish (very reasonably priced at E4,50 and E1,50) (yes, you read that right, the charge you E1,50 for a big bowl of fries with mayonaise... Also unheard of in Amsterdam). The ceasar salad was E7,- There are also soups, rolls, steak, fish and daily specials.

Fresh as can be
The ingredients are so fresh because they are obtained right there at the market. What's on offer at the market determines what's on the menu. Occupying a corner of an indoor market place has its advantages!

Because Landmarkt is located in a former greenhouse, De Proeverij's interior looks light, fresh and wholesome. If you go shopping for groceries (most if not all of the groceries found here are either organic or regional) after you've visited De Proeverij, then you will find that the butcher is also a man with a hearty sense of humour and that the girl at the register is very friendly as well. It's almost like being in another country!

Of course, to get to Landmarkt and De Proeverij, you do have to make somewhat of a trip, as it's not located anywhere near the city centre. But let me tell you: it's worth it.

Landmarkt on a Google mapLandmarkt Amsterdam and De Proeverij
Schellingwouderdijk 339 Amsterdam

Monday-Sunday: noon - 10pm
Tel: 020-4904366

Monday-Saturday: 8am- 8pm
Sunday:      noon-6pm
Tel: 020-4904333


Anti tip: Metz & Co in the Leidsestraat

I don't often do anti tips (read: never), but Metz & Co deserves one. In fact, it deserves a warning sticker on the front door: "Do not enter, unless you cherish awful service, disgustingly overpriced food and drink, and the dirtiest, smelliest restroom since the invention of cleaning."

Why did we go there then? Well, I once interviewed a Norwegian director here, and I remember the view being stunning from the sixth floor. It was quiet then, and I concentrated on the interview and did not visit the restroom. The view is still stunning. You can see half the city from here, from the Leidsestraat to the canal and the inner courtyards between the expensive houses. Beware though: taking photos and filming is strictly forbidden (or so a sign informs the visitor).

The waiting staff did not give us much attention. They seemed to be hoping we would go away of our own accord if they ignored us. The coffee, when it did arrive, tasted like dishwater. My inner barista cried when they brought a cappuccino from an automated machine (note: Levi had ordered plain black coffee)

We tried not to let the place get us down and enjoy the view, but it was marred by a plethora of greasy prints on the window. As if it had been a week since it had last been cleaned. For one cup of bad coffee and one mint tea (three stalks of fresh mint in a bucket of hot water) we paid 7 euro.

Metz & Co is supposedly purveyor of the royal household. The royal crest is prominently displayed on the wall. Maybe the queen should rethink who she gives that title out to.

If you do decide to visit, go for the view, but for nothing else.

Metz & Co
Leidsestraat  34-36
1017PB Amsterdam

Oh my, in looking that up, I just noticed their slogan on the website: "We are luxury." What a joke!


A quick bite at Julia’s at Amsterdam CS

When you're going somewhere by train and want to have a quick bite at Amsterdam Central Station, you can get fast food at the Burger King, a plastic sandwich from Albert Heijn to go or, as of November 2008, a box of warm pasta Julia's Pasta.

grab a quick bite at Julia's Pasta at Amsterdam Central StationThe dishes are more or less prefab, and heated up and assembled right in front of you. Choose your pasta, your sauce and additional toppings if you like (each dish has a predetermined standard set of toppings), pay around 5 euro and then watch as one of Julia's employees throws everything together.

A prepackaged portion of frozen pasta goes into hot water, a ladle of sauce goes into the pan, toppings are sprinkled over (in my case: bacon bits, spring onions and parmesan cheese flakes) and hey presto! You can take a seat at one of the tables in the back with your carton of food and a piece of plastic cutlery.

I had the carbonara. It's no five star meal, but it's warm, it's filling, it's nourishing and cheap.

Also serves salads, sandwiches, tiramisu, prosecco and wine.

There is no website that I could find, no contactinformation either, but if you enter the station on the west side, it's the first shop on the left hand side in what currently serves as the main hall.


