Cruising to foodie paradise with DFDS
With its endless rows of golden canals, thriving art scene and open-minded attitude, Amsterdam has a larger than life personality that commands repeat visits. But, rarely do you hear talk of its trendy indie dining scene, nor its long and storied foodie heritage.
With that in mind, we were keen to discover a path less trodden in the iconic Dutch capital and jumped at the chance to take a tour through the café’s and delis of the upscale Jordaan district.
Travelling overnight aboard the DFDS King Seaways ship from Newcastle, our mini-holiday began before we’d even set sail. Boasting shops, bars, cafes, two cinemas, a casino and several restaurants, this impressive ship has a diverse range of entertainment to cater to all tastes.
Between March and September, families can even enjoy wildlife season with marine life charity ORCA, where whales, dolphins and various seabirds can be spotted in the wild from the observation deck.
After checking into my cosy sea-view cabin, it was time to head down to the North Sea Bistro for dinner hosted by Chef de Cuisine, Dorte Slyngborg, who also took us on a tour of the kitchens and in-house bakery. A recent revamp has seen the small, yet perfectly edited menu blessed with a range of hearty dishes, inspired by all four corners of the globe.
The Creamy Lobster Bisque proved to be a choice starter, and was all the better for the side serving of warm, crusty bread. Next came the melt-in-the-mouth Beef Tenderloin, which was complemented with a rich peppercorn sauce and a side-serving of crisp parmesan fries.
After a swift night cap in the lively Navigator’s Pub, I got some much needed sleep in preparation for a full day in Amsterdam. Fully rested, there was ample time to enjoy the continental breakfast (full English is also on offer) in the Explorer’s Kitchen, and then get showered and ready for our arrival.
A short coach transfer later and we were greeted by our Eating Europe tour guide in Jordaan (pronounced ‘Yourdan’) for our bespoke 3-hour foodie trip. Historically, this neighbourhood housed the city’s poorest people, but today it’s chic, hip and home to some of Amsterdam’s most expensive homes.
Our first stop took us to Café Papeneiland (named after The Pope), which is one of just a handful of places that still makes apple pie from scratch.
The Naetl family have run this charming café for over 60 years, and it’s easy to see why when you taste their to-die-for bakes. Bill Clinton was so taken with the crumbly creation that he penned them a letter after his visit back in 2011 (which hangs with pride on the café wall).
After our caffeine and sugar injection, we walked along the Brouwersgracht (Brewers Canal) along to Jwo Lekkernijen (Delicious goods), which is a quaint deli that’s ranked in the country’s top five. Here, we sampled three types of Dutch gouda, ranging from 4-month old farmhouse, to the 2-year old mature and nutty version.
From here we moved onto Buther Louman, a 3rd generation butcher and one of the last of its kind in the city. The continuous stream of locals passing through during our visit was testament to its popularity, and the food really did speak for itself. The highlight was the delicious ox sausage, which is smoked overnight to create a rich and complex flavour.
The tour then took an exotic turn at Swietie Sranang, a South American take-away that’s been going strong since the 70’s. Influenced by both Indonesian and Surinamese cuisine, owners Hank and Juliet have created a one-of-a-kind food offering that blends Creole and Asian flavours to perfection.
Our fifth stop took us to Viswinkel Zeewater, a 5th generation fish mongers which opened way back in 1880. The speciality here is herring, and the fish we sampled had a fat content of 24% (they won’t sell anything below 16% or above 30%). Herring isn’t to my personal liking, making me the odd one out, but it was much appreciated by the rest of our group.
The cod kibbeling was more up my street. This local snack was created by the poor who originally inhabited Jordaan. The once cheap cuts of fish (cheek, tongue and throat) are battered to create a calorific treat not dissimilar to the chip shop fish we enjoy in the UK. Ironically, they are one of the most expensive cuts of fish on the market today, and are regularly shipped to Japan where they are considered a high-end delicacy.
Before leaving, it was time to have one for the road with a shot of the warming Tulpenwodka, which is a potent vodka made using 100% fermented tulip bulb. The boozy vibes continued as we moved on to Café De Blaffende Vis (The Barking Fish) to sample a pint of a traditional session IPA named Bock. This dark amber ale was an absolute treat with its curious mix of herbs, spices and chocolate.
The Eating Europe tour ended on a sweet note, first sampling Stroopwafel (waffles filled with caramel) from a tiny bakery, and then some mini fluffy pancakes known as Poffertjes. Battered and doused in butter and powdered sugar, this light spongy creation is a moreish treat that locals like to devour with their coffee.
Fit to bust after what ended up being one of the most fascinating excursions I’ve experienced, we headed back to board the King Seaways ready for the journey back to Newcastle. After a few drinks at the bar, I headed down for the buffet dinner in the Explorer’s Kitchen, which features some show-stopping international dishes.
If you’re looking for a holiday that begins as soon as you set off, then the DFDS King Seaways experience comes highly recommended. And, whilst I may have been to Amsterdam several times in the past, this trip opened my eyes to a part of the city that deserves much more attention.
Priced from £84pp for a two-night mini-cruise based on two people sharing
Priced from £58pp for a two-night mini-cruise based on four people sharing
DFDS Short Break to
Priced from £159pp for two-night cruise, and one overnight in Amsterdam
North Sea Bistro (A la carte)
2-courses 34.95 Euros
3-courses 41.95 Euros
Explorers Kitchen (buffet)
Dinner: £19.95 pre-booked, £26.95 pay onboard
Breakfast: £8.75 pre-booked, £14.95 pay onboard
Eating Europe Jordaan
Adults: 79 Euros
Teenagers (13-17): 64 Euros
Kids (4-12): 52 Euros
Words by Jordan Fletcher