Archive for the ‘Amsterdam’ Category

Restaurants of 2016 – the round up

January 1, 2017

New Year’s Day doesn’t seem the most psychologically astute to consider how much time and money one has spent on consuming food and drink over the preceding year. The grip of hang lends a jaundiced eye to even the sunniest experiences while the stinkers on reconsideration become full blown catastrophes.

However, on a day such as this it is wisest to remember how fortunate are those who have the leisure and lucre to dine out. I don’t take my good fortune for granted.

Ratings

The average rating over the year was just over 7 out of 10, suggesting that the standard is pretty steady across the industry. Or I could be a generous reviewer. No restos received a 4, 2 or 1 out of 10 rating with three getting the dreaded zero for utterly crap service that led to a walk out.  Below I’ll recap the worst experiences of 2016 though not at too great length.

To my surprise there are fourteen 9 out of 10 ratings, which means I’ll have to whittle down for a top 10! I’ll give weight to those restaurants which over-deliver on value for money.

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Location

It’s not surprising that the centre of London tops the charts for eating but it’s also been a very French year, which looks likely to last into 2017 with the eldest going to university in Paris (exam results allowing).

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Cuisine

I often feel I could do with a curry so I was not surprised to see that they come out on top of visits, confirming the trend that Indian cuisine is the nation’s favourite. No Chinese (except for the Uighurs) is a bit of a shocker though!

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Okay, so that’s the stats, time to dish out the gongs and the rotten toms.

The stinkers

Let’s get these out of the way eh? I should emphasise that all of the opinions are based on what happened at the time and things may have improved since then.

The Botany Bay

Worst dining experience of the year from a culinary point of view was undoubtedly The Botany Bay, an evening that was only saved from being truly hideous by the patience and good humour of my wife.

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Botany Bay. Go for the view rather than the food.

2. Gustavo’sNow sadly defunct Gustavo’s turned the pizzeria experience into a marathon from which I thought I was never going to escape.

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Gustavo’s. Their mysteriously non-functioning pizza oven is still in the building though no-one’s set up shop.

3. Cafe de l’OpéraI asked the waiter for a Coca Light, he brought me an espresso. What a prick. Tourist Paris at its very worst. Doesn’t merit a picture.

Special mentions go to BFI Riverside and Vapiano for having such charmless staff that I didn’t even order anything.

The Good Stuff

In no particular order ten of the best of 2016.

Autograf

Save it for winter because they tee you up with rye bread and pig fat before giving you some serious amounts of wholesome Polish food.

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Autograf on Green Lanes. If you like pig this is the place for you.

2. Standard TandooriThe go to Indian for the last twenty years. I couldn’t leave them out of a top 10, Tariq would kill me.

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The décor occasionally changes but everything else remains reassuringly the same at the Standard.

3. Bistro AixAs authentic a French bistro as you’re likely to find in Crouch End or any other London ‘burb. Good cooking, great value and friendly service. A real find.

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Bistro Aix – the set meal is a bargain.

4. De BelhamelCanalside eating in Amsterdam and a good laid-back feel in the room. I liked it.

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De Belhamel – the best of a good weekend in Amsterdam.

5. KaramayIt felt like dining in someone’s front room but in a good way. Uighur cuisine at its best, or so my Uighur savvy fellow diner informed me.

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Karamay – recommended for a post-rugby feast.

6. Rule’sSometimes you want to leave a restaurant light of wallet and heavy of stomach. Rule’s will do that for you in style.

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Rule’s banquette. Sat on by some mighty ass.

7. VagenendeOn the recommendation of Ian Nairn we found Vagenende largely unchanged since his visit in 1968. A good thing.

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Vagenende – keeping up standards on the hell that can be Boulevard St. Germain

8. Pizza Express British MuseumLike the Standard an old reliable that hasn’t lost its charm over the years.

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The near original and in my opinion the best.

9. Salt YardIn a year packed with Spanish food Salt Yard came out the champion. Top class.

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Salt Yard – pick of the festive season.

