Tucked away among the shops that train travellers pass by without a second glance is Julia’s.
Come in the morning and you will find it resembling an Italian espresso bar with coffee from Illy and croissants just out of the oven. Come in the afternoon or evening and you’ve got yourself the best food option in the station.
Pasta! Yum! Pasta lovers can choose from four different types of pasta and seven different sauces, all cooked for you on the spot and topped with your favourite garnishes. Ciabatta lovers will be happy too.
I’ve created a new ritual of grabbing a Julia’s pasta whenever I am in Amsterdam and don’t have time for a sit-down meal. And the best bit is that there is now a Julia’s at Rotterdam Centraal, i.e. very near to where I live.
De Gulzige Kater in Groningen, had come as a recommendation, so it was almost certain that we would be on the right side of the food dividing line.
At first glance the old granary, while on the small side, was full of comfort. Wooden tables set for plates of food and chairs that invited diners to sit and relax were surrounded by warm-coloured furnishings and an ample supply of cat statues. Yet, when we first arrived the restaurant was almost empty – a worrying sign in most circumstances – but it turned out that we only had beaten the rush. While cutting into our main course, De Gulzige Kater came to life with music and chatter from dinner guests both up and downstairs.
Portions were large, well presented and delivered by friendly staff who were so busy you never saw them stop for a moment’s breather. We were wise to start thinking about our dessert choices before taking our first bite of our meal as with so many tantalizing options, the choice was not an easy one.
De Gulzige Kater, which can mean either “the greedy tomcat” (that explains all the cats) or “the greedy hangover” has a well stocked alcohol selection, including a plentiful wine list.
Even if you don’t go for the alcohol, you’ll be sure to leave with a full stomach – and perhaps a new appreciation for cats.
Bazar Amsterdam had been on my list of places to visit for years. Ever since I had seen a small photo of the interior and caught a glimpse of the menu, I knew I had to eat there. What greeted me when I stepped inside, however, was a raw, sensory explosion that surpassed even my expectations.
The cavernous space of the former Dutch Reformed church was filled with bright colours, Middle-Eastern music and tables with enough space around them to ensure you didn’t have your elbows in someone else’s food. Waiters carried metal serving trays that were almost bigger than they were and with good reason. Not a single main dish that left the kitchen was smaller than the average person’s head.
The tavuk sis kebab that was delivered onto the worn wooden table in front of me was no exception. While I cut into the tender chicken that had been marinated in saffron infused yoghurt, I took in the fruit and vegetable crates behind me, the huge lamps hanging from the ceiling that no doubt had required more than a pair of hands and a ladder to hang and the decorative silverware in my possession. Everywhere you looked, there was something to admire.
The bar in the centre of the restaurant, made out of tin cans, served my drink colder than the ice cold Heineken around the corner and just barely managed to outshine the canopy of fairy-lights in the hallway and the baklava that was served for dessert. Five moist and sweet pieces surrounded a Medjool date, all topped with something that could only be described as white sugar fur that had me doubting for a few seconds about its edibleness.
Happy Italy, a “fast Italian” restaurant is located on the Binnenrotte, near the Rotterdam library and within the vicinity of the Tuesday/Saturday market. Since we were having a rare sun appearance, we decided to sit outside at one of the handful of bistro tables. We were quickly noticed and a cheerful waiter chuckled along with us as we mumbled the Italian words that made up our order. If you are in the mood for pizza, pasta or even a panini, then you are not going to be disappointed with the menu. The dishes on offer are varied and extensive. Struggling to choose but in the mood for pasta, I went for the salsiccia con il vino – a topping of white wine, salami, fresh spinach and goats cheese - and since I was with company, I went for the easy eating pasta option of penne. It is quite a large venue, creatively decorated (a lamp fixture made out of lamps!) and with a play area for children downstairs. My cioccolato (code word for chocolate cake) was again a large portion and well presented but lacked the punch of flavour I was hoping it would have. But for €3.75 perhaps my expectations were a bit too high. Happy Italy has several things going for it – huge portions, decent prices, a great interior, a large menu – but its real gem is the staff. Everyone we came into contact with was friendly, helpful and just downright nice. A few additions to their dessert and starter options and you’d have a pretty excellent
Descending the stairs into the Restaurant Safir is like stepping into another city. It might not be quite Morocco but the decoration, music and staff outfits all work together to transfer you straight out of Rotterdam.Starters of Moroccan soup with lamb and couscous salad with paprika, aubergine and carrot were accompanied with fresh bread, olives, toasted bread and a tomato, olive oil topping. The main course consisted of chicken with roasted potatoes and olives for me and lamb with dried fruit and almonds for my friend, Anna. Both were well cooked, deliciously seasoned and attractively presented. Safir goes well out of their way to create a pleasurable atmosphere. From the serving dishes and tangines to the Moroccan style tiles and carpets, every detail has been thought about. This attention to detail, in addition to the tasty food, clearly pays off because the restaurant was almost full after about 7pm. However, even this had been well thought through with tables spaced well enough apart that you didn’t become part of your neighbors conversation.
Hotel New York is a hotel and restaurant that is inside the old headquarters of the Holland America Line. The Holland America Line is well known for providing passage to passengers from Rotterdam, the Netherlands to America. And now for 16.50 Euros per person, you can sit inside the well decorated cafe/restaurant and enjoy a large and enjoyable Afternoon Tea. The tea choices are plentiful and we did manage to work are way through a fair amount. We didn’t manage to finish all of the food but we did only leave a few items behind. The restaurant is quite busy, so it is well worth booking in advance. Overall, we both thoroughly enjoyed ourselves between the good food, unique atmosphere and of course, excellent company.
When you first walk into De Smaak van Afrika you are hit with three things – the smallness of the place, the wonderful smell from the food and the amazing décor. The restaurant is small, especially in the colder months when the outside area is not in use. But it still manages to fit in a good number of people without feeling like you are sitting on the lap of your unknown neighbour. The décor features painted murals, colourful lights and a wide-range of African ornaments that you might pick up whilst on holiday in Africa. For some it may come across as a bit cheesy but I think it added to the atmosphere. For my meal, I chose from the East African part of the menu, mainly because it comes with the added attraction of getting a ready supply of enjera’s, which according to the menu, are wholemeal pancakes. You can see them in the photo, they are the items on the left. Your meal isn’t served with cutlery, so you rip off a piece of your pancake (using only your right hand) and then you pick up some of your meat and vegetables with the pancake. My dish was called Alicha Dorho and was made up of chicken, potatoes and vegetables.
De Smaak van Afrika really was a fun place to visit. The dishes were different, the eating method fun, the environment enjoyable and the food was really tasty. I shall definitely be returning.