Latei on the Zeedijk

Latei on the Zeedijk, signThis place near the Nieuwmarkt with oodles of charm used to be a favourite, back in the day when the coffee was still cheap, the pies always available and they didn't forget we were there. Lately though, the service at Latei has gone way down and every tourist knows where to find it. The shine seems to have worn off a little.

If you are patient, Latei on the Zeedijk can still have its moments. On a busy day like last Sunday though, patience was the key word. Sadly, not even patience could save Latei then. We went there with a friend, I was looking forward to the fantastic lemon cheesecake, Levi was looking forward to the apple pie.

uptairs interior at Latei on the Zeedijk in Amsterdam centreThe place was packed, but we found a table upstairs. We decided what we wanted (two carrot/beet juices, one coffee. One lemon cheesecake, one chocolate brownie and one of the huge apple pie pieces) and Levi went downstairs to order, knowing from experience that it's faster and easier that way.

brownie at Latei on the Zeedijk in AmsterdamOut of nearly everything
The staff is friendly and quirky, but not always fast. Sunday's waitress kept bringing things to our table that we hadn't ordered (a sandwich with cheese, orange juice...). After some time Levi returned with one chocolate brownie and informed us that this was all there was. They were out of cheesecake and apple pie and this was the last brownie to boot. There was an apple pie in the oven, but it was going to take some time.

Half an hour later we'd long since finished the one brownie between the three of us and got tired of waiting for our juice. The waitress who had previously wanted to bring us stuff we hadn't ordered did not show up with what we had ordered and so we decided to call it a day. We went downstairs and paid for the one brownie.

I said to the girl at the register "Since the juices we had ordered never arrived, I'd just like to pay for the brownie please." And all she said was "Oh. That will be 2,25." Not even an "I'm sorry, we must have forgot." Nothing. She didn't even ask her colleague about it, she just rang up the brownie and that was it.

Nothing to write home about
Needless to say I am disappointed in Latei. I've been there with Levi countless times before and I was expecting to be able to tell you guys about the great cheesecake and other scrumptious goodies (the menu is modest, but most of it is very good), but they never delivered.

window front at Latei in AmsterdamThe interior decoration is ecclectic, and everything's for sale! From the retro chairs you sit on and the tables you eat off of, to the fabulously ugly lamps hanging from the ceiling and the tacky embroidered art on the wall. There's also a selection of vintage wallpaper.

Latei is open:
Monday through Wednesday 8am - 6pm
Thursday and Friday 8am - 10pm (after 6 they serve Indian food)
Saturday 9am - 11pm (Indian food after 6)
Sunday 11am - 6pm

Zeedijk 143
1012AW Amsterdam


Sweet lemon pie at Bakken met Passie

lovely lemon pie at Bakken met PassieSummer is over. Rainy days and watery sunny days alternate this mercurial September. Real warmth is hard to find. With this in mind,I am declaring my ice cream days over and I am switching to reporting to you about pies, tarts (not the prostitute-kind), cakes and good coffee in Amsterdam. First up is one of my absolute favourites: Bakken met Passie. The name means "Baking with passion", but can also be translated as "Loads of Passion."

This shop slash tearoom is located in De Pijp, near a McDonald's and opposite De Burgermeester (great burgers, I owe you a review of that place). I keep coming back here for the scrumptious lemon pie: sweet and tart, with a crumbly crust. Levi and I love to try new things here. This time he's opted for a small pecan tart. The crust is covered in a honey caramel layer, with pecans dotting the top. It's ok, but not fabulous. I won't be ordering it again.

Noooo, but other favourites include the French apple tart, the Tuscan almond squares with their lacquered chewy tops and sandy crust, and the 'saucijzenbroodje' which is the Dutch version of a pig in a blanket: seasoned minced meat (veal in this case) in puff pastry. One of the best 'saucijzenbroodjes' in Amsterdam!

Levi has ordered plain coffee (on the pricey side at E2,50 for a tiny cup) and I have opted for a latte (E2,70 for a small glass) when suddenly a row breaks out. A woman, stylishly dressed, slim, with brown hair, argues with an older gentleman over whose turn it is. She is adamant he is being served out of turn and she completely loses it. The shop attendant tries to steer the gentleman out of the woman's way, while she insists on kicking up a shitstorm. In the end, the woman has to be shown out of the shop, because she won't stop yelling and screaming "It's just because he's thirty years older, isn't it?! It's ridiculous! I won't stand for it! It's not fair!"

