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.

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.

Café Katoen

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Arriving in Amsterdam by train usually precedes a walk down the Damrak into the centre. Much of this walk is saddled with crap bars, dirty hotels and deep-fried fast food. At the bottom, near the Rokin and Rembrandtplein, one can seek refuge in Café Katoen. It is a blissfully unassuming bar that doesn’t try too hard to be ‘brown’ or hip; where regulars of all walks meet and strangers chat freely.

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Venue: 6/10

Not extraordinary by any means, it definitely achieves of a decor of indifference, rather than a try-hard ‘rustic’ feel attempted, and missed, by many London bars.

Beer: 5/10

They don’t try to be a beer-centric bar, but they are not ignorant either and prove this by taking supplies from the excellent Brouwerij’t Ij down the road. Overall, a sorry miss from Around Amsterdam in 80 Beers.

BOSCO

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The Old West (Oud West) suburb of Amsterdam is undergoing something of a regeneration. Leafy and near the Vondelpark, there are similarities to Oud Zuid (Old South) to the, erm, south of the park. The main difference is the wealth gap; west is livable, the south is for the 1%.

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BOSCO is one of a suite of new cafe-bars in Old West. They can be ten-to-the-penny, but BOSCO enjoys a frontage onto a square (plein); rare in these parts. If you want to see where the locals live and what they eat (likely to be brown) then pop down to BOSCO.

Café de Engelbewaarder

Café de Engelbewaarder is the place for Sunday afternoon action. Amsterdam can be a bit quiet and drained by Sunday, so heed this recommendation. Often, there is live jazz playing.
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The venue is ill-equipped for crowds, in truth, but this won’t deter them; expect to experience the Dutch’s interpretation of personal space and crowd etiquette.

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The beers are well-kept and and mainly popular without being mainstream. There always seems to be a few wild cards to keep the regulars interested too.

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Venue: 6/10

Great if you can get a window seat overlooking the canal, but otherwise cramped and not ideal for watching musicians.

Beer: 7/10

Whilst no one is claiming the selection is extensive, it is obviously well-chosen and showcases some fine rare beers to boot; particularly from the Boon cannon.

 

Café Lusthof

Let down by a tacky conservatory-style street awning, Café Lusthof is inside a brown bar with real character.
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Massively underrated on the bar scene of Amsterdam; perhaps due to being slightly disjunct from the more popular night spots, and a sorry omission from “Around Amsterdam in 80 Beers“.

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I’ve spared you a picture of the exterior- very misleading.

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Venue: 9/10

Rare multi-layer grotto. The walls are full of browning old crap and seal in the charm

Beer: 5/10

Honestly, I can’t remember. I know I had a Trappist, so that’s a floor of 5 I should say.

Café De Koe

The Cow Café is minutes from Leidseplein, so there is no excuse for going to one of the four Irish bars on Amsterdam’s brightest square.

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Thankfully, the cow theme is minimal and only maintained by some bull horns protruding from the bar wall. Speaking of decor- the aluminum wall panel behind the bar is inexplicable and tasteless. Please remove. The other walls support interesting ‘Warholesque’ art.

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For the price, the food is decent. Expect hearty and heavy meals, and for €15 for a main, it’s hard to do better so central.

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Venue: 7/10

Split level bar area provides more space than the typical Dutch bar whilst maintaing a cosy, wintery feel. The restaurant downstairs is altogether different and just as homely.

Beer: 6/10

Stocking La Trappe Isid’or demands a visit to the cow all by itself, and there are 16 others of you have no taste-buds to look after.

The 15th Best Café in the Netherlands: Café Slijterij Oosterling

Currently regarded the second best café in Amsterdam, Oosterling comes with some reputation.

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The current owners are only the fourth generation of the Oosterling family to run the joint, which has been in the family since 1879. Like  most ‘brown’ bars in Amsterdam, Ossterling is tiny, plastered with adornments, and lit by woefully inadequate lamps and candles. It’s really quite cosy.

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The barkeep we met was genuine and friendly- a rarity in these parts, unfortunately.

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Spooky view over snow-swept Frederiksplein.

 

The 22nd Best Café in the Netherlands: Café Koops

Every year Misset Horeca publish the top 100 café/bars in the Netherlands. There is no obvious criteria and the rankings change wildly between years. 2013 sees Café Koops, Haarlem, in 22nd place.

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An Art Deco frontage belies the much older, much more worn interior. If you are lucky enough to get outdoor seating, you can enjoy a good view of Haarlem’s historic centre and striking church.

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I can think of 21 bars better than this place in Amsterdam alone, but that reflects more an embarrassment of riches than insults Café Koops. It is certainly in Haarlem’s elite clutch of bars and the warm soup in the window is hard to pass up on a windy, rainy Dutch day.

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