When you think of Amsterdam you undoubtedly picture charming canals, lined with bicycles and bright tulips, or perhaps your mind wanders to the hedonistic Red Light District and small "coffee shops" (a sneaky code name for the purveyors of cannabis). But once you scratch the surface and steer clear of the tourist traps, you'll discover that Amsterdam’s foodie scene is out of this world — and it's a good thing too, because a jaunt around this city (by bike, natch) can leave you more than a little peckish.
Little Collins is a slice of sunny Melbourne in Amsterdam. Brunch can’t be booked but you can put your name down and head off for a quick walk around the trendy boutique-lined de Pijp neighbourhood until your table becomes available. The brunch menu changes every few months but don't expect your standard eggs any style. Here, the chefs play with flavors, mingling bacon with chilies and ginger or scrambling tofu alongside shiitake mushrooms. Get a side of halloumi to share, the slices are huge and predictably tasty. Everything is incredibly moreish and there are three types of Bloody Marys to wash it all down with.
People head to Mama Kelly for the remarkably Instagrammable, millennial pink interiors, but once you’ve posted your photo to the ‘gram, you’ll be pleased to know the food is worth shouting about too (unless you’re vegetarian, then the options are slim to none). The focus is rotisserie chicken or lobster but there are salads, steak and sandwiches on the menu, too. Fries are a must, whether you opt for a land- or sea-based main. Choose the "frites," as they’re called, with the truffle mayonnaise, because why not? (P.S. The broccoli with chilli and roasted almonds is out of this world good.)
Just a five-minute trip across the water from Centraal Station (you can take the free shuttle boat) sits A'Dam, a multi-story building that boasts a hotel, music school, nightclub and observation deck (complete with a giant swing), among its numerous floors. It’s also home to Moon, a restaurant that revolves once an hour, enabling diners a 360-degree view across the city. You might suspect the food won’t live up to the panoramic view but the fine dining restaurant offers a multi-course menu including dishes like sumptuous beef shoulder and a wonderful moon-inspired dessert that’s as pretty as a picture.
The Dutch are known for their love of pancakes, so it’s worth adding Upstairs Pannenkoekenhuis, the smallest and quaintest pancake house in Europe, to your itinerary. Situated up a steep set of stairs in a 16th-century building is this five-table restaurant (luckily, they take reservations) with an open kitchen and a ceiling adorned with teapots. It’s wonderfully quirky and the pancakes are delicious. Keep it simple with sugar and lemon or try one of the bestsellers, the Sufian with bananas, cinnamon and cream.
Sat on a fairly touristy street near the Leidseplein is The Pantry. A small homey restaurant, it’s the perfect place to head on a rainy day. The menu is unapologetically Dutch, so if you’re after a traditional meal, this is the place to come. To start, the salted herring with pickles and onions is incredibly fresh and light, then for a main try the combination of hutspot (mashed potatoes mixed with stewed beef, carrots and onions), boerenkoolstamppot (mashed potatoes mixed with kale) and zuurkoolstamppot (mashed potatoes mixed with sauerkraut) served with either sausage or meatballs. It’s comfort food at its best — and, if you still have room for more, you can’t go wrong with another Dutch classic: apple pie.
Just east of the Amstel river is Water & Brood, a light and airy spot to grab a bite before heading to Artis, Amsterdam’s zoo. It serves up American-style breakfast and brunch with Surinamese flavors all day long. The O.G. Fraîche Fried Chicken & Waffles has to be tried — the chicken is doused in crunchy batter before being fried (miraculously it’s not at all greasy) and served up with fluffy waffles, the best scrambled eggs in town, and a good glug of maple syrup. There is a solid cocktail menu and the homemade lemonades are glorious — try the Ginger Spice infused with ginger and cinnamon to give it a kick.
If you can bag a table at Vuurtoreneiland, consider yourself lucky. It gets booked up months in advance, but it’s definitely worth checking the website often for availability as tables do come up due to cancellaton. So what’s all the fuss about? Vuurtoreneiland is situated on an island with a lighthouse that is only accessible by boat, turning the whole experience into a five-hour mini-vacation at either lunch or dinner time. Open all year, the summer restaurant is in a greenhouse, while the winter restaurant is a cozy affair with roaring fires and blankets. The fixed five-course menu changes monthly and is seasonal, natural, and supports local producers from farmers to brewers.
Best for Lunch on a Sunny Day: Bar Brasserie Occo
You'll find Bar Brasserie Occo situated inside the trendy boutique hotel, The Dylan. Head here for the High Wine, the restaurant's take on high tea, but in lieu of tea and cakes, you're served four Dutch-inspired food and wine pairings selected by Executive Chef Dennis Kuipers and Sommelier Natasja Noorlander. Or keep things casual and, on a sunny day, head here for a rosé-fueled lunch outside on the picturesque courtyard.
If you're hankering for an Italian feast, then head to Eddy Spaghetti. Kickstart the evening with a fresh bruschetta or share the antipasti if you're feeling especially peckish. Besides the very authentic pasta and pizzas, there is a solid list of gins and a cracking selection of Italian classics like Campari, Aperol, and Negronis to wash it all down with. The restaurant is small and popular so book a table to avoid disappointment.
Arguably one of the chicest restaurants in Amsterdam, Breda is situated on the Singel, just a couple of canals away from the Anne Frank house. You could head here for lunch but there is something magical about this restaurant and part of town once the sun has set. There are three tasting menu options described as a selection of dishes, a wide selection of dishes or the whole mik mak. The wide selection takes around 90 minutes to get through and showcases a wonderful selection of seasonal foods, sophisticated flavours and beautifully rustic presentation. There is no detailed menu to peruse, so tell your waiter if you have any dietary requirements or dislikes and the chef will tailor the dishes to suit.
A stone's throw from the boutique-lined De 9 Straatjes (the 9 streets), this 24-year-old restaurant prides itself on a small set menu that changes weekly. The menu is inspired by foods that are both local and in season. If you prefer to spend your time catching up with friends instead of nose diving into a menu, you'll love Balthazar's Keuken, as the only things you have to choose are your drinks and your main from a choice of two options. There are five starters to share, a meat or fish option for an entree (sorry, vegetarians) and one dessert. Essentially, this place is for foodies that aren't fussy; but if that's you, you won't be disappointed.
Flanked by sycamore trees with a view of the Amsterdam zoo’s aviary, this elegant restaurant has a surprisingly relaxed and easy going atmosphere. Head here for all-day brunch, where the menu includes dishes like shakshouka, baked eggs with tomatoes and labneh yoghurt. The lunch and dinner menus are a wonderful blend of modern and traditional, taking inspiration from Southern Europe, North Africa and the Levant region. At dinner, the roasted cauliflower with coconut polenta and pickled bok choy would please even meat eaters. Not convinced? The Iberian pork belly served with anise gnocchi and roasted celeriac is gloriously rich and not to be missed.
If you’re traveling with a group, it can be tricky to please everyone. At the Food Hallen, an undercover food hall, there are 21 different stalls, serving everything from tacos and tapas to steak and dim sum. Since there is so much choice it can take a while to make a decision, let us suggest that you head straight to De Ballenbar to start. It serves traditional Dutch bitterballen made by Chef Peter Gast, who also helms the Michelin-starred 't Schulten Hues. The small croquette-like snacks contain different fillings: the truffle is divine, as is the spinach and cheese.
You might not think to head for tapas in Amsterdam but this rustic tile-adorned restaurant has a wonderful festive vibe. The two locations are always bustling with tourists and residents alike and it serves up excellent tapas. There is a large bar that you sit at to eat, and if you can get the stools by the wall in the far left corner you can soak up all atmosphere without so much of the hustle and bustle. Kick off dinner with a glass of Cava and then switch to wine or sangria with your tapas. The dates wrapped in bacon are a crowd pleaser, padron peppers are always a good idea, and the Ibérico ham is pricey but wonderfully buttery and flavorful.
You might walk past this unassuming restaurant if you didn’t know it was there. The staff are incredibly friendly and the food is packed with vibrant flavors. If you’re not sure what to opt for, either the Tibetan or Indonesian tasting menus are a great bet. The Tibetan option comes with dumplings to start and then a selection of meat and vegetable dishes ranging from mild to spicy. You’re also given rice and bread to soak up all the glorious sauces. Every dish is a winner.