Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Eating in Amsterdam - Snack Guide


In addition to the excessive number of meals we crammed into our 3 day Amsterdam jolly, Mrs G and I managed to eat an extreme quantity of snacks:

Chips


Chips are the headline act of the Amsterdam snack scene. Chips and mayo is the most famous combination but there’s a whole host of other sauces to choose from including hannibal, stoffvlees, samurai, knoflook and pinda saus – your guess is as good as mine as to what they are...

Whilst Vleminckx Sausmeesters (located on Voetboogstraat) is the most famous purveyor or potatoes, the lengthy queue put me off. Fortunately, Vlaamse Frites aka Flemish Fries had recently opened around the corner from our friends' flat in Westerpark.

I was recommended patatje oorlog (3.25) aka war chips. Uber crisp and super fluffy chips were double cooked to order. They were adorned with a genius combination of creamy mayonnaise, satay sauce and raw onion. Wow.


Address - Vlaamse Frites, Van Limburg Stirumstraat, Westerpark, Amsterdam

Herring


Another famous Dutch snack is maatjes – lightly brined herrings served with raw onion and gherkins.

I purchased my herrings during a trip to Marqt, an ethical supermarket which is easy on the eye and pleasing to the palette (there’s a selection of product samples to pick at whilst you’re shopping).


I can’t really recommend maatjes. Whilst I’m a fan of more powerfully flavoured rollmop herrings, the pickling on these fellas was so mild that I reckon a seal would have enjoyed them more than I.


Address - Marqt, Haarlemmerstraat 1651013 EP, Amsterdam

Stroopwafels


Crisp waffles sandwiched with caramel – the stuff that dreams are made of. I stocked up on a load of 1.20 packs from Albert Heijn to take home for my work colleagues.

However the best stroopwafel we sampled was from Lanskroon. Huge, crispy and sandwiched with honey, it had WIN written all over it.


Address - Lanksroon, Singel 385, 1012 WL Amsterdam
Web - http://www.lanskroon.nl/nl/home/

FEBO


Affectionately known as wall food, FEBO is a self-service fast food chain. 


According to our Dutch friend FEBO is the go to snack food destination at 3am. We sampled a frikadel (€1.60) - a finely ground sausage shaped snack made from 50% beef and 50% chicken. It was pretty unpleasant.


Address - All over the place

Bitterballen


I’ve already talked about these little nuggets of joy in my restaurant post but they’re so good that they deserve another mention - crisp breadcrumbs surround a herby, beef studded béchamel.

They’re the perfect snack with a couple of beers and that’s exactly what happened when we spent Sunday afternoon in the funky Pacific Parc drinking Heineken and chomping bitterballs.




Address - Pacific Parc, Polonceaukade 23 1014 DA Amsterdam

Jamon Iberico


OK so it’s not Dutch, but the iberico ham being served at Ibericus deserves a mention. Ibericus' selection of around 20 different varieties of iberico ham makes it a must visit destination for all pork enthusiasts. 

After an excellent breakfast of ciabatta (lightly rubbed with olive oil and tomato) topped with jamon and cheese, one of the knowledgeable and passionate members of the Ibericus team gave us a complimentary tasting of their hams.


The contrast in flavour between the hams from different regions of Spain was incredible. Notable was an organic jamon iberico de bellota (acorn fed) which really was the best in show. I guess it should be at €21.90 per 100g.


Address - Haarlemmerstraat 93, 1013 EM Amsterdam, Netherlands

Beer


Despite the ubiquity of Heineken and Amstel in most Amsterdam pubs, small interesting Dutch brews seem rather harder to come by. However, at Arendsnest there's 30 Dutch brews on tap and even more by the bottle.


We could have happily spent an evening getting plastered in this charming watering hole but unfortunately, we had a plane to catch….


Address - Herengracht 90 1015 BS Amsterdam, Netherlands

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Eating in Amsterdam - Restaurant Guide


the recently opened new wing of the Stedelijk museum
Last weekend Mrs G and I visited friends in Amsterdam who’ve recently had a baby. When Mrs G wasn’t cwtching the rugrat, we managed to explore Amsterdam’s food offerings.

