The perks of working in the restaurant industry is that it’s often a free meal ticket. Then sometimes one meal comes along that blows the others into the water. The standout meal. The game changer.
This turn was for Wilde Zwijnen in Amsterdam. An unprepossessing, tucked away little gaff, cutesy in a Germanic hideaway sort of guise, covered in sprawling ivy and lit by fairy lights in the less-than-exciting neighbourhood of Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands.
The premise is simple. Modern Dutch cuisine. Local produce. Young, exciting chefs not restrained by culinary tradition, revisiting pure flavours on the plate sourced from their own flatlands and soft sea waters. The interiors are as welcoming as an M&S Christmas advert. Which is apt given the time of year.
Candlelit, sparse, warm – all wooden rickety tables, flagstone floors, flicker flame and roaring open kitchen. We settled into a sweet oaky Chardonnay like it was guzzly mulled wine at the Sinterklaas market.
The meal to follow – Chef’s Table surprise – were four courses of flawless foodgasm.
Sole fillet with smoked and foamed beetroot, foamed carrot and chicken skin crunch (which is everything you hoped it would be, if all the bliss of roast chicken could be condensed into little spiky slithers of umami heaven).
Roasted corn soup with horn of plenty mushrooms and toasted corn.
Beef entrecote, sweetly pink and oozing with lovage oil, beef stew bitterballen (little croquettes concealing beef concentrated mash), lima beans and toasted cauliflower.
Dessert was a stupidly simple reinvention of apple tart. Apple ice cream, anise cream, black tea smoked apple slices and almond crumble.
We (well, I) wept with joy. A Pinot Noir emerged and so did my endless food-related sentimentality where I almost felt the need to compose an opera in honour of the kitchen. The whole thing came in at €35 per head. For exquisiteness.
This is what food is. For a real taste of what is exciting in the Netherlands, go get thee to the Wild Pigs, bypass the red light district, the stag-hell hemp shops and copy+paste hipster burger joints and head to Javaplein. You will never regret it!