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


Restaurantweek 2014: I ENVY me

Every year in March and September, it's restaurantweek in the Netherlands. You pay 27,50 EURO for the pleasure of dining. Some restaurants try to make off easy, by making a 'middle of the road' three course menu that will please 'most people'. After having been to about 10 restaurants for restaurantweek, I've seen it more than once. But ENVY does it differently: this chef chooses to showcase his talent and takes on the restaurantweek challenge to shine. My tastebuds are still in awe.

Pork belly lacquered with hoi sin sauce at ENVY, on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam
The food was creative, gourgeous and delicious. A feast for the eye, an adventure of textures and tastes. There were five courses (amuse bouche, hamachi with lime, pork belly lacquered with hoi sin sauce, a Bloody Mary 2.0 and a Donkey Kong dessert to finish) and I fully understand why ENVY has made it to the number 1 or 2 favourite restaurantweek menu the past years.

The ambiance is a little dark, with spots for dramatic lighting. But it fits, because it's different and ENVY does things differently. And then there's the service. We were served (among others) by a lovely girl with a very long pony tail and fiery red lips: friendly and passionate about the food she served. The young man who came to explain to us what was on our plates before each course was very knowledgable, knew all the dishes and their many elements by heart and presented the dishes to us with a talkshow host flair that we found amusing.

Margerita 2.0 at ENVY in AmsterdamTo sum it all up: it was the best restaurantweek experience to date. It was my birthday yesterday and I envy me for having had dinner here. In fact, I would like to go to ENVY on my birthday every year!

Prinsengracht 381
1016 HL Amsterdam
+31 20 344 64 07


Good food, fast: Bar Lempicka

Bar Lempicka on the Amstel in Amsterdam

Bar Lempicka on the Amstel, across the street from the Amstel Hotel has a classy Art Deco vibe. The staff is friendly, attentive and competent. The food is good and reasonably priced, with mains like a juicy Black Angus rib eye for E19,50. Or a vegetarian ravioli dish for E13,50 (small) or E19,50 (large).

If you've got tickets for Carré and are looking for a good restaurant to have dinner before your show, this is the place to go. Tell the staff when your show is due to start and they will try their utmost to get you to the theatre in time.


Bar Lempicka
Sarphatistraat 23
1018EV Amsterdam
tel: 020 6220209

Open 9 AM - 1 AM
Fridays and Saturdays until 3 AM


Former fire brigade HQ to become hostel

A few days ago word was spread that the former headquarters of the Amsterdam fire brigade on the Weesperzijde has been sold, and will be turned into a hostel. The complex is 5400 (!) square meters and is situated near the Amstel. Just look at the building, doesn't it look absolutely perfect to be hostel?

Location is also quite good. Within walking distance from the popular Club Trouw and Oosterpark. Club Trouw (open 'til 2015) is one of Amsterdam's most exciting clubs, with its raw atmosphere and excellent sound. For those that crave highbrow culture more than dance, the new hostel is also about 1 kilometer from the lovely Royal Theatre Carré (see pic below) and the Hermitage.

Royal Theatre Carré on the Amstel in Amsterdam

On the other side of the Amstel there's the Pijp, and the small but lovely Sarphatipark. Did you know that Mr Sarphati, alderman and doctor in the 1800s, was responsible for the abundance of parks in the Dutch capital? He also wanted to up the city's chique by building the majestic Amstel Hotel. Also within walking distance of the new hostel, a little ways up the Amstel.

Exploring Amsterdam East by bike
If you rent a bike, the location is perfect for an exploration of the east of the capital! The lively Dappermarkt, Indische Buurt, and lovely Park Frankendael are all within easy cycling distance. Or visit the Royal Artis Zoo and the Hortus Botanicus.

And when all that exploring has made you hungry, hop back on your bike and have dinner at Pompstation, a restaurant located in an industrial building, that still houses the waterpumps (if it rains really hard, you can feel the pumps rumbling beneath the floors!). If Pompstation is a ways over your budget, a great alternative is a classy burger from Burgermeester, across the street from Artis.

Build on the hostel is to start in 2014. Can't wait that long? See hostelworld for hostels in Amsterdam now!


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


Burgerbar, I love you

My friend Kari took me to Burgerbar. She was so excited about it, it was funny. But after having been: I am excited about it too!

Wedged in between a Burger King and a MacDonalds on Reguliersbreestraat in Amsterdam there's this small, usually incredibly crowded bar. The logo used to remind me of a gun, but it is a B with a bite taken out of it, lol. Never mind the line: go in, you won't be sorry. The people taking your order often don't speak dutch, but will understand your order in either dutch or english.

Irish, black angus or kobe
You can choose between three kinds of meat: irish beef, black angus beef and kobe beef. The burgers come in two sizes, 200 or 270 grams. And there's loads of toppings. Cheddar, onions, mushrooms, blue cheese, jalapeño peppers, and more. Don't forget to order fries! I love Burger Bar's fries: seriously good, golden and crunchy.

