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

4May/136

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.

Cook
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
Cook
Bar Spek
Bar Baarsch

29Sep/103

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

24Jul/100

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.

Drat
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.

22Jul/100

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.

Vapiano
Oosterdokskade 145
1011 Amsterdam
http://www.vapiano.com/