Staring at Jacob

This great little brunch-and-cocktails place is located on a corner of Amsterdam where Staringstraat IMG_2609meets Jacob van Lennepkade (Staring + Jacob = clever name!). Having sampled the brunch on one previous occasion, we decided to head there last Sunday (along with the camera) and fill up on more delights before a long walk through the city.

 

The combinations on the menu do seem a little odd – Yorkshire puddings crop up in plates which also feature ratatouille – but they do have simple offerings in the ‘sides’ section of the menu, so you could always create your own fare. We both opted for ‘The all-rounder’, as you can see in the picture below:

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Needless to say, we both cleared our plates, drank all of the maple syrup and felt throughly satisfied. Callum also discovered a new beer he’s rather fond of, which is turns out, is from an Amsterdam-based brewery.

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Below are some shots of the cafe itself. We got there at just the right time as there was a table available straight away but by the time we were finished, a chatty queue was building and the bar seating was full of people ordering beers and delicious-looking cocktails (it was about 12:30 by this point, on a Sunday. Definitely drinking time!).

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If you want to see more pictures then head to their Tumblr site or if you’re in the area head over and sample their delights for yourself. It’s still a new place; you don’t have to scroll far down on the Tumblr feed before you get to the construction pictures! I will definitely be heading back for more pancakes and syrup… Perhaps some cocktails will also be sampled??

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(Just one more picture of the food. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

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Bazar

Bazar is a foodie institution in Amsterdam.

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The location is unlikely; an unassuming entrance onto a street that is either a vibrant market (Albert Cuypmarkt) or, after 6, a run-down looking mess. Inside however, is one of the more unique interiors in town.

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The menu seems to be south-east Mediterranean and near-east, with staples such as the house humous, tahini and babaganoush. The kitchen is open until one after midnight too.

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The portions are huge, which makes Bazaar really good value. Better than the food is the atmosphere and energy. It’s possible to just sit at the bar in the middle and soak it all in too.

Belgisch Restaurant Lieve

Hardly a well-kept secret, Lieve has been on our to-do list for some time now. For a restaurant in the Netherlands, the service is uncharacteristically good. We grossly underestimated the popularity of Lieve and were surprised when we were asked if we had a reservation, turning up as we did at 6 on a Monday evening! Thankfully there is a stylish waiting area for the imprudent, where we enjoyed two of the best beers in production: XX Bitter and Timmermans Peche.

I have a huge respect for restaurants that suggest beers to accompany your meal. With over 35 Belgian beers to chose form, they are able to recommend a different beer for every dish on the menu.

We plumped for something they call the Belgisch Barok ‘ambiance’ (dining is not a simple venture here) where one chooses three starters, four mains and three deserts to share in a tapas style.

The clear winner of the first round was the mini flemish stew of pork with Floreffe double beer and beer bread. The mushroom and truffle pate was also very good, but the the goose breast rilette (whatever that is) has a texture more than a little reminiscent of canned tuna.

We don’t normally eat frites (ahem). But the Belgian’s are quite insistent on this accompaniment. The pumpkin pie was unusual and delicious, but the wild boar and deer stew with cranberries probably takes top spot. The vegetable strudel was also great- tangy sauce and stodgy, buttery pastry marginally offsetting the health benefits of the vegetables.

Everyone was a winner in this round. The pannacotta is lined with a jelly made with a rouge beer which really works. The apple struddle was fine and the parfait of sugar and spice cookies is unabashed indulgence.

Kwak sitting proud in its ridiculous glass

If you have time then this a a great experience- arrive hungry.

 

Venue: 6/10

Kooky, rustic and homely. Definitely a restaurant.

Beer: 7/10

Very unusual for restaurants to focus their menu on beer pairings; kudos.

Café-restaurant Amsterdam

I really wanted to like this place. An old pump house tastefully restored as a kooky bar and resplendent restaurant overlooking a canal. On paper, it’s all there.

We visited on the back of Tim Skelton’s, normally impeccable, recommendation in Around Amsterdam in 80 Beers. Tim: a few bottles of Westmalle in the larder does not make a beer pub. The De Koninck on tap was soapy, the normally excellent Texels Skuumkoppe flat.

But none of that was as bad as the food. Granted, I opted for bar food fare, but the burger was a sorry, re-heated rubbery wad of gelatinous banality. Which cost 12 Euros. The pesto pasta was distinctly meh.

The building is spectacular and vacuous, which also drains the atmosphere. Without any music playing and very few customers, like with our visit, the room is eire and echoey.

Spooky

Overall, Café-restaurant Amsterdam probably isn’t worth the cumbersome commute.

Best Indian Restaurant in Amsterdam: Mayur.

With Indonesia being a former Dutch colony, the thrust of ethnic restaurants are Indonesian- one of which even proudly wears a Michelin Star.

Best pakora ever?

So when it comes to Indian food, our first attempt was a sorry disappointment and deterred us since. Enter: Mayur.

Amuse-bouche of Indian treats

The menu is extensive so chosing just one dish is a real challenge – luckily you can order one of the set menus and try 7 dishes in one (sizable) meal.

 

Uncharacteristically of Dutch restaurants, bars or anywhere demanding public service, the waiting was attentive, quick and polite! Lounging to the east of the Leidseplein, Mayur is really quite different to a lot of the fare in this popular nightspot and is well worth finding. Top marks all round.

 

 

Indian food in The Netherlands: crappy

Maybe we have been spoilt by the legacy of colonial Britain’s Indian heritage. Maybe we lucked out.

Pregnant with potential

All I know is the food at The Guru of India smells delicious, but tastes bland and empty. (A bit like Indonesian food).

Meh

Still, when it’s raining outside and you’re eating curry and drinking beer inside, one cannot really complain.

CB

Pilsvogel

The tapas restaurant ‘Pilsvogel’ is an Amsterdam institution. In the sun, this place is always busy.

No doubt the excellent location in De Pijp, on a square with three or four other restaurants, explains much of the popoularity. Thankfully, the culinary offerings have not suffered from a good location-born apathy.

Certainly not as refined as the tapas at La Olivia, some of the fast-and-dirty dishes on offer more than hold their own against more expensive alternatives. A great example of this is the manchego cheese; an easy dish, no doubt, but better than anything I’ve had outside of Spain (and most inside, thinking about it).

The service is impersonal but efficient, something that seems to suit De Pijp.

Aww, pretty.

Pieminister

If you are from the UK, more specifically the south-west of England, then you should have heard of Pieminister. If you haven’t, go find your nearest and eat till you can’t eat no more.

I could explain what it’s all about, but I feel the website can do it better:

“Jon Simon and Tristan Hogg started pieminister back in 2003, feeling that the great British public deserved more from a pie than the usual unappetising fare on the market.  Since opening their first pie and mash shop in one of Bristol’s most rundown areas, Jon and Tristan have built the company into an internationally recognised brand, with pies now being sold in major supermarket chains as well as restaurants, pubs, shops, delis, markets and at festivals across the land.”

They can also cater your wedding. There’s a reason for getting hitched if ever I heard one.

When Callum and I moved to Amsterdam, we knew that British food would be one of the things we’d miss the most and Pieminister’s award-winning fare has proved to be high up on our long list of food cravings.

A pieminister original: ‘Moo Pie’ with mash and groovy

So imagine our disbelief when I happened across the news that our favourite pie palace has made the long, arduous journey over to Amsterdam. We stopped whatever we were doing, scratched our dinner plans and headed over to the promise land, all the while wondering if it was too good to be true…

*Cue divine, ethereal music*

…it wasn’t.

Obviously the range of flavours is not as extensive as Pieminister establishments in the UK, but we really don’t care.

I’ll have three pies please…

Once we’d made our choices, we did broach the elephant in the room: what if it’s not as good? What if it ruins Pieminister for us?! (It didn’t.)

You can also order mushy minted peas, crispy shallots and cheddar cheese to top your pie. I’m saddened to say that it’s not real cheddar. But you can’t have everything.

“We must have a pie.  Stress cannot exist in the presence of a pie.”

Trying to restrain myself for the photo. A couple of minutes later, the plate was clean.

Doing this post has reminded me how much I love pie…

Pie and beer = the dream.

Where: Oude Hoogstraat 29H, 1012 CD Amsterdam. (Or lots of locations in Britain.)

When: NOW. You must always want to eat pie. It’s science. (

We recommend: the Moo Pie. British steak, real ale, herbs and gravy. Dribble dribble.

The downside: The drinks are rather expensive, but…

The upside: …the pies are cheap and filling. You can order them to go too, so why not find a bench by a canal and soak up Amsterdam while eating a damn fine pie?

LM

Lolita Bakery

When you think of Barcelona, there are probably a few things which come to mind and I doubt that ‘cupcakes’ is one of them. By pure luck, we found a place that might change that…

Lolita Bakery. Please note: cupcakes not actually made by Nabokov’s child protagonist.

The sign that says: “Come, come see what tasty treats lie within…”

Drawn to the place simply because of the (effective) cupcake sign, we discovered a treasure trove of beautiful baking goods:

Along with plenty of gorgeous-looking cakes. Now, which one to choose?

I can only have one? What, one of each flavour?

Our choices:

Vanilla and blueberry and red velvet

Callum won this round, as his vanilla-blueberry combination was scrumptious. The red velvet icing was quite cream cheesy which I didn’t mind, but there was rather a lot of it.

There are two Lolita sites in Barcelona and we found the second by happy coincidence. Knowing it would be rude not to, we begrudgingly bought two more cakes.

Vanilla and raspberry and vanilla and blueberry

I’m pleased to report the vanilla and raspberry was just as good as its blueberry counterpart.

In conclusion: when you’re in Barcelona, visit this bakery and be prepared to make some tough choices, or gain some holiday pounds…