AMSTERDAM: Dutch Treats

by Keith Kellett
Most Dutch people speak English: I believe it’s a compulsory subject in the schools, which is a good thing. Although the Dutch language is not difficult to read, especially if you speak German, it’s another thing entirely to pronounce it correctly.

So, when you’re dining in Amsterdam, it’s a good idea to write down the name of the restaurant, and the address. The hotel receptionist did tell me how to pronounce Haesje Claes, but the taxi driver still looked at me uncomprehendingly, until I showed him my piece of paper.

Entree at Haesje Claes. Photo by Keith Kellett.

Ah! Hashy Class!”

The Haesje Claes restaurant was once six houses. Like most Amsterdam houses,it’s tall and thin, for, when they were built, land prices were high, so the canny Amsterdammers built upwards. It’s named after the daughter of a 16th Century Amsterdam merchant. She founded the orphanage Amsterdam Burgerweeshuis, which was located in the building now occupied by the Amsterdam Historical Museum and can be seen from one of the dining rooms.

We were shown into the Regentes dining room, which is the largest one of the six available, seating 66 diners. Nevertheless, it’s intimate and cosy.

Many diverse items are offered on an extensive menu, but top of the list is a fixed meal, at €28.50, called the Nederlandse Dis … or Dutch Dish.

They change the Nederlandse Dis monthly, according to what’s seasonal and available. On this night I was served a seafood soup, with shellfish, still nestled in the shells. And, there was plenty of it; you can’t satisfy a Dutchman with a mere morsel, however attractively presented.

Seafood dish at Haesje Claes. Photo by Keith Kellett.

For the main course, they served a leg of lamb, with fresh asparagus on a bed of rice. Such an understatement, that lamb was so succulent and tender, as was the asparagus. I just can’t describe it without sounding all slobbery and effusive.

Lorraine had a knee-buckling steak, and declared she couldn’t eat another thing, and didn’t want a dessert. But, when my stewed blackcurrants and cream came, she managed to find room for half of them.

With Dutch cuisine, we also had to have Dutch wine. I never really had the Netherlands figured as a wine-producing country, the crisp and slightly sweet Apostelheuve Pinot Gris we were served, from vineyards near Maastricht, in the south of the country, was extremely palatable.

When we went for lunch the following day, we didn’t have any pronunciation problems at all. The Pancake Bakery had an English name!

The Pancake Bakery. Photo by Keith Kellett.

I’d tried Googling The Pancake Bakery before we arrived, and, strangely, it didn’t turn up their website, but a myriad of traveller’s blogs recommended it, and praised how inexpensive it was.

Tasty, traditional and doesn’t break the bank. Could it get any better?

The Pancake Bakery is located in a former warehouse on the Prinsengracht, on the banks of one of Amsterdam’s main canals. Canalside frontage is at even more of a premium than land prices in the rest of the city, so the dining room is really more of a wide corridor.

One wall is bare, antiqued brick, and all walls are hung with old photos and prints. Were these tiled tables, or just tile-effect? I never got to investigate, because my pancake arrived.

Pancake is such an inadequate word to describe this hot and crispy fare. It actually overhung the edges of the dinner plate. These pancakes are well on the way to being pizzas, and make a belt-bustin’ meal all on their own. You can get Traditional Pancakes for €5.95 to €9.95. depending upon the filling you choose; for €11.50, there’s the Specialities for the Pancake Expert, again, with a large selection of sweet and savoury toppings, available for €13.75; and International Pancakes: A Culinary Trip Around the World is also available, and includes everything from Norwegian, through Egyptian round to Thai.

Pancake feast at the Pancake Bakery. Photo by Keith Kellett.

We took the middle ground, and each ordered a Specialty Pancake, with a bacon, cheese and mushroom topping. We disregarded the huge tub of syrup on each table as we didn’t think it quite the thing for a savoury pancake. But, the waiter urged us to try a little.

It’s made to our own recipe, and very good, even with savouries,” he said.

Surprisingly, it was, although it tasted more like treacle than the golden syrup we’re used to.

After such a repast, we didn’t even consider a dessert; it was lunchtime, and we still had some walking and exploration to do. But, we needed something to wash it down. Not Dutch wine this time, though. We ordered a better known product of the Netherlands. Heineken!

Restaurant Haesje Claes

Spuistraat 273-275
1012 VR Amsterdam
Telephone: 0031.20-6249998
Fax 0031.20-6274817
www.haesjeclaes.nl/?language=en_EN
Mail
info@haesjeclaes.nlTHE PANCAKE BAKERY

PRINSENGRACHT 191, 1015 DS AMSTERDAM

Telephone: 020 – 6251333, WWW.PANCAKE.NL

Disclosure: Keith travelled to Amsterdam as the guest of bmibaby (www.bmibaby.com) and was hosted by the Amsterdam Tourism and Convention Board (www.atcb.nl; www.iamsterdam.com )


Keith may be reached at: Keith@globalfoodie.com.