Fig Fun

So you missed your train? Good for you! Plenty of time to go to the back of Central Station and grab some fast food at one of the two Dutch branches of Exki. This Belgian chain of organic restaurants is all about local and natural (seasonal) ingredients and impresses with fresh sandwiches with raw ham and mozzarella, tasty (lentils/ pasta) salads, gorgeous fresh spring rolls and some pretty handsome pies. Check the raspberry clafoutis, say ‘hi’ to the chocolate pie, give a wink to the cheesecake with that absolutely fabulous famous Dutch cookie speculaas and indulge into a piece of that pie on your left: the one with plum, fig and pistachio. Dried figs are so-so, but fresh ones are ‘da bomb’. I love to pair these fleshy fruits with dates or creamy cheese – preferably goat cheese – and I adore them on top of this pie. Each one being mildly sweet, as succulent as the finest jam and pure ‘to the bone’. An apple a day keeps the doctor away? Boring! This pie will do.

Fig-plum pie, one piece, €3.60
De Ruijterkade 36, City Centre. Other Dutch branch: Turfmarkt 224, The Hague
+31 (0) 20 737 26 89
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 7am-10pm, Saturday-Sunday 8am-10pm


Rock Your Roti

If you’re in the mood for roti kip, you owe it to yourself to go to Roopram Roti, a household name within the Surinamese community in The Netherlands. Mr J. Roopram started this small chain of restaurants/takeaways in Rotterdam and now has branches in The Hague and two in Amsterdam. The one in the eastern part of the city is the largest and definitely my favourite. It’s always very much alive – expect to queue even at unexpected times – and you have a panoramic view of the kitchen scene. Cooks making their famous roti, Indian flat bread, and working in perfect harmony with the ‘lords of the chickens’ to guarantee the fastest service possible. Not that waiting is dreadful. Watch whole families enjoying their food, listen to Bollywood tunes, soak up the scent of spices. Before you know it, your roti kip is ready to be attacked by you: the flattest and tastiest bread in town and mildly masala spiced tender chicken parts, potatoes and asparagus beans. Comfort food par excellence.

Roopram Roti
Roti kip, one portion, €7.50
Eerste Swindenstraat 4, East. Other branches: see website
+31 (0) 20 693 29 02
Opening hours: Tuesday-Sunday 2pm-9pm

Falafel Feast

Queuing for falafel? Yes, they do in Paris (Marais). Soon this will happen in Amsterdam (West) too, mark my words. Newcomer Bar Kauffman, a falafel spot, is one of these try before you die places around. Good vibes, lots of specialty beers, an enthusiastic crew and last but not least splendid falafel, created by an Iranian chef. This chef is all about spices and taste sensations. Try some of the olives to begin with. These little fellows are combined with garlic and the sweet-sour taste of pomegranate, making them extremely fresh. Continue with some fried balls of mashed chickpeas and decide if you want your falafel sandwich with feta, green chilli, a merguez or mango. I fall deeply for the last dish, a ‘happy-go-lucky’ pita filled with crunchy falafel, a super sweet chutney with chunks of mango, a creamy tzatziki, grilled eggplant and pomegranate seeds. Your breath smells quite bad after eating it, but you weren’t looking for romance, or did you? Eat your sandwich, have rosewater-saffron-pistachio ice, listen to James Brown and just be merry.

Bar Kauffman
Falafel sandwich with mango, one, €8.00
Reinier Claeszenstraat 4B H, West
Opening hours: Tuesday-Thursday 4pm-1am, Friday 4pm-3am, Saturday noon-3am, Sunday noon-1am

Cheer for Cherries

When it comes to pastry it’s hard to beat the French, but in the southern part of The Netherlands (Limburg) you’ll find some serious sweet stuff. Good for us Zoet & Hartig, a cosy tearoom/lunch spot at the Haarlemmerdijk, brought the pastry of patisserie Peter Lemmens from Gronsveld to Amsterdam. Count on jaw-dropping views when entering Zoet & Hartig: tower-like cakes filled with chocolate, meringue, mocha cream and chantilly – you have to see them to believe it – and of course vlaaien, those quintessential flat tarts Limburg is famous for. Vlaaien excel in simplicity and are filled with fruit, such as apple, apricot and gooseberries. My favourite version is the one with rice. More precisely: a vlaai with a mildly sweet rice pudding and sweet, juicy cherries on top. Try a piece at Zoet & Hartig and have a talk with the funny owners, who are passionate about the products they offer, not only about the sweet stuff (pasty, handmade chocolates of Chocolate Company) but also about the savoury goodies (Italian-style sandwiches, wraps). An essential stop while shopping in the Haarlemmerbuurt.

Zoet & Hartig
Vlaai with rice and cherries, one whole pie, €23.60
Haarlemmerdijk 158, City Centre (Haarlemmerbuurt)
+31 (0) 20 767 04 34
Opening hours: Tuesday-Saturday 9.30am-5.30pm, Sunday 11am-5.30pm