Sebastian’s Hotel

We stayed in the brilliantly located Sebastian’s which is a short walk from the central station, the trendy Jordaan district and the bustling Haarlemmerstraat. Our room (£104 a night) was clean, stylish, the size of a shoebox and had a good view of the canal.


Address - Sebastian's Hotel, Keizersgracht 15, 1015 CC Amsterdam

De Belhamel


On the first night we visited De Belhamel, a Dutch influenced French restaurant located a couple of minutes walk from the hotel. The restaurant’s art nouveau interior was stunning and the food was mostly very good.


Whist my starter, a vol au vent filled with a meaty ragout of lamb sweetbreads (€9), was an enjoyable bit of comfort food, it tasted a little too similar to a Pukka chicken pie. Mrs G in contrast loved her old skool terrine of duck liver and breast with red port aspic (15)



Mains were both excellent. Unctuous confit duck (€23.50) was served with sauerkraut flecked mash and mustard sauce. Both the sauce and the vinegary cabbage punctured the richness of the meat. A tender sirloin steak (€24.50) was served with buttery spinach, potatoes and a cracking cognac and tarragon sauce



Mrs G’s selection of Dutch cheeses (€12.50) was decent but ultimately let down by a lack of variety. Profiteroles (€9.50) stuffed with ice cream and slathered in hot chocolate sauce were amaze-balls. 



Address – Restaurant De Belhamel, Brouwersgracht 60, 1013 GX  Amsterdam

Kantjil & de Tijger


Despite our friends warning us about the quality of Amsterdam’s Indonesian restaurants, I was intent on sampling the food of the former Dutch colony.

The food at Kantjil and de Tijger, located in close proximity to Spui Square, was enjoyable but unremarkable.


We ordered a rijstafel (€25 ahead) – a traditional way of sampling a load of small dishes. Disappointingly, the namesake of the meal, the rice, was a run of the mill bowl of the long grain variety.


Highlights included some excellent chicken (sate ajam) and pork satay (sate babi) served in an almost black sauce containing Indonesian sweet soy sauce, palm sugar and peanut paste among other things. Eggs in a spicy coconut sauce (sambal goreng telor) and chicken in a sweet soy and peanut sauce (ajam pangang ketjap pedis) were also good. However the meat in a beef rendang was too chewy and a warm salad of green beans, bean sprouts, cabbage coated in satay sauce (gado gado) was one peanut too far.


Address - Kantjil & de Tijger, Spuistraat 291-293, 1012 VS Amsterdam

De Blauwe Hollander


I was really keen to sample the Dutch speciality stamppot – a hotchpotch of mashed potatoes and vegetables served with meat and gravy. A hasty googling led us to De Blauwe Hollander, located on the tourist restaurant packed Leidsekruisstraat.


Apart from a flavourless bowl of pumpkin soup (4.75) and the inexcusable fact they don’t serve tap water, it was very good.

A plate of bitterballen (€4.50), served with an unnecessary bowl of mustard, were immensely moreish. The deep fried balls were filled with a beef studded meaty bechamel, a bit like a Dutch cousin to the Spanish croquetta. 


My stamppot (12.75) was of the sauerkraut variety and was served with a smoked Mattesson’s u-bend style rookworst, crisy bacon pieces and thick gravy.


A dessert of poffertjes (small pancakes) served with icing sugar, a knob of butter and smooth vanilla ice cream (5.75) was the ideal companion to the freezing March weather.


Address - Restaurant De Blauwe Hollander, Leidsekruisstraat 28, 1017 RJ Amsterdam

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Cafe Malaysia, Cathays, Malaysian restaurant review



Let’s be clear. I don’t really have much of an idea about “authentic” Indian, Spanish, Malaysian, Japanese or almost any other international cuisine.  

However, I’ve sampled a number of iterations of each and I know what I like.

Having eaten some mediocre and good Malaysian food in Cardiff, I’m of the opinion that Café Malaysia comes up trumps.


When we visited last night there wasn’t an empty table in the house.

The prospect of a bottle of crisp Tiger beer for £2.10 made me fall in love with the place almost instantly. Mrs G ordered a mug of strong, sweet and milky Malaysian white coffee (£1.80).


A starter of roti canai (£3.50) was immense. Two generous crispy, soft, flaky, buttery, layered breads were served with a smooth spicy curry sauce and dhal.


