Where to eat in Amsterdam

Amsterdam was never on my must-see list when I was travelling in my early twenties. Perhaps I was put off by my friends returning with vivid tales of hazy coffeehouses, and my own visions of stepping over strung-out hippies outside Centraal Station. How wrong you can be.

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I visited Amsterdam for the first time this year in mid-March and loved every minute of it. Firstly, it’s stunning. Beautiful crooked buildings, weaving canals, beautiful eternally youthful people zipping past on bikes – it’s the actual dream. Secondly, it’s one of those European cities where it pays not to be staying in the actual centre. By avoiding the red light district you also avoid the inevitable accompaniments to heavy tourism – McDonalds, tacky souvenirs, Irish bars, to name a few. We stayed in the west, just outside the city centre, in an apartment overlooking the canal. There were dozens of cafes and bars on our doorstep, and it was easy biking distance to everywhere we wanted to go. Thirdly – with travellers flocking from around the globe, expecting much more than accessible marijuana, Amsterdam has massively upped its food game. Here’s a few favourites:

Breakfast at The Breakfast Club

There are several Breakfasts Clubs around Amsterdam, and we had one bang in our neighbourhood. It’s super busy on weekends, but worth waiting if you’re not in a rush. It’s very New York breakfast vibe, with pancake variations, Mexican eggs, or the full fried affair with organic juices and herbal teas. Delicious, and a great way to fuel up for a day of biking and site seeing!

Tapas at De Hallen

One of our friends now lives in Amsterdam, and took us to this bursting-at-the-seams Foodhallen at Amsterdam Oud-West. On a Saturday night it had an amazing vibe – loud music, cold gin, and at least two dozen street food stalls with everything from sushi to steak. The system is, order your food, get a ticket and wait to be called when it’s ready, weave back to the bar to order drinks, and stake out a table or cargo crate to occupy for the night.

Brunch at Bagels & Beans

If you’re planning a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, or the Rijks, the best plan is definitely to arrive at 9am. We did this for both, and happily missed the much-moaned-about queues. At Van Gogh we queued for a total of two minutes – the early starts were worth it! Bagels & Beans is just opposite the museums quarter, and is a great spot for post-culture sustenance. So many bagel options, so many options! I had prosciutto, mozzarella, sundries and pesto on seeded which was amazing. They also do takeaway breakfast bagels so if you do end up waiting in the queue, at least your stomach will be happy.

Stroopwafel – to immediately eat, and to take home

The best stroopwafels I ate in the ‘dam were from a slightly grumpy old man who had a vendor stall at a market near Rembrant’s house. We had been biking and stopped for a wander around. He was making them up fresh on his hot griddle, slapping syrup between two wafers the size of my face, and letting them hiss. He wasn’t up for too much chat, he just held out his money pouch on a cane for you to drop your coins in and kept going.

The market wasn’t on on our last day, but we found amazing, if slightly more expensive stroopwafels at a small cafe/bakery called Lanskroon. You could buy them in fresh boxes of four or seven.

Pizza and prosecco at De Pizzabakkers

De Pizzabakkers was such a good find. It had everything I wanted out of a late-night dinner. Small tables, candles, cosy setting, Aperol Spritz as the recommended aperitif and wood oven pizzas on offer. I loved the design of many Amsterdam eateries, with a petite downstairs, and open-viewed upstairs, like the section of a dolls house. Everywhere seemed extra-intimate and original, and Pizzabakkers was no exception. Highly recommended for excellent pizza and vegetarian options.

Have you been to Amsterdam? Share your recommendations, I’ll be going back!

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Glamping in St Ives

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All this week I’ve been in the beautiful Cornish seaside town of St Ives, soaking up the sun and paddling the waves. We stayed in a gorgeous bell tent (complete with a candle chandelier, wood-burning stove, and double bed) courtesy of our lovely Airbnb host, Jayce, at his family’s farm up on the hillside. If you are planning a visit to St Ives, I would hugely recommend Jayce’s accommodation over any hotel or bed and breakfast. As well as our bell tent, he also has a range of converted shepherd huts available, all with stunning views over the sea.

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St Ives is filled with excellent cafes and restaurants, offering everything from fresh seafood, to cream teas, to stone-baked pizzas. However, we were so lucky with the weather, that the first few nights we opted to cook on our barbeque outside our tent (my entire holiday wardrobe thus carried a smoky aroma for the entire trip), making baked potatoes, sausages, and salads.

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The long summer evenings meant we (and everyone else in town) were keen to find lots of nice places to go for alfresco drinks, and we were spoiled for choice. The Sloop Inn became one of our favourites, with local ales and cider, plus stunning views over the waterfront