Amsterdam can claim to be a great many things, but the birthplace of notable cuisine it is not. Indeed the only way that the Dutch excuse their native cuisine is by pointing out that at least it’s not as bad as British food. Fortunately, centuries of interaction with the wider world as a hub of trade and as a former colonial power has afforded Amsterdam the opportunity to be exposed to food from all over the planet. A large and concentrated Asian population has brought further culinary diversity also.
Lately, more avant garde restaurants, as well as fine French options, have arisen offering expensive but haute cuisine that can get the most demanding palates excited. These are divided either in popular (and therefore expensive) choices, such as the Five Flies (d’Vijff Vlieghen), a culinary museum where every famous person visiting Amsterdam has been to taste the spectacular beef tartare with crème of egg yolk; or, more hidden places, where “undercover” chefs provide exquisite food which is the product of their passion, such as Marius.
Like any other European city Amsterdam has its share of Italian, Mexican, Japanese and Chinese restaurants. The colonial past has also seen the importation of Surinamese and Indonesian food. And, for no reason other than a predisposition towards beef, there is an abundance of Argentinian steak houses in Amsterdam. The list could go on as Amsterdam’s restaurants are diverse in so many ways. Affordable tapas, heart stopping burritos, and sumptuous seafood can all be found in the city centre and beyond.
Before we knock the native Dutch restaurant too much, two things should be noted:
- Certain foods such as chips (fries), pancakes, waffles and cakes are definitely worth a try.
- Amsterdam does concept restaurants as well as, if not better, than any other city. The Supper Club, for example, may not serve world class cuisine, but it’s an experience you won’t forget! (http://www.supperclub.nl, Phone 020 3446400)
Most restaurants that open for lunch remain open throughout the day until well after dinner time. Very generally speaking restaurants will open from noon until 10pm but there are many, many exceptions. Some of the most popular eateries (e.g. The Supper Club, Nomads, The Five Flies) require reservations and it is always a good idea to phone ahead, but it is not strictly necessary everywhere.
Dining etiquette is much the same as any other Western European country. Because most people order exactly what’s on the menu, some North Americans in particular may find they get some funny looks if they start asking for details and specifics as they might at home. It’s important to remember that the concepts of hospitality and service are not as rigid as in other parts of the world: If your waiter is having a bad day, there is a good chance that he or she will not feel compelled to hide it from you. The only other obviously difference to eating out in Amsterdam is that staff will very likely ask you what you would like to drink while you are still in the process of sitting down and opening the menu.
Asking how much to tip in Amsterdam is a bit like asking how many bikes are in the city; plenty of people will give you an educated guess, but it seems that nobody actually knows. Ten-15% for fine dining is usually about right, for everything else it is usually fair to just round up. Staff do not rely on tips for their earnings, though they are certainly still appreciated. If you want to give a tip while paying with a credit or debit card, you should indicate the amount of tip on the bill (sometimes there is even space for this reason).
Keep an eye out for restaurant week (http://www.restaurantweek.nl/) when more than a thousand of the country’s nicest restaurants offer several courses for half or even a third of their usual prices.
- Dining City is an excellent guide and source of tips for dining in Amsterdam http://www.diningcity.com/amsterdam/index_eng.jsp