Amsterdam, Leiden, Brussels, Antwerp - birthdayday trip, help needed
I'm an American newly living in Leiden, NL. My mom is coming over to celebrate her birthday for about 10 days at the end of October. We will be spending time in Leiden, Amsterdam, Brussels and likely Antwerp. I'd really appreciate any ideas people have for your basic good meal as well as for special occasion dinning in those locals. Any other tips, good snacks, nice wine list, best pastries, great cheese shop e.g. anything special of a culinary nature would also be more than welcome. Right now off the bat I'm thinking De Kas in Amsterdam as a "special" dinner but really beyond that I'm feeling a bit at a loss. We like all types of food, veg, meat, seafood, spicy, delicate ect and taste is paramount but atmosphere is also important . Thanks in advance for any and all help!
There are a number of Amsterdam suggestions posted here by myself and others if you search under 'Amsterdam' (the same for Brussels, though I personally don't have as much to offer there).
You're right, De Kas is a great place for a special meal; in fact I've never had a meal there that wasn't special! In the middle of the price range (I'm guessing you don't want to go all-out every night) and across a range of world cuisines, I'd briefly suggest a look at Zina (North African), Pygma-Lion (South African), Sama Sebo (Indonesian), Divan (Turkish), Lalibela (Ethiopian), and De Witte Uyl (continental eclectic). Plus whatever the autumn seasonal brew is at Bierbrouwerij t'IJ :) If you get a lucky Indian summer day, get prepared deli&wine takeouts from Peperwortel on the Overtoom and have a picnic with mom a block away in the Vondelpark.
(Re other world cuisines: there are some decent Japanese and Chinese places in A'dam, but if you come from any major US coastal metropolis, you won't find them to be anything special. And Mexican food there is, I'm afraid, sub-decent.)
You probably know Leiden better than I do by now, but I did have a few nice dinners at Stadhuis, overlooking the canal junction in the old center. (Those were on long summer evenings, though, so maybe you'll have less of a view in late October...)
In Belgium, I'd spend less time in big, bureaucratic Brussels, and more time in Antwerp and Ghent ... but maybe that's just me. :) There are a few new threads here on Antwerp; in Ghent you can have a sublime dinner at either Karel de Stoute or De Blauwe Zalm, right across the medieval lane from each other in the old Patershol area.
Thanks so much for the info. Have you by chance eaten at the restaurant at the College Hotel? Do you think De Kas would be a good birthday dinner choice? My mom loves to garden so I thought the grounds would be an added plus. Also I've read some good things about the rijsttafel at Tempo Doeloe - ? I think you are right about Belgium - at first I was thinking of spending two nights in Brussels but I think that I'll skip the second night and spend it elsewhere, perhaps in Maarkedal at the Hostellerie Shamrock, which looks lovely. Thanks again!
De Kas would be an excellent birthday dinner choice. You will need to reserve in advance there, as you will for Tempo Doeloe (which is a bit more upscale than Sama Sebo). I'm not sure how much gardening appeal it has; if you haven't seen it before it's essentially a big greenhouse-looking place set in the middle of Prins Bernhardpark. Pretty, but in a sleek/modern way (and not the least bit gezellig, so you'll have to go elsewhere for that!) If mom's a big gardener I'd suggest a trip to Keukenhof - though it's better in spring - or perhaps De Hoge Veluwe for more natural autumn scenery.
I've eaten at College Hotel twice; once right after it opened when it was a little too trendy/frantic for its own good, and again a year ago when it had settled down a bit and found a nice groove. More of a 'scene' than the other places mentioned above, and not cheap, but a good night out.
I think Brussels gets a bum rap. I was there for about 4 days and enjoyed it, there's some good architecture, fun restaurants. I enjoyed Antwerp too but don't think 2 days is too much in Brussels if you've never been.
As far as Amsterdam goes, there was a restaurant on Prinzengracht that was simply called Prinzengracht 5_ _ years ago. It was in a basement and I've gone there in its different incarnations since 1984. Had a great meal in 1999 of ostrich and don't know what else. Does anyone know if it still exists? I see a few restaurants listed on Prinz. but can't figure out what this one became (or if it's just not listed). Thanks.
On my last visit to Antwerp, we really enjoyed dinner at the Quiten Matsijs. Actually a Flemish pub, but food is honest Vlaams style food and honest prices. We really enjoyed the Vlaams Carbonara on our last visit but other dishes look quite fine.
We are usually with a group of people in Brussels, so tend to eat around Grand place.
Despite warnings to stay away from this touristy area, there are two excellent, and moderately priced restaurants we love.
We always eat at T'Kelderke.
Right in Grand Place.
The best whole Dover Sole... My hubbie must have this at least once on every trip.
If you are gutsy, the pork hock is delicious.
They have the boneless, (but you don't want it).
Their mussels, are great as well.
One thing to beware.
They have just taken over the upstairs (they are in the basement).
Don't go upstairs, if the restaurant is full, just wait.
The menu is smaller, and they do not share the same kitchen.
A typical Flemish restaurant, just off the Galleria is Ogenblik, a true Flemish Gem.
It is a cut above the others.
again we eat there a couple of times on each trip.
Chez Leon is continually ripped on this site, but their mussels are good, and there is no better place to people watch (if the weather is good) in all of brussels.
But, don't bother with the rest of the menu, as it is not bad, but not great.
Our best meal in Amsterdam was De Kas, as mentioned by others.
We loved the staff at Temple Deloe, but found the quality of the food disappointing.
Amyvt, check out this slightly older post. I still stand by my recommendations in it! Let me know if you want any more food tips for Antwerp, which is my top favorite Belgian city. Also, having lived there briefly, I had a chance to get to know some of the best places for Flemish food, beer, chocolate, waffles, etc.