Beyond the streets surrounding Amsterdam central station is a city offering innovative cuisine, and inventive bar menus. When you’re in Holland next month for The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference, take the opportunity to see how the Dutch do drinks and dinner
For too long Amsterdam’s international reputation for entertainment has been based on what the red light district has to offer. Yes, there are semi-clad ladies in windows, and yes, you can buy cannabis next to a cup of coffee, but beyond the few streets where such pursuits are possible, is a city filled with fantastic dining and drinking options.
The following is a selection of some of the choicest places to visit if you have only a couple of hours to spare for exploring, and thanks to the accessible size of Amsterdam, all are easy to reach by foot or by bicycle taxi.
One of the best bars in Amsterdam is practically on the on the doorstep of central station. Hannekes Boom is a 10-minute walk away, located behind the NEMO science museum. It has the obligatory hipster décor of upcycled furniture, but really the reason to visit is the opportunity to savour its typically Dutch menu of sandwiches and beer while watching the city reflected in the lapping waterfront view.
Just 20 minutes walk from the station is Haarlemmerstraat, located in the Jordann district, which is a feast of independent shops and eateries. Combining both, albeit the shopping part is historical, is Het Warenhuis. Translating as The Department Store, Het Warenhuis is a former store selling fabrics and household goods. Now it’s the headquarters of Amsterdam’s beautiful people, with a menu that is best described as Europe-inspired tapas, small plates of dishes such as vegetable risotto or burrata with coeur de boeuf tomatoes.
There are many Amsterdam landmarks that non-natives use to navigate their way around the streets, and aside from the obvious churches and historical buildings, The American Book Center in the Spui area is one of the most popular. If you’re near the store, then you’re near a number of excellent drinking joints.
Of the cluster of bars in Spui, Bar Jackson Dubois is a favourite among international residents thanks to its collection of 50 world beers, Asian lagers and Indian Pale Ales. The drinks concept extends to the food it serves, which is again small plates of world cuisine from roti to pumpkin salad.
Exploring the outliers
Forming concentric belts around the city centre are the four canals, and located along the outermost one, the Prinsengracht, is the Dikker & Thijs Hotel, with its basement restaurant and bar. The Dikker & Thijs name is legendary among foodies in the city, as the two men that founded the business did so in 1895 with a shop selling then exotic produce such as pineapples and canned greens.
Dikker & Thijs Hotel
The present owners opened the restaurant in May this year, with a French cuisine menu. This is a fine dining experience that comes with a range of partnerships with local producers to add an Amsterdam twist that include Moyee Coffee, John Tony’s gin, and beers from the Two Chefs Brewing company.
More locally sourced drinks and dishes can be found at The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference location of Westergasfabrik. The site is outside the ring of canals, and is home to the former Imperial Continental Gas Association. The ICGA coal-fired gas stations and associated industrial buildings were closed in 1967, and from 1992 the location was reclaimed as an area for arts and events.
The former factory buildings have been refurbished, and are now rented out as workspaces but also bars and restaurants. For fans of seafood one such space is a must, the very satisfying Mossel en Gin café. The café buys responsibly-sourced produce, and is a delight for fresh mussels in a variety of sauces. It also serves up delicious frites, oysters, shrimp dishes, all paired beautifully with sparky gin and tonics such as lemon with pink pepper, cucumber, basil or rosemary. If it’s not raining, then grab the chance to dine outside in its cute courtyard.
Vegetarians and vegans are catered for at the Algerian restaurant Rainarai, also located at Westergasfabrik, on the quayside with a gorgeous canal view. This is the sister restaurant to one in the Jordann area, which is tiny, so the second outpost is a welcome addition. Diners choose either cous cous or rice, a selection of vegetable dishes, and then for the carnivores there is a meat or fish option. Highlights include mushrooms stuffed with a variety of ingredients, and tender chicken cooked in a traditional Algerian sauce.
Going out in Amsterdam Oost
On the opposite side of the city, but still only a 15-minute taxi ride away, is the area of Amsterdam Oost where The Pool recently opened on the Wibautstraat. This venue boasts a Mediterranean menu that’s gathering great reviews for its blend of flavours and fresh produce. Like many new establishments in Amsterdam, the emphasis is on communal eating, with long benches that all but replace the traditional individual tables. This Last-Supper-style dining creates a cosy and friendly atmosphere, in what is a large building, with a chill-out area, restaurant and three bars.
If taking a dip in The Pool is not to your liking, then Amsterdam Oost is also where you can find Bar Basquiat at Javastraat. Named after the American contemporary painter, it serves one of the best brunch menus in the city. In the evening it mixes a street food offering with a tempting list of cocktails.
Bar Basquiat is one of 10 establishments operated by the boutique business group 3WO, launched by Amsterdam natives Piet Van Der Graaf, Riad Farhat and Jason Berg. The group also owns Bar Bukowski, opposite Oosterpark, which has a reputation for serving up a boisterous atmosphere as well as alcohol – a little like the writer Charles Bukowski that it pays homage to.
Although time will be tight for delegates to the Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference, with so many gems within easy reach, visitors can at least take a small bite out of the city’s hospitality scene.