The entire kitchen is behind the bar and you can see everything that goes on. Burgers are weighed, made and grilled right in front of your eyes. If there aren't any seats available when you come in, seating space usually opens up while you're waiting for your order. There's a sink you can wash your hands in before (or after!).

Pure taste
When your order's up, they call out your number in English. Dig in! The burgers are luscious. So tender, tasting so purely of meat. I loathe the kind of burgers that have all kinds of spices and stuff in them, and then you don't taste the meat at all.

I've had the kobe beef burger once. I've also had the irish one a few times. I still have the black angus one to try. Seriously good burgers. I highly recommend.

Burger Bar
Reguliersbreestraat 9
Call&Pick-up service: 020 330 5968

Two more branches at Kolksteeg (tiny) and Warmoesstraat (large).


Hugging cows, dinner at As and school

Time for a Friday list! What were the things I most enjoyed, what am I thankful for? My highpoint of the week was hugging a cow! Let me tell you how that went...

Sailing on teamweekend in Elahuizen, Friesland- We went on the very first company weekend last week. We could not have wished for better weather, it was amazingly warm and sunny. The destination was top secret until the very last day and turned out to be the tiny village Elahuizen in the province of Friesland. Day one included sailing, with a perfect picnic basket and perfect weather. It was followed by a barbeque with lots of booze and dress-up fun (the theme of the weekend was "Farmer wants a wife", after the popular Dutch tv show "Boer zoekt vrouw") and a party that was to last into the wee hours of the night.

Day two was my favourite though. Some of us very hung over and most of very tired, we got to choose between fierljeppen (jumping across creeks with a pole) and hugging cows. I opted for the latter and I found it surprisingly fun. They're big beasts, to be sure (a mature bull weighed in at 700 kilos!), but the cow I bonded with was a young one and she was so pretty and soft. Afterwards I felt completely zen. The whole experience has completely changed my outlook on cows. If you ever get the chance: I highly recommend hugging a cow!

- I had the chance to have dinner at Restaurant As a little while ago. The interior is quite unusual, as it's a round building and the design of the space is centered on the bar in the middle (the axis, so to speak, which is what "As" means). Nearly separate spaces have been created around the outer perimeter, with spokewise placed walls. The staff is extremely friendly. The food was quite good. A little unusual maybe, but very hearty. And the great thing is, the kitchen works with seasonal and regional and mostly organic ingredients. (As is located near Amsterdam Station Zuid, on the Prinses Irenelaan 19)

- But having dinner in with friends is also very nice, especially if my girlfriend Di brings me presents! Back from holiday, she presented me with a lovely set of bracelets. She could not have known that my silver bracelet had broken during our holiday in Italy, but it was a happy coincidence that she gave me these.

- The schoolyear has started. I'm up for what is hopefully my last year of studies. I didn't relish the thought of losing the freedom and all the free time I was so enjoying, but hey, it's started. The minor "magazine making" is great so far and I love the team that I'm in. Go team!


Meneer Nilsson and Groupon lose the plot

Seth and Judy gifted us a Groupon dinner at Meneer Nilsson for our birthday. My very first Groupon experience was through Seth and Judy, so I smiled at the gift.

Last weekend however, we discovered that the voucher was not valid for the customary 6 months or so, but only two months! And it's expiring 31 May. So we figured we'd better make a reservation right quick. But when we call the place, the boy on the telephone tells us that we cannot. His boss has told him that he is not allowed to take any more Groupon reservations. Excuse me?

Too many people are making reservations and therefore, he's not allowed to take any anymore. "But how can that be?" I ask. And the boy says: "It's not my fault, you can send a complaint to my boss," and he proceeds to give me his boss' name and e-mail address.

So we do. And the boss replies: "It's not my fault that everyone decides to wait until the last moment before making a reservation." He replies via e-mail that he can only give us a week's extension. When I come home from school after ten pm, Levi tells me the news and we decide to call right away to try and make a reservation.

But again! The girl on the phone tells Levi they're all booked up and she is not allowed to take any Groupong reservations. None! We got that e-mail today. No effort is made to find a solution. It's like running into a brick wall.

You know what, we understand that it's a hassle if people try en masse to make a reservation at the last moment. But what bothers me, is that no honest effort seems to be made to find a solution. What bothers me, is that all Meneer Nilsson says is, "It's not my fault." But isn't it? How many vouchers were sold? How were the reservations handled? How are you handling this problem now?

What bothers me, is that someone paid good money for this voucher, but that Meneer Nilsson seems intent on closing their eyes and ears and going "Nananananananana," hoping we'll go away.


Not to be repeated: dinner at Panama

Once, quite a long time ago, Levi and I had lunch at Panama. We had club sandwiches the way they should be (but never are here in the Netherlands): they were layered with everything from bacon to chicken, lettuce, tomato and more. And they were accompanied by a big pile of french fries. Thin and crunchy, just the way I like them. So when Groupon offered a three course dinner for two, we took the deal. And what a disappointment that was.

