Thursday, 10 December 2015

Breakfast in Amsterdam

Christmas – a time for joy, peace and goodwill to all men.

Or more likely – bracing yourself for the high-street scrum in the bitter cold, shoving supermarket shoppers out of the way to grab the last pack of prepared pigs in blankets, and mornings spent clutching onto your coffee for dear life while you ask yourself why that fifth glass of mulled wine was a good idea. That is a Londoner's Christmas reality. The peace tends to occur once you return to whichever city your family now resides to enjoy the day with your nearest and dearest. Actually, the peace never occurs.

So with the hustle and bustle which comes with the month of December, a girly European weekend away was exactly what I needed before the madness descended.

The girls and I choose Amsterdam. And of course, it involved a lot of food (and a fair few glasses of wine too, I might add). And when it comes to breakfast, the Dutch really know how to sort out a hangover with pancakes and breads aplenty.

Saturday: De Vier Pilaren Pancake Restaurant, Stadhouderskade 11

This was proof to my two friends that I have a highly-tuned radar when it comes to hunting out breakfast. On our first morning in Amsterdam, we woke up in our cosy Air BnB, hungry and craving culture... but mostly hungry. On our way to the Van Gogh Museum, I spotted a rather Bavarian-looking building by the side of the river some distance away and I insisted we took a detour to investigate. On closer inspection we were honestly jumping up and down to discover it was a cafe/bar dedicated to all things pancakes.

We sat in a wooden booth with lights on the end which reminded me of an old-fashioned train carriage, while slightly creepy-looking wooden figureheads, that seemed as if they belonged at the bow of a ship, looked down at us. All-in-all it was perfectly quaint and we ordered coffees to warm up our hands and watched the world go by.

I chose the "traditional Dutch treat" of proffertjes – little, fluffy, pancake domes made from buckwheat – while my friends chose crepes, one sweet, one savoury.

The crepes arrived and were double the size of our heads. My friend, Becci chose to have hers with lemon curd which sat neatly, in a little pot in the centre, while my other friend Sarah's pizza-pancake arrived with crisp bacon and melted cheese.

I decided on a topping of banana and Nutella for my 10 little doughy proffertjes, which were thick, fluffy and doused with icing sugar. Their texture was lighter than an American-style pancake, and its bite-sized pieces were puffed up into domes. Ten little pieces of heaven – I definitely chose well for my first meal in the 'Dam.

It's also worth noting that my savoury taste buds were rather jealous of Sarah's pizza-pancake, so I ordered the same at a different spot later on for lunch, washed down with my first Heineken.

Sunday: De Bakkerswinkel, Warmoesstraat 69

This is a cutesy café chain in the Netherlands, with three branches in Amsterdam (we visited the one in the Centre).

With exposed brickwork, high ceilings and industrial pipe features, De Bakkerswinkel is a mixture of hipster and kitsch, but I like to think it is 80% the latter – its whimsical menu swayed it for me. Talking of, the choice of food was heavily bread and cake based and a typical, young, Dutch woman soon came over to take our order.

I was very intrigued by the Dutch Breakfast of rusk, dark rye bread, gingerbread, sourdough bread, butter & jam, chocolate sprinkles and cheese. The waitress told me the sweet sprinkles were known as hagelslag and are similar to those put on a cake. You can either have chocolate or what we would call 'hundreds and thousands', which Becci reminded me is often called fairy bread over here. So the Dutch spread their bread with butter and then cover with sprinkles. That's quite a jovial way to start the day, if you ask me.

Well, when in Amsterdam…

The best bit of this breakfast was not the sprinkles, but the rye bread and the gingerbread – both beautifully rich and satisfying in their own way. But I was also super impressed by the selection of preserves, including lemon curd and passionfruit, as well as pineapple and basil. Delicious.

Yet again, my food envy got the better of me. On the cold, damp November morning that it was, I would have appreciated a hot breakfast, or at least the ability to toast the bread like in Clapham's Bread Etc. Sarah's choice of French Toast almost put her into a food coma, but it was perfectly cooked with a portion of the crispiest bacon this side of the USA.

Top three Amsterdam highlights

Supperclub – weird and wonderful, and you eat in a bed. But one of the best 'dinner and a show''-type experiences I've ever been to.

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

The delights of the Spuistraat – a street with an abundance of authentic bars and restaurants. We settled down with a couple of bottles of wine and went on for steak, but it is also home to the highly acclaimed Kantjil & De Tijger (which we didn't get around to visiting).

Amsterdam Light Festival – a complete surprise on our river cruise which we only really went on to escape a torrential downpour, but if you're in the 'Dam before 17 January 2016, you'll get to experience this winter festival on the river, where artists' light sculptures line the rivers. Go at the sunset to get the best view of the lights.

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

A photo posted by Caroline Baldwin (@breakfastatcarolines) on

<3 Amsterdam <3