Stitch and Bear

A long-running Irish blog with reviews of the best restaurants in Dublin and throughout Ireland. Some wine and cocktails thrown in for good measure!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

[Travel] A weekend in Amsterdam

There are some places in this world where life's journey keeps directing you. In my case, it's Amsterdam. At this stage, I've worked in Amsterdam for 3 different clients, and my current engagement will keep me there for the foreseeable future. It's a good thing that I like the city! I first lived in Amsterdam in 2010 and managed to get all of the usual tourist experiences done in that first year. Now that I'm back (yet again), my current focus is trying to find the latest and coolest spots. My self-imposed challenge on a recent weekend visit was to visit as many new spots as I could. 

Ironically, on a weekend of new discovery, I started with an old spot, the superb cocktail bar Tales & Spirits, located a few minutes away from Dam Square, down a little street, along with some red light booths. Inside, it's a very classy affair with dapper bartenders and a smart cocktail menu. Grab a seat at the bar and have some fun with the crew as they shake their way through the orders. 
The General Lee at Tales & Spirits
A Zombie at Tales & Spirits
Roomservice at Olof's is a pop-up restaurant running at St Olofskapel, the oldest chapel in the Netherlands. Chef Chris Naylor, from Restaurant Vermeer has temporarily relocated here while the NH Barbizon hotel undergoes refurbishment. Vegetables and herbs will play the central role in meals served in this stunning location. Upstairs, there's a charcuterie bar, a Fever Tree cocktail bar and finally, a Vermuteria. 

We grabbed some drinks at the Fever Tree bar upstairs, overlooking the downstairs dining area. As you'd expect from a former church, the interior is just stunning with lofty ceilings and gorgeous classical features. Two plates of the homemade charcuterie went down really well with a citrussy Copperhead gin and Fever Tree Elderflower tonic, while himself had a Bitterblond beer from Brouwerij de Prael, brewed right in the heart of Amsterdam on the nearby Oudezijdsvoorburgwal. 
Gin & tonic and Brouwerij de Prael beer at Roomservice at Olof's

The next day, we wanted classic Dutch pannekoeken, or pancakes. We took a little walk through the shopping streets of the Jordan district to arrive at Pancakes! Amsterdam on Berenstraat. This cosy little spot gets really busy and it's not unusual to have to wait for 30 minutes or more. Pancakes can be ordered in the traditional Dutch style, or in more experimental styles. Downstairs, you can see the chef cooking, with several well-used pans on the go at any given time. A Korean-style vegetable pancake with a delicous dipping sauce was excellent, while a traditional pancake was given a twist with bacon, banana and hot hot chili. 
Korean-style vegetable pancake at Pancakes!
Classic Dutch pancake with bacon, banana and chili
On Saturday night, we walked to Utrechtsestraat for dinner at new restaurant "Guts & Glory". After struggling up the typically near-vertical Dutch stairs (I don't know how the waitresses do it!), we got stuck into the beef-themed 5 course menu. Over the course of the meal, the flavours built and intensified, starting from delicate fish flakes in broth, all the way through an intense beef bao, finishing with a perfect piece of steak. 
Fish in broth with caviar, red onion and celery
Butternut squash with beef tartare and hazelnut
Beef bao
Steak with broccoli and puree
The next morning, I wanted to check out the allegedly fantastic chicken and waffles at the super-cool Cut Throat bar, part of the old-school Cut Throat Barber. Where else can you get your hair cut, shaved, drink coffee and sip fine drinks? Anyway, despite a mix up in the kitchen, my crispy fried chicken was out of this world perfect, albeit served in a too-small (but cool) aluminium tray. Add in the most divine maple caramel sauce and thick fluffy waffles for the perfect Sunday brunch dish. 
The beautiful vaulted ceiling at the Cut Throat bar
Fried chicken with waffles, potatoes, egg and maple caramel sauce

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