I never write posts this quickly but I feel compelled to share the restaurant we went to last night. It was a very unexpectedly cool experience and although it's featured in one or two guidebooks and websites it doesn't get the coverage I think it should. Here's why I think it's one of Amsterdam's Best Kept Secrets.
Moeders (Dutch for "mothers") is a restaurant on Rozensgracht, on the cusp of the popular Jordaan area, in Amsterdam's western central suburbs. It opened in 1990 when it asked for all the diners to bring a set of cutlery, plates and glasses each. They still have these pieces in their restaurant and nothing matches. This is one of the reasons I love this restaurant.
A second reason is that Moeders serves traditional home-cooked Dutch food. As you scratch your head to think what is a famous Dutch dish I'll help you out.
Dutch cuisine is a strange and stodgy mix of dishes using a lot of the same ingredients. There are lots of root and stem vegetables and potatoes. When we first landed in Amsterdam in April it was asparagus season and there were boxes and boxes of white and green asparagus in all the supermarkets and markets and it was in virtually any and every dish we ordered in a restaurant and I half expected a stick of asparagus to be sticking out of every drink I ordered.
The Dutch think they're best known for being big dairy fans but I'll always associate them with asparagus now. Though yes, Dutch cheese is a big industry and there's an impressive range of cheese on sale in even the smallest corner grocery stores. They particularly seem to specialise in the type of cheese that I call "plastic cheese" - rubbery textured yellow cheese ranging in maturity from jong (young) to belegen (mature). It's the very cheese you see barrels of in the markets and in the many cheese museums and delis that pull in tourists like cheese magnets across Amsterdam's centre. Some of it is very tasty cheese, but I have to say I'd take a block of mature English cheddar in my sandwich any day of the week. Which brings me nicely to say that the Dutch do do sandwiches very well. Brodjes as they're called were the Netherlands' original staple cuisine, albeit in a roundabout form of a piece of herring on a piece of bread.
One surprise we've enjoyed since living here is the bread in Holland. It's very, very good. We love brown bread and the Dutch cater to this very well with brown bread being available or an alternative virtually everywhere and we are now full converts to the amusingly called " dubbeldonker " brown bread, which literally means doubly dark. Ham is also a popular part of the diet as well as beef, dried sausages ( worst ) and other seafood like oysters, mussels and eels particularly in the coastal areas of the Netherlands. I also love this country for their chips and mayonnaise, or more specifically their Fritessaus ("chip sauce") which is part mayonnaise, part mustard, part burger sauce, part ketchup and part something else I can't quite put my finger on but it tastes very, very good on Dutch chips.
And this is really just the tip of the block of Gouda. There is much more to Dutch cuisine and we gratefully experienced and appreciated a little of this last night.
Moeders has built on the BYO cutlery concept by covering every inch of their walls with framed photographs of mothers. Not the staff's mothers but anyone's. You have a photo of your Mum you want to share? Send it their way. They'll struggle to find room for it but they will display it proudly (even if that's in the toilets, which is an excellent way to ensure people wash their hands).
The menu is set around three mothers with differently priced main courses according to whether you choose from Betty's, Annie's or Corry's home cooking. As a starter I enjoyed Italian ham, Coppa di Parma, with a Dutch salad of lettuce, rocket, radish, avocado and tomato. NewMan devoured a plate of carpaccio topped with pine nuts and salad. They were light and fulfilling, though admittedly not very Dutch.
Our main courses were a very different ball game. It was death by Dutch cuisine... in the best possible way. Not wanting to overdose on meat I chose the vegetarian version of " stamppot " one of the Netherlands' most famous national dishes. A "hotchpotch" mix of mashed potato, cabbage and leeks it is traditionally served with sausage, bacon AND meatballs. My vegetarian version came with roasted vegetables and a goat's cheese croquet. It was the most flavour-full comfort food I'd eaten in a long time. I fully imagined that an old Dutch lady (Betty or maybe Corry) in the kitchen had lovingly popped it in the oven for me before dishing up NewMan's dinner, " suddervlees ", which was effectively a beef stew. Except the beef was flawless. Braised beyond belief it melted in our mouths and the rich salty sauce was complimented by the red cabbage and potatoes served with it. We each failed to clean our plates but we certainly succeeded in having a delicious Dutch meal.
Despite a lovely looking desert menu we just couldn't stretch our stomachs anymore so instead finished our drinks and soaked up more of the atmosphere. Though there were many tourists at nearby tables, it didn't feel like a tourist trap. The staff were very friendly (which isn't always a given in Amsterdam, no matter how much we think the locals are an amicable sort) and the atmosphere was genuine and warm. I could have looked at those moeders photographs for hours, marvelling at how nice it is that this restaurant celebrates what it is to be a mother, something special that I am yet to learn about or enjoy.
However, I take great pleasure in now knowing about Moeders Restaurant, a very special place to experience Dutch cooking.
Moeders is found at Rozensgracht 251, 1016SX Amsterdam Tel: 0206267957, open until 12pm 7 days a week. P.S. I also recently reviewed a pretty little tea shop in Amsterdam for Travelettes.
Frances M. Thompson
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