The crazy thing is, even if she were right about the man cutting in line, if she would have just shrugged and kept her mouth shut, she would have had her turn, the man would have had his turn, everyone would have had their pastries and the world would be a happy, harmonious place. All in the same time (or less) it took her to go to battle.

Anyway. Bakken met Passie: Loads of passion! Gorgeous pastries, strong coffee and live entertainment to boot.

Besides pastries, Bakken met Passie also sells freshly baked bread, brioche, sandwiches and many many other good things. Service is friendly and is recognisably dressed in passionate red.

Bakken met Passie
Albert Cuypstraat 51-53
1072 CM Amsterdam

There is no website to speak of, but this is their telephone number: 020 6628309


Take the ferry to Amsterdam North

The ferry to Amsterdam NorthA few years ago, I had a job in Amsterdam North for a while. It took me a half hour to get to work, but I remember I loved taking the ferry to North every day, come wind, rain or sunshine. The trip alone is worth it, even if you have nowhere specific to go. From thet IJ river you have a good view of the back of Central Station and the towers of the lovely Saint Nicholas Church behind it. Best of all: this boat ride is completely free!

The ferries leave from the pier behind Amsterdam Central Station. There are three different ferries. This picture is of the IJplein ferry, which takes you east. This trip takes about 7 minutes and drops you off nowhere in particular. There are appartment buildings here, there's a supermarket a ways down the road and right on the pier where you arrive, there's a tiny coffee shack, called Al Ponte, which serves reasonably good Italian coffee with a smile.

The two ferries in the middle of the pier leave for Buiksloterweg, which is fairly centrally located for anywhere you'd like to go in North. There's a cafe there (De Pont), which I've never been to, but which gets mixed reviews from other visitors. The trip only takes a few minutes, so ferrywise, it's not that big.

The ferry that goes west takes around 10 minutes and goes to the NDSM area in North. Lots of creative companies have offices here. Underground techno parties and festivals are held here (Voltt Loves Summer for instance). And the fabulous IJkantine is located right on the docks. You can have a drink here, lunch or even dinner. What better way to say goodbye to the Summer than by sitting at the waterside with a nice coffee, enjoying the sun, the waves, watching the boats go by, and just chilling in the laidback vibe?

If there's a sunny Sunday afternoon somewhere in the near future, take the ferry, head North! And sit back and relax.

Ferries to Buiksloterweg leave every few minutes. The one to IJplein leaves every fifteen minutes or so, the one to NDSM goes every half hour. See the lighted signs at the pier to see which ferry goes where.


New on the Haarlemmerdijk: Deksels!

Front and tiny terrace of Deksels! on the Haarlemmerdijk in AmsterdamLevi and I used to frequent De Vries on the Haarlemmerdijk until one day, after we got back from our travels, we rode our bikes to that spot to have lunch and... found it closed. There was mail piled up on the mat, the place was deserted. Today we discover there's a new place at that location, it is called Deksels! and we decide to try it out immediately.

Our welcoming host Guus makes sure we get a seat on the tiny terrace (a bench, two tables and four chairs). A few people are sitting there already, but no one minds sharing the bench so everyone can sit outside in the sun.

There are interesting things on the lunch menu, like a salad with leafy spinach, courgette, feta and a red onion compote, or an open sandwich with merquez, cucumber, yoghurt and mint. Lunch is offered from 11.30 am until 3.30 pm. Cook Ellas stretches the rules a little bit for us, and makes Levi and me a sandwich with smoked mackerel salad and a horseradish sauce (E7,50), eventhough we arrive after 3.30. I order a smoothie to go with it, Levi gets a German weissbier.

Dinner at Deksels!
Where De Vries was only open until 6 pm, Deksels! is also open for dinner. In the evening the kitchen is open from 6.30 pm until 10.30 pm. The menu includes lovely sounding main courses like steak entrecote with roseval potatoes, jus de veau and spring onions (E18,-), or redfish with roasted fennel and baby potatoes (E17,-).

