Where to eat Amsterdam – Restaurant Breda
When looking at where to eat in a new city, Greedy Girl is at pains to avoid tourist traps. Having said that, in Amsterdam she’d already queued up for hot chips with truffle mayonnaise on Damrak which is pretty much tourist central. PS, they were pretty good …
On a trip to Thailand earlier in the year, we met some Amsterdam natives who steered us in the direction of fine dining establishment Mos and, also Restaurant Breda. This is at Singel 210, about a 15-minute walk from Amsterdam Centraal railway station. It’s certainly an easy walk – Singel is a long street in the city and a simple navigation. But there’s very little else around that would bring tourists to this part of town at night, especially during a cold and snowy December.
Restaurant Breda offers a number of set course menus at lunch but dinner is a leap into the unknown. You can choose from three options – a small or wide selection of dishes, or as the menu describes ‘all we’ve got’. Naturally, we took the latter, which at the time of dining was priced at 79.5 euros.
There was no doubt we had avoided a tourist trap – Greedy Girl estimates there was only one other table in the whole establishment speaking English. We were greeted in Dutch at the door and by no less than four different wait staff. Of course there was no problem for them to switch to English but after the third effort in Dutch, Greedy Girl wondered if they’d actually speak to each other to say something along the lines of: ‘the couple at table X speak English’. No such luck. One supposes it’s nice to blend in …
And so we were in for a surprise dinner, having ruled out Greedy Girl’s two pet hates – fresh oysters and beetroot. Oysters caused a furrowing of the brow – what specifically was the problem with them, was the enquiry. Greedy Girl said she had no problem with them as long as they were cooked. OK. Sorted.
The restaurant gets amazing reviews from Amsterdam diners, according to two local friends who read them online in Dutch. It’s the brainchild of two young chefs Freek van Noortwijk and Guillaume de Beer and part of what Dutch media and bloggers have called a ‘dining explosion’ in Amsterdam.
It’s a not unwelcome development; many had said to us to shelve any hopes of a decent feed in Amsterdam. After the success at Restaurant Mos, we were highly buoyed and ready for another exceptional meal.
The restaurant occupies the ground floor (and a mezzanine, but more on that later) of a corner building on Singel. The interior is moodily lit and dominated by a long bar. Happily, we were at the front of the restaurant and, being early, had the luxury of space. Other tables, especially those squeezed in between the bar and walls, were noisy and a bit cramped. Still, the atmosphere was buzzing.
Greedy Girl has limited knowledge of European wines. Not spying any of her ‘go to’ varieties, she thought it would be a good chance to try a natural Pinot Grigio, while gluttonous husband took a Burgundy. The waiter brought a glass and the bottle to the table. This was a bit of an unusual wine, he opined, and poured a taste. Well, unusual didn’t quite do it justice. It was very, very strange – almost like a dessert wine. Not a good choice t6o start with. She settled for a white blend.
The amuse bouche came out and it was flavours of ‘bell pepper’. Greedy Girl asked the waiter if there’d be a list of what we ate at the end of the meal. The answer was ‘no’ but he could make one up for me. Okey dokey. Greedy Girl started typing notes into her phone …
The capsicum flavour wasn’t too strong but it’s not something that Greedy Girl relishes. This was a gazpacho, plus a taco with sheep’s milk cheese and a puff, sprinkled with paprika.
Next up was the dish at the top of this post, cod with lettuce, sour cream and herring roe. It was fresh and reasonably light but there was no lovely pop of salt from the roe. Greedy Girl reached for the rock salt on the table to add a bit of seasoning.
We then had Dutch mussels with lettuce, fennel and an oyster beurre blanc. Gluttonous husband enjoyed the mussels but, on a very cold day, Greedy Girl was hanging out for a nice hot dish.
This was followed by steak tartare with bulgur (cracked wheat), champignons and chanterelles. Unlike the first dish, this was very salty. The meat was very soft but it didn’t pack a huge amount of flavour.
We then had the dish of the night. This was a bone marrow soup with chervil and celery. Warm, comforting and delicious. It ticked all the boxes.
Next up was potato with beurre blanc (the chef obviously likes butter sauces) with dashi. This wasn’t the most attractive-looking dish in the world but it tasted OK. The heaviness of the sauce was a bit tough and texture-wise, after the soup, it seemed a bit lacklustre. It was also a bit salty.
We moved to fish – this was pike lacquered with apple syrup and apple and chicory, Dutch bacon beurre blanc (another one) and ham. It was an interesting dish – not a huge wow but quite edible.
On to meat – this dish was presented as our main course. Guinea fowl was pickled with hay and orange zest, with trumpeter mushrooms, blue grapes and barley.
We fully expected desserts to start flowing, but given we’d chosen the ‘all we’ve got’ option, a final savoury dish was presented – veal sweetbread lacquered in a red port sauce with crumbed onion and a celery and black garlic quenelle. Quite a nice dish.
It was time for dessert. First up was white chocolate and whiskey caramel with candied pecans and toffee ice-cream. Couldn’t really taste any whiskey and the candied pecans were nice but Greedy Girl preferred to eat them separately from the other elements.
Finally, we had sheep’s milk yoghurt with fermented blackberries and hibiscus. Greedy Girl isn’t a huge fan of yoghurt but gluttonous husband was happy with this to finish.
And we were done. The place (admittedly it was a Saturday night) was utterly jam packed and there was no sound of English wafting in the air. Absolutely a local haunt.
We prepared to depart but Greedy Girl needed to visit the restroom before the walk home. Gluttonous husband warned her the men’s room was first and the women’s next, up on the aforementioned mezzanine. What he didn’t mention is that the men’s toilet doesn’t have a door. Greedy Girl exited the ladies to the sight of a gentleman with his back to her, facing the urinal. It’s something you can’t unsee.
This wasn’t the greatest food we’ve ever tasted. The seasoning wasn’t right on a number of courses and there wasn’t any great ‘wow’ moment, apart from the bone marrow soup which was very good. The atmosphere also was a bit strange – it seemed like the staff were almost making a point when everyone kept talking to us in Dutch.
Still, in a city where gastronomy is not a noted attribute, it’s good to see chefs trying to elevate their food and the locals seem to like it just fine.
Singel 210, Amsterdam