After having signed for the flat this week, we figured we had something to celebrate. So yes,going out to dinner seemed like a good idea. It was, but never again at Panama.

It started off well, with scallops for Levi and thinly sliced marinated veal for me. Levi proclaimed his scallops to be delicious. The veal was very nice, it was a shame that it was draped on top of a pile of raw red onion with a little lettuce. The spongy, disgusting eggplant cubes I also could have done without.

The mains were ok, no more no less than that. The Beef Wellington would have been better off wihout the Wellington bit. The puff pastry hadn't puffed, it was soft and wet and even raw in places. I liked the spinach and the sauce, and the meat inside the pastry was ok too, but still, not a winner for me. Levi had chosen the papardelle pasta with vongole, mussels and prawns. The sauce lacked flavour, it even lacked salt. The tomatoes were unevenly cut and the hard wooden bits at the centre had been left in.

But the desserts were the worst of the evening. Levi's crème caramel looked like it had shifted. It was grainy and felt awful in your mouth. My mousse of smoked dark chocolate was accompanied by bloodorange icecream and an orange tuile. The icecream was lovely: cold, sweet and tart (but probably not homemade). The supposed smoked chocolate mousse tasted odd. It took me two bites to figure out why I could not distinguish a smoked taste: it was peppermint chocolate mousse, not smoked dark chocolate mousse. And after a few bites of the so-called orange tuile, I was shocked to discover my mouth was on fire: there was no orange in the tuile, but tiny chili peper flakes. That could have done with a warning sign!

All in all, it was not as advertised. Nearly everything we had was poorly executed and made without much love or attention. Why insist on dishes that are other than ordinary (a Beef Wellington instead of an entrecote) if you are then going to make them badly? I would much rather see an honest steak with fries on the menu, if I can count on it being done well.

The girl serving us was excellent, very professional. She noticed Levi had not finished his dessert and she asked him if something was wrong with it (although the sorry, disgusting look of the crème caramel was pretty obvious) and then offered him something else instead. He opted for a simple cup of coffee. We'd had enough of the kitchen by then. The ambiance at Panama is good, although a bit run down. The people are nice, but it's just too bad that can't make up for the quality of the food.

Oostelijke Handelskade 4
1019BM Amsterdam
+31 (0)20 - 311 86 89

Filed under: Dinner, restaurants 2 Comments

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



Theatre, fun and romance at De Parade

Merry-go-round at De Parade in AmsterdamEvery year De Parade tours the four big cities in the Netherlands: The Hague, Rotterdam, Utrecht and Amsterdam. It's a festival that offers performing arts (theatre, dance, singing, even magic), food and fun, all wrapped up in an old-fashioned carnival setting. Theatres, restaurants and restrooms are set up in tents on the site of the Martin Luther King park in Amsterdam.

Levi and I go every year. We love the romantic atmosphere, the merry-go-round, the poffertjes, the old-fashioned candy stall. The performing artists regularly tour the grounds, dressed up and promoting their shows. The success of De Parade is largely dependent on the weather. We lucked out with dry weather and a few rays of sun on Friday!Eating at Amaro in the open air at De Parade

Foodwise, there's a lot to choose from: Sushi, woodfired pizza, a tempurabar, Italian restaurant Lust, Mediterranean food at Amaro and I'm probably still forgetting a few. After dinner you can satisfy your sweet tooth with some ice cream, a coffee from the Douwe Egberts tent (expect to pay a deposit for the earthenware coffee cup) or a batch of poffertjes, that you get to bake yourself. I love poffertjes!

We saw two shows this year. We originally only bought tickets for one, called Moulin Rouge (tickets were E8,50 a piece), knowing the story I expected something exciting and sexy, but it was a dud. The tapdancing was fun, the accordeon and the violin were ok too, but the story was awfully told and the opera singing brought the tempo way down. The supposedly jawdroppingly beautiful Mimi looked like a dowdy housewife in an unflattering dress with too much bling. For some reason, she did not speak, only sing. By comparison, the male lead only spoke and rarely sang. He talked a lot. It lasted 35 minutes but Levi and I were both bored halfway through.

Anatomica #1 by Danceworks at De Parade 2011Coming out of the tent, we decided we had to see another show, to make up for this godawful one. While we were waiting to be let into the Moulin Rouge tent, we had heard the people in the neighbouring tent clapping and cheering loudly. We decided to take a chance and see whatever was going on there. It turned out to be a piece called Anatomica #1, by a company called Danceworks (ticket for this show: E9,-). What Moulin Rouge lacked in the sexy department, Anatomica had in spades. It was seductive, physical, embarrassingly sensual, funny and wholly captivating.

Festival opens at 3pm. Tickets for the festival are E7,-. Admission is free until 4pm. De Parade is in town until Sunday 21 August. Go see!

De Parade
Martin Luther King Park
(there's button for English at the bottom of the menu on the left)