Smoked mackerel sandwich with horseradish sauce at Deksels! When our sandwich arrives we are impressed by the size (which is just as well, seeing the price of the dish). Two thick slabs of good, brown bread (from the baker on the Zeedijk, Guus tells us) are topped with a few leaves of salad and a copious amount of smoked mackerel salad. The salad is a little lacking in salt, but that is easily fixed. The zesty horserdish sauce gives the dish a well-balanced punch.

My orange-banana smoothie (E4,-) is heavenly. I was a fan of the fruitsmoothies in Asia, and it has proven surprisingly hard to find shakes of the same delicious kind in our usually cold country, but I have found a friend in calm Ellas (who, after finishing his shift with our sandwich, joined us all outside). His smoothie is smooth, fruity, full and creamy. I love it.

The terrace is a lively place, great to observe people. The Haarlemmerdijk is always busy with traffic, people on bicycles, people on foot, and trucks unloading wares in the middle of the street.

Big pot lid serving tray at Deksels!Guus, Ellas and sous-chef Victor seem like a bunch of laid back guys who have put their heart into this new place. Their sense of humour is evident in the serving trays they use. Deksels! is a very old Dutch expression, that was used as a curseword, when cursing itself was still considered very offensive. Drat! might be a good translation. Literally though, a 'deksel' is a lid. Like from a pot. And the serving trays at Deksels! are big lids of what must have been very big pots. A nice touch, no?

I'd love to come back here for dinner some time. I'm adding it to my (very long) list of (lovely) thing to do.


Vapiano: great pizzas, small prices

VapianoIf, after a hard day's work at the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam (the public library of Amsterdam, also known as the OBA), one feels a bit peckish, then a visit to Vapiano is in order. Don't go for the service (there is none), but do go there for the good and affordable food. Also a good tip if you're in the neighbourhood of the Amsterdam Central Station and looking for a bite to eat.

Vapiano has a system. Upon entering the establishment, each customer receives a card. Upstairs you can order pasta at the pasta counter, pizza at the pizza counter and so on with the salads and sweets. You touch your card to the appropriate place on the counter when you order (it says something like "your card here") and receive a pager that will tell you when your meal is ready. Then you have a seat, wait till the pager goes off and enjoy your meal. Before exiting the building you hand in your card at the cash register at the bottom of the stairs and pay for what you've had.

pizza bruschetta at Vapiano in AmsterdamMatt and I had pizza at Vapiano recently. I ordered the Pizza Bruschetta, with fresh tomatoes, garlic, rocket salad, parmesan cheese and mozzarella. He had the Toscana, with spicy Italian sausage, olives, fresh herbs, tomatoes and mozzarella.

Mine was very good. The crust was not too thin, not too thick, crisp but not dry. The topping was packed with flavour, thanks to the garlic and the very thinly sliced parmesan. It was also fresh, because of the rocket and the fresh tomatoes. All in all, a very good choice, for a mere E6,75.  The Toscana (E7,75) was stronger in flavour, the spicy Italian sausage was spicy indeed! Matt was happy with his choice.

Kill me again please
We had already spotted our dessert while we were picking out our pizzas: Death by Chocolate. For 3 euro a piece this extremely nice, dark brown stuff will slowly devour you (or you it). And you'll like it, I promise. At Vapiano Death does not ride a pale horse: Death is a pie, moist and tasty, not too sweet and not too heavy, and it comes covered in a thick layer of lovely ganache.

It was so good I licked my plate afterwards. That is, until I caught the stare of an elderly man at the table next to ours and I had to stop, because I was dying with laughter from merry embarrassment. I'm going back sometime soon, have another pizza or try one of the pastas and afterwards gladly request to be killed again!

interior of Vapiano near Amsterdam Central Station The interior styling is hip, but relaxed. Vapiano is open Sunday through Thursday from 11am till midnight. Friday and Saturday from 10am till 1am.

Oosterdokskade 145
1011 Amsterdam