Rodney Bolt, The Daily Telegraph, March 17, 2014
Amsterdam restaurants tend to be less formal and fussy than in other European capitals, but quality dining options abound regardless. While some of the restaurants below may be casual in style, they all serve exceptional cuisine and, for memorable meals, are among the most reliable addresses in the city.
Ciel Bleu, De Pijp
Wunderkind Onno Kokmeijer, who picked up two Michelin stars in quick succession in his early thirties, comes up with delightfully wayward creations such as pigeon with pistachio cream and smoked beetroot, in a full silver service, classical setting. Well-heeled, well-dressed epicures rub shoulders with business folk on fat expense accounts. There’s an excellent wine list, worth exploring for its odder corners. Ask for a table at the window, on the northern side – the Okura Hotel is one of the tallest buildings in town, and the restaurant, on the 23rd floor, offers a rare unrestricted view across the entire city.
Local master-chef Ron Blaauw is backstage advisor for one of his star protégés,at the restaurant at The Grand Amsterdam. Twenty-something Joris Bijdendijk produces "Dutch fish with a French twist" - sourcing local ingredients, and bringing a new take to traditional ways. Langoustines appear in a "bonbon" with cucumber crème and hangop (fresh curd cheese); perfectly crusted brill comes with a stalwart retinue of smoked eel, chanterelle mushrooms and cauliflower, and a delicately spicy vin jaune sauce. For those who scorn seafood, there are fine meat and poultry dishes, too. If you’re in the mood for something light, try the excellent raw bar.
Envy, Canal Belt
A battery of chefs produces some of the most inventive new-Dutch cuisine in town (think smoked pigeon and tempura cherries), in four-bite portions. Go for individual menus, or share five or six dishes in haute-tapas style. Italian charcuterie is a speciality at the restaurant, and the Dutch gourmet sausages are an adventure (lavender as a matching flavour for pork took me pleasantly by surprise.) The light is dim, the décor dark, the clientele fadingly fashionable. Ask for a side table when you reserve; the tall central tables with bar-stool chairs are not particularly comfortable.
Blue Spoon, Canal Belt
A scent of saffron wafts through the air, as a waiter walks past with a steaming pot of bouillabaisse. The food in the Andaz Hotel is a mix of French flair and down-to-earth Dutchiness – roasted brill, braised veal cheeks and sweetbreads, wild duck with beetroot. A glass wall gives a view out on a garden courtyard inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The restaurant is more low-key: minimalist white, black, bare wood – the design is by Dutch interiors man-of-the-moment Marcel Wanders; the crowd a mix of his disciples, artsy visitors and media folk. And that bouillabaisse is a must – it makes me want to marry the chef.
Chef Richard van Oostenbrugge, in the main restaurant of Hotel de l'Europe, is not a fan of the food syringe, the curious spiral, the ‘ball of something strange on your plate’. He has a down-to-earth attitude to cooking, and believes in pure ingredients. But down-to-earth does not mean dull. This is high-end cuisine done with style and adventure – green asparagus, Romanesco tips, tiny leaves of chard, come tangled on a ridge of basmati-rice couscous, like a delicate spring garland. The décor is a realm of crisp whites, cascading orchids and gold-leaf wallpaper. Book a window table, for a view over the River Amstel to the 17th-century Munttoren (City Mint).
Tunes, Museum Quarter
With its clean lines, muted fabrics and cheeky flashes of colour, this is a haven of contemporary chic in the Conservatorium Hotel, created by Italian interiors architect Piero Lissoni. Chef Schilo van Coevorden comes up with gloriously smoke-flavoured grills, such as wagyu beef with various preparations of beetroot and a hazelnut jus. But I prefer his maverick side: eel glazed with apple syrup on Chinese steamed bread, or whole candied lemons stuffed with cream. If you enjoy cooking, ask for a table near the open-plan kitchen. Thick intervening glass means you can watch all the fun, without suffering any of the attendant fumes and racket.
Ricardo's in Odean, Canal Belt
Robust, strong-willed, covered in tattoos and a glorious cook, Ricardo van Ede has had a number of incarnations in Amsterdam, each wildly popular, but meeting with some mishap. This venture, he says, is his last. In a 17th-century canal-house cellar (with a neon flying pig on the wall), you’re offered a ‘surprise menu’. Mine involved delicate smoked eel and fennel, and meltingly succulent partridge, braised in calvados. There are some seriously good wines on the list, with a few pages by the glass. Take cash. Reception in the cellar is bad and the card machine doesn’t always work.
L'Invité, De Jordaan
Pristine white interior, sparkling crystal, linen tablecloths, a black-and-white marble floor, and classic French cuisine (with modern variations). And all this on one of the prettiest canals in town. Well-heeled local professionals sit down to Bretonne sardines with a rich Antiboise tomato sauce, or slow-cooked beef with Puy lentils. But L'Invité chef Richenel has a light touch, cuts back on sugars and fats to produce cuisine less artery clogging than traditional French fare, and gives modern twists to the menu, such as beet and quinoa salad. The few tables outside, directly on the canal, are worth fighting for.
Serre, De Pijp
A star turn for an epicurean lunch, Serre offers a scaled-down selection of past signature dishes from the chart-topping Ciel Bleu restaurant upstairs at The Okura Hotel. Examples might include sea-bass tartare with crispy oysters and anchovy kadaifi, and grilled lamb with polenta and garlic-and-sage jus. The real must here is the Bento Box, inspired by a traditional Japanese lunchbox, but containing six dishes of haute cuisine in miniature – oysters with a cucumber-yoghurt foam perhaps, or soft-shell crab with pearl barley and wild spinach. The tree-shaded canalside terrace (with no traffic thundering by) is one of the best in town.
These recommendations, and many more, are found in the free Telegraph Travel Guides app . The app features a complete expert guide to the best of Amsterdam by our resident expert Rodney Bolt, and also includes expert guides to destinations including Rome, New York, Malta and Paris.
See the Telegraph's complete Amsterdam city break guide here .