Amsterdam: a culinary itinerary

Amsterdam may be better known for its tolerance towards smokers of mind-altering leaves, Red Light residents, and artists with a penchant for chopping their ears off, but of late there’s a new type of Amsterdammer: the foodie. Dutch cuisine doesn’t enjoy a great reputation, and yet increasingly both Dutch and international inhabitants of the city are demanding a better class of cuisine. And that means good news for the visiting gastronome too. Nowadays, a traveller to the city can expect some fantastic international restaurants, top-notch cocktail and wine bars, and some rare food finds at markets and shops. So loosen your belts, and settle in for a gastronomic tour… Try the Utrechtsestraat for a wide variety of restaurants all packed cheek by jowl into one bustling street, or go south to the Pijp area to sample some of the city’s buzzing nightlife. The Jordaan neighbourhood is a little more sedate, but the nearby Negen Straatjes offers dozens of unique boutique shops and cafés.

  • Top restaurant: Daalder

    While Daalder may have existed as a “brown café” (old-fashioned beer bars, known for their smoke-aged brown walls) for many years, its recent makeover has turned it into a go-to destination for restaurant lovers. The new chef, Guillaume de Beer, cooks up a mean feast of three, four, five or six courses of modern European sensory pleasure, served either inside the old café or al fresco on its huge pavement terrace. Think foie gras with a twist, green gazpacho instead of red, elegant surf ‘n’ turf, and creative takes on dessert. And all for between €35 (for three courses) and €55 (for six). Get there before the prices go up!

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  • Top cocktail bar: Tales & Spirits

    Opening at the end of 2012, Tales & Spirits feels like a hipster hangout uprooted from Hoxton [or insert your nearest hipster village here] and planted slap-bang in the middle of the tourist centre of Amsterdam. The waiters (or “mixologists”) wear trilbies and skinny ties – it’s that kind of place. But embrace your inner hipster and settle in for a creatively named “Little Miss Troubles” (a sweet, fruity concoction), “Fallen Lady” (dusted with chocolate and black pepper), or “Ouwe Hoeren” (a nod to the bar’s neighbours – experienced ladies of the night, so to speak). You need not drink on an empty stomach – Tales & Spirits’ food menu is excellent too.

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  • Top wine tasting experience: Wines in Amsterdam

    Unlike the stuffy wine tastings of yore, which involved far too much spitting and pontificating, and far too little drinking and socializing, Wines in Amsterdam hits that fine balance. Tastings take place at weekends in unique locations from wine cellars to art galleries. Lengthy explanations are kept to a minimum, so you can get on and enjoy a well-deserved drink with some carefully chosen snacks. One half of Wines in Amsterdam’s operation is Italian, so you can expect Italian wines to feature heavily, but other regions (especially South Africa) are also well represented. Reservations are required in advance, and tastings cost around €20.

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  • Top market: Noordermarkt

    Amsterdam’s most “gezellig” (often-used Dutch word meaning something like convivial) market for organic food and cute bric-a-brac takes place every Saturday. The Noordermarkt (which is the name of the market as well as the square that it takes place on) is extremely popular with locals as well as visitors – so go early to beat the crowds. Expect to find fresh local cheeses, huge bunches of herbs, gluten-free cakes, obscure Dutch heirloom veg, as well as various vintage accessories on which to serve your organic dinner.

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  • Top foodie shopping street: Haarlemmerstraat

    With the annual New Food Fair taking place every year on the first Saturday in September, the Haarlemmerstraat is known for its cuisine scene. Last autumn, the irresistible Ibericus opened, serving up every variety of the highest quality Jamón Ibérico, chorizo and lomo known to man. And it’s been thronged with customers ever since. Veterans on this foodie street include delicatessen Caulils, wine specialists Chabrol Wines, Spanish grocers Hollandaluz, and oil and vinegar purveyors Meeuwig & Zn. Take a stroll down the Haarlemmerstraat and stock up your larder with the best ingredients – but beware: many shops are closed on Sundays!

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