10. Le VoltaireSaving the best till last. It’s not cheap but where else could you dine a historic building, eat perfectly good food and have dignified waiters indulge you with bouts of table shenanigans?

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Le Voltaire. I’d happily di(n)e there.

All of these got 9 out of 10 but so too did Rowley’s, Le Fumoir and Les Babines. Join me in 2017 for more eateries.

#Food #London #Paris #Amsterdam

To see which other restaurants I visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #86 Villa Maria, Amsterdam

October 4, 2016

After fine dining at lunchtime and an afternoon strolling around town we were after less sophisticated eats in the evening. Which was fine because we were in a pretty unsophisticated part of town.

I’m always (rightly) suspicious of restaurants that have pictures of their food in the window but we were hungry and one of us needed a top up of cow so we opted for Villa Maria.

Don’t let the signage fool you – VM is definitely not Argentinian. I mean surely even the most rudimentary of minds would realise that Buenos Aires is not renowned for the mambo but the soundtrack here would tell you otherwise. So let’s forget authenticity, what about the food?

It was a relief to find that the meat was good, served Argentinian-style (?!?) on skewers with a good helping of salad and chips. What? You mean that this is the same review as for De Twee Grieken? Well, save for the décor and the nationality of the waiting staff (Indian on this occasion I think) it was pretty much groundhog evening. Except for the wine, Heineken was consumed instead.

5/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #85 De Belhamel, Amsterdam

October 3, 2016

Saturday, after a morning in the Rijksmuseum, I was fresh and raring to get stuck into some quality food while the day was still young in Amsterdam. We’d wisely booked ahead at De Belhamel on the basis of its canal-side location and good reviews. It didn’t let us down.

Despite the sun it was a bit chilly to sit outside but they’d booked us a table in the window so the view was just as good. We gazed down upon the canal, the misguided stag’n’hen parties (not all of them as festive as you’d imagine) and the passers-by. The room itself is tastefully shabbed Art Nouveau, smart without being overly formal. Just like the clientèle in fact which ranged from well-turned out locals to discerning trippers.

We took a look at the menu while we sipped a home-made elderflower liqueur (delicious, a foretaste of things to come). You can take a 3-course set lunch for around €40 but being in an expansive mood we went à la carte. Watercress soup with a sliver of brie-style cheese on the side was a good, crisp way to set up a four hour lunch without ruining one’s appetite. We demolished a bottle of Sancerre with that and waited for our mains.

Guinea fowl was a fiddly customer but came on a bed of buttery mash with a large helping of greens. The bread was very good. Not having any appointments in the afternoon we decided to have some Bordeaux to aid conversation, which is the only excuse one of our number has for asking the waitresses if they were sisters. Translated into Dutch for the whole staff to hear this provoked gales of laughter from the dining room to the kitchen, and from the volume of it possibly beyond.

Despite this provocation the service continued to be charm itself and we settled into dessert, which was also yum in three ways. Coffee to round off and we strolled out into the crowds as a trio of Halsian bonhomie.

Into the top ten dinners of 2016.

9/10

To see which other restaurants I’ve visited in 2016 check out my GoogleMap

Review #84 De Twee Grieken, Amsterdam

October 2, 2016

Having arrived in Amsterdam in the afternoon and with only train food in our bellies by the time we arrived at De Twee Grieken we were very hungry, not overly discriminating chaps.

We’d come to the right place. Just how Greek an outfit the DTG is I’m not sure – the chef was suspiciously tall for a Hellene. The food he churned out was okay though. A shared meze followed by a mixed grill went down well, although some grills were more mixed than others. Where were my chops!

We asked for a bottle of wine but the waitress assured us that the house red by the carafe was good. Which was a falsehood, it was a tricky customer from the fit for a plastic one litre bottle range.

But still, we could have gone to a fancier place but DTG was about what we needed after a day of refreshed merriment.

7/10


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