Chicken satay (£3.50) were ultra tender and were char-grilled to add an extra dimension. The peanut sauce itself was just fine in comparison.


Mains were excellent too.

Mrs G’s Beef Rendang (£7) was the best I’ve ever tasted –soft beef and a silky, spicy, coconut sauce. Fluffy rice was bang on.


Mamak curry chicken (£6) was a semi-dry, prettily presented, spice laced chicken curry garnished with cucumber and hard-boiled egg.


Despite these two dished being described as mild, they were both pretty fiery. I’d imagine some of the hotter dishes on the menu must be seriously potent.

Nasi Paprik (£6) was a sweet and savoury stir fry of tender chicken and al dente veg with the fragrance of lemongrass. It was ordered minus prawns without any quibbles.


Café Malaysia is fantastic. It’s a bargain, there’s a laid back atmosphere to the no frills dining space, service is efficient and the food is delicious. There’s only one note of caution – if you’re planning an evening visit, they’re only open ‘til 8pm. 

Update - 20/12/2015 - Café Malaysia has been renamed Jalan Malaysia. The food is still just as good. 

The details:

Address - 101 Woodville Road, Cathays, Cardiff, CF24 4DY
Telephone - 02920 235616
Cafe Malaysia on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Grape & Olive, Heath, Cardiff restaurant review



On Monday evening I was invited to taste the new menu at Grape & Olive.

Situated in a modern freestanding building on Wedal Road which wouldn’t look out of place on Ramsay Street, the last time I visited Grape & Olive was over four years ago. All I can remember about the meal was how unmemorable it was.

As such, despite looking forward to the complimentary calories, I was feeling a little ambivalent.


Grape & Olive Cardiff is one of four restaurants owned by Brains Brewery. All four members of the family (Grape & Olive Swansea, Greenwood & Brown Cardiff and South Beach Bar Grill Tenby) share an almost identical menu.

Whilst the Welsh produce packed menu encompasses burgers, pizzas, poultry and fish, it’s the Celtic Pride steaks which are the main event. Cuts include Chateaubriand and daily specials such as bone in ribeye. A couple of surf and turf dishes also put in an appearance.

As expected from a Brain’s restaurant, there’s a decent range of draught beers available. Whilst Rhys supped a pint of Nastro Azzurro, I had a bottle of citrusy SA Gold.


Any worries about the quality of the food were dispelled immediately by the very good starters.

A generous basket of mega crisp panko crumbed calamari (£5.50) was accompanied by sweet, spicy and sour chilli jam.


Rhys ordered the classic combination of scallops and pea puree (£8). 3 soft, caramelised scallops worked well with the sweet pea puree and a shard of crisp, salty prosciutto.


Mains were even better. Two slabs of unctuous pork belly (£14) were accompanied by a wedge of faultless crackling, smooth apple sauce, and a scattering of deep fried aromatic sage leaves. It would have been improved further by a jug of meaty gravy.


Rhys’ 16oz bone in ribeye (£23) from the specials menu was without doubt the best steak I’ve eaten in Cardiff. A Fred Flintstone-sized portion of juicy, perfect pink beef was surrounded with a pepper crust.


Each main was accompanied by the choice of a side dish. Rhys’ beer battered onion rings were textbook perfect.


My honey roasted Chantenay carrots were buttery, salty and sweet but just a touch too soft.


An additional order of French fries (£2.50) were fine.


Rather embarrassingly, I started eating dessert before I remembered to take a photo. Perhaps it was an indication of how inviting the dish was.

A tasting slate of desserts (£9) comprised of a slice of crisp crusted pear and almond tart, gooey chocolate brownie and sticky date pudding with toffee sauce. Pots of creamy white chocolate chip ice cream and retro raspberry ripple were let down by a scoop of clumpy peach frozen yoghurt.


We were really impressed by our meal at Grape & Olive. If I’ve ever got a hankering for a good steak, Grape & Olive is going to be my go to destination.  And, with Mrs G’s 15% NHS discount, it’s going to be rather bargainous too.

I was invited to Grape & Olive - all food and drink was complimentary. 

The details:

Address - Grape & Olive, Wedal Road, Cardiff, CF14 3QX
Telephone - 029 2061 7054

Grape & Olive on Urbanspoon