My workmates would be pleased to hear that the ‘Bucks at Amsterdam Schiphol was the only time I touched the Green Mermaid all trip – in fact, thanks to beermat tourism, we stayed pretty local all week. The only exception was a tourist trap we wandered into called Genki, an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet which, in hindsight, had bad news written all over it. For a start, in this fine establishment, lager (the only choice, really) was twice as expensive than anywhere else we had visited.
As a one-time connoisseur of AYCE such as the carnage of twenty-four slices at Pizza Hut, unlimited Guinness and chips at Jimmy Chungs in Stirling and eating Water Margin out of prawn crackers at the O2, Genki leaves a lot to be desired. Here, there were so many rules to proceedings I thought I was proof-reading a pre-nup. Five rounds of food, five items per round per person, any food left on the plate is charged and after two hours you’re out the door. Working in hospitality, and well-aware of the inherent risks of AYCE as well as the concept of food cost, I understand Genki’s thought-process but for god’s sake, really? The whole experience gave me a headache.
As a basic rule, stay away from the restaurants that have hosts outside canvassing for business and you’ll do fine. Go to places like Te Pas. I was practically ordered to visit this modern European restaurant by the parents, on the basis that it does a tasting menu for around €fifty and ranked fifty-two out of two thousand restaurants in the city (according to the wise folks at Tripadvisor). We lunched across the square from it one day and the place looked tantalisingly anaemic. I love places like that – the ones which only deliver on the inside – but in the end we ran out of evenings. There will be a next time, so… next time.
It’s interesting, but as I was packing to head off to The Netherlands, my housemate said that when he visited, after two days he was ready to come home, burned out by the city which, let’s face it, offers a lot more things besides food and drink. I, however, found that four days were not enough – we spent most of it in a boozy and replete first gear along the towpaths of Jordaan, checking off bars and cafés, only dipping into the Old Town occasionally which is, allegedly, where most of the ‘entertainment’ is. Indeed, I could spend another few thousand words talking about the cock-chairs in the Sexmuseum or the angry prostitute near the church – yes the church – in the Red Light District.
On the final day, we cleaned up the empty cake boxes, bottles of tonic and emptied the wine down the sink of the Annika and handed the back the keys. We had from midday to about teatime to kill, before jumping on the awesome double-decker train back to the airport (on a side note, the trains here are boss – I genuinely thought standard class was first). This gave us a decent opportunity to explore the Old Town, beyond the curios of the sex shops and cannabissy alleyways of De Wallen.
Before we headed back to Amsterdam Centraal Station we stopped at the little crooked Café de Sluyswacht, an old lockeeper’s cottage. Here, we grazed on the final meal of our city break in Amsterdam, apart from a guilty Burger King at Schiphol. The food was brought out by a softly spoken but friendly waiter. It was a plate of Gouda cheese, pickles and wholegrain mustard. My mate ordered a plate of Bitterballen, a deliciously creamy ragout-based deep-fried meatball. Ah. The Dutch do have their own food. And we discovered it in the last hour of the last day. Maybe beermats aren’t all they’re cracked up to be after all.