Zurich Eats

I don’t think we have yet announced on this blog that Zurich is to be our next home. In fact, Callum has already been there for about 4 months and I will be joining him in a month’s time. So the name of this blog will have less connection to the content, but it’s too good to give up and start collecting followers all over again.

I have visited a couple of times so far but am yet to share the curiosities and experiences, so here is the first of many posts about the capital of Switzerland!

In true ithinktherefore… style, I am going to begin with a post about food and drink – two of our biggest loves.

One of the entertaining things about travel is discovering different flavours of familiar products other countries have. As you can see in the picture below, Switzerland is home to elderflower Fanta and Orangina-flavoured Haribo.

I am a big elderflower fan, so I thought it tastes great (Callum not so much) but we both love the Haribo – they definitely need to expand distribution of those sweets to, say, the UK and the Netherlands. Like, now – before I leave.

I was very surprised at how high the concentration of British-style pubs is in Zurich, and how many other additional places you can buy British ale/beer. Well played Zurich, well played. I can already predict that this will mean I become an addict of London Pride. Incidentally, has anyone ever thought of creating a name for people who are dependent on alcohol? Just an idea…

 Beer, glorious beeeeeerrrr

Not everything Zürich has to offer is familiar though; one pub is offering up a beloved Disney film character as a meal. The barbarians.

Simba... nooooo!

Simba… nooooo! Or, is this what happened to your dad after you couldn’t wake… him.. up? *SOBS*

One of our (already) favourite places to eat is Fork & Bottle. Well worth the bus journey, this place offers a big beer garden with a view to green fields and hills and friendly staff. Also, English is the default language here, which as two non-Swiss German-speaking people, is a definite plus.

Beer Brunch at Fork & Bottle

Beer Brunch at Fork & Bottle

Their beer menu is hand-picked by the owner and Callum describes it as the cream of Swiss craft beer, with nowhere else coming close in terms of offeringS, but (as with other places in Zurich) it is very expensive. You can rack up high bills extremely easily – so be warned! I am a particular fan of the Kurt Pale Ale but am definitely NOT a fan of the basil-flavoured beer they also offer. (That is what you get for being made to feel guilty about sticking with what you know and love!!)

Their food is good; the buttermilk pancakes are my particular favourite, but I felt I had to share my picture of their soft-shell crab burger. It is literally a whole soft-shell crab deep-fried and stuck in a bun. Their fish and chips (which Callum has in the background of the picture below) are also better than any of the Dutch attempts we tried in Amsterdam.

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More Zurich-ness to come…

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Café Briljant, Haarlem.

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Haarlem is a small city to the west of Amsterdam. Far more than just a satellite town, Haarlem has an important history itself, and provided the name for a suburb in New York. The heyday of beer brewing in Haarlem goes back to the 15th century, when there were no fewer than 100 breweries in the city. And it’s twinned with Derby, England.

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There are a good number of cosy and warm Dutch pubs (brown bars), and a jewel in the crown is Café Briljant. They stock around 50 beers, with a heavy Dutch and Belgian prevalence;  offer 5 changing taps; and 29 whiskies. They also offer a real community vibe, nestled as it is in a quaint suburb. There is  great window seat to watch people go by (above) or an equally appealing alcove seat at the back.

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Venue: 8/10

A relaxing venue, and perfect for gathering some energy after a wander around some very pleasant suburbs.

Beer: 7/10

A good range with 5 changing taps to keep you interested.

Café Belgique, Gravenstraat.

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Café Belgique hides in plain sight- amidst chain retail outlets, it’s easy to not notice this gem of a beer warren.

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One of the smallest bars in Amsterdam, you’ll find yourself wondering, “How can this be one of the smallest?!”. Unbelievably, they host live music. I’m not sure how, or why- as appealing as music is to some, it won’t make this one-room cubby-hole any bigger, so it’s not like they can pay the DJ off the back of increased customer revenue- it’s always full. And heed that advice- turn up very shortly after opening (3pm) and you might get a seat.

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In truth, it thinks it’s way cooler than it is. And by ‘it’, I partly mean the clientele. If this were London, we’d call them scenesters. The website states “It’s frequently visited by a varied public of locals, expats, musicians, artists and dj’s”. See what I mean? Who cares if artists go there? Do I feel better about my Orval because the guy with an unkempt beard sat too-closely next to me sticks wires through books encased in styrofoam and calls it “A Critque on the Abandonment of Western Values”, and his dreadlocked girlfriend photographs litter blowing in the wind for her forthcoming exhibition in a disused plastic bag making factory? No, I do not.

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For the size, the beer choice is broad- 50 bottles and 8 taps, but even this is too many as evidenced by the foul taste of the Floreffe Blonde.

Venue: 9/10

The only real criticism is the size, but that’s also part of the atmosphere. And when you do finally get that corner seat by the window, boy does it feel cool.

Beer: 6/10

Decent range, but unfortunately not all the taps are very well maintained (I’m looking at you Floreffe Blonde).

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.)

Café Gollem

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Café Gollem was the first to bring good beer back to Amsterdam. And is still the best.

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Around since 1974, Gollem is a beer institution famous in Amsterdam and the world. Originally, the proprietor hired a car, drove to Belgium and filled up. These beers sold quickly.

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Gollem probably looked old when it was new. The bar has an ambience breaks down social barriers and patrons chat freely. Maybe also because it is tiny.

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Venue: 9/10

The only criticism is the size, but that’s also part of the atmosphere. So really I’m just complaining that it’s hard to get a seat, which is kinda like complaining because it is too good.

Beer: 10/10

It’s hard to imagine a better beer list. There are 14 taps to choose from (7 regulars, 7 guest) and ~250 bottles covering local breweries here in Amsterdam, craft brewers around the Netherlands and all the big and small players from Belgium.

In De Wildeman

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Over 250 bottles, 18 taps and cheese and chutney pie: welcome to beervana. Typically, there is a German and an English tap, Guinness and a token well-beer, with the rest changeable.

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Trappist beers are, blessedly, becoming quite common. Much rarer, is a barman asking if you want a room temperature or cold Orval, who then expertly pours the bottle into two glasses (above) so that you can enrich to your tastes. Brilliant. Even better, you can marry your Orval with some Trappist cheese or a soft, melting cheese and chutney pie.

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The decor is wood, beer and dust. There are some old, rare bottles and glasses, and old books. An entrance tucked away beside the bar leads to a second room, where one can find space at peak times, and solitude at others. All this charm comes at a price, and the beers are expensive, even for Amsterdam.

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Venue: 9/10

An abundance of character, charm and atmosphere.

Beer: 10/10

Stunning range, incredibly well kept and knowledgable staff.

Proeflokaal Arendsnest

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The heart of Amsterdam’s UNESCO Heritage canal rings is home to a very special place. There is a bar that celebrates everything Dutch by serving exclusively native beers.

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The beer garden is the Herengracht canal.

There are 30 taps at ‘t Arendsnest, ensuring some healthy competition, and another ~100 bottles. The beer culture in the Netherlands is enjoying a welcome renaissance: there are more than 50 breweries that aren’t Heineken, and ‘t Arendsnest showcases the finest and rarest.

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Thirsty?

Venue: 8/10

Classy brassy. The beer garden is the most beautiful canal in Amsterdam.

Beer: 9/10

Dutch beer is so much more than just Heineken and Amstel (both are actually the same thing too). There are 30 beautiful brass taps here and they are all very well maintained.

Brewery Opening – Butcher’s Tears

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Off-the-radar brewery openings. Just how we roll. Although it was €4 a bottle, the taster glasses were free – guaranteeing a crowd and a consistently-long queue for the bar.

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It’s not known as the glamour entrance:

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Their website waffles on about magic, art and enriching the beer culture. It’s all really rather pretentious and would have an instant following in Shoreditch; loyal and relentless until more than six of their friends have also heard about it or they start selling it in a pub not officially approved by scenesters.

Misery King is rather good and dangerously quaffable for an 8%er. The IPA is remarkably similar to the Brouwerij ‘t IJ IPA. Remarkably…