Sunday, 20 May 2012

Amsterdam cafe reviews

All photos © garethreid 2012
I take a trip to Amsterdam or elsewhere in Europe every now and again to see some friends I met whilst studying in Melbourne. (Of course) you will have already read my round up from our trip to Berlin last year... so may be familiar with my approach to these weekends.

In general, I try to get to know a place by perusing as many of their dining establishments as possible. And this weekend was no different. When you're getting up at 8am on a weekend away I think second breakfast is more than appropriate, don't you?

So, here's my thoughts on a few places to eat in Amsterdam:

de koffie salon, Utrechtsestraat 130, 1017 Amsterdam, Netherlands
I may have cheated a little bit when researching places for good coffee near our hostel and taken a tip from the TimeOut "Best of Amsterdam Awards 2001". You can't be too careful when researching "coffee shops" in Amsterdam though so I was happy to ask the experts on this occasion.

de koffie salon was less than 5 minutes away from our hostel so we stopped by both mornings to grab a coffee and quick snack to keep us going on the walk into town. The coffee was really tasty, and they always ask whether you want one or two shots so you can personalise depending on your taste.

The first morning I had a single shot latte and some granola with natural yoghurt which was served in a drinking glass with a long sundae spoon - nice touch.  My other half had a double shot cappuccino and ham and cheese croissant. This all came in at about €15.

The coffee and snacks were great, but my favourite thing about this place was the giant communal table at the back. Both days we stopped by the table was bustling with people grabbing breakfast and reading the paper - dogs, babies and all.

De Bakkerswinkel, Zeedijk 37, 1012 Amsterdam, Netherlands
I'd been to De Bakkerswinkel on a previous visit to Amsterdam and remembered really enjoying it so sought it out this time as well. They've since moved premises to a rather shady street mostly housing Chinese restaurants, making for rather a shock when you stumble upon this bakery-come-canteen where you least expect it.  

I've included the 'please wait to be seated' sign in the images above because we stood looking at it for about 20 minutes whilst doing just that. I could see they were busy, but I could also see quite a few free tables so found it extremely frustrating to be ignored for so long. Not a good start. 

Once we were finally seated the waitress was very friendly and the food was great, I guess the reason why it was so busy (dammit). My other half had a coffee which was fine, but not particularly memorable apparently, and I had a fresh orange. For (second) breakfast we both had fried eggs and bacon on sourdough which was tasty and generously proportioned. The whole meal came in at just over €20.

Footnote: I know this doesn't technically come under the 'cafe' category, but thought you might find it useful to know that we stayed at CocoMama - "Amsterdam's first boutique hostel". The staff were amazing, really welcoming and annotated our map to show us the best places to go. They have a cat. And an honesty bar where you can get a beer for €1. Nuff said.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Review - Pimlico Fresh

Image by Masumi Hirayama
86 Wilton Road, Pimlico, London, SW1V 1DE

I got a new job in the new year. Fresh start and all that. The transition to Victoria wasn't one I was particularly eager to make having been so spoilt by the abundance of eateries and high street shopping on my door step in Angel. However, I have gradually aclimatised to my new surroundings and found that (once you get far enough away from the station) there is plenty to do and see.

Sticking to Pimlico rather than Victoria is a good start. If you want something on the go then you can't beat Tachbrook Street market. There's loads of food stalls towards the end of the week with everything from amazing £3 falafel wraps, to brisket burritos, kebabs and curries.

However, if you're looking for somewhere to sit and while away your luxurious lunch hour, I'd definitely recommend Pimlico Fresh. In an area otherwise saturated by coffee chains and italian delis (which are fabulous in their own way) - I was relieved to be recommended this place through a plea on Twitter.
Image by Masumi Hirayama
It's got a real Aussie vibe with 'proper' coffee - double shot, micro foam and all. The menu adorns one wall and there's a big communal table you can sit on on your own with a book without looking too conspicuous.

I've had lunch here a couple of times now, starting off with a salmon and cream cheese bagel, and working my way up to a Moroccan chicken filo parcel with rice salad. Both times I was impressed, and full. They do fruit juices and smoothies as well as cakes so you can decide whether you feel virtuous or not. I'm usually not.

Given the area is pretty touristy and there are a fair few theatres just down the road, Pimlico fresh is usually inhabited by people on their lunch breaks popping in and out and you rarely to trip over luggage. The prices are also refreshingly uninflated.

If I had one criticism it would be that the service is sometimes a little slow. Especially if you're just waiting for a take away coffee. However, quality takes time. And if you're not interested in quality, got to Starbucks.


Recipe - Rhubarb upside down cake

Rhubarb's just about in season now and I got hold of some at my local supermarket. For me rhubarb spells summer, so I thought I better find a way to make it a but more suitable to the soggy weather we're having. Result? Rhubarb upside down cake - from this recipe:

The recipe's American so they use cups, which I have, but it should be easy enough to convert. According to Wikipedia, 1 cup = 250 millilitres.  Nothing like some mathematical wrangling to keep you on your toes...

The sponge is vanilla and coupled with the tartness of the rhubarb it's a really tasty summer pudding. We had it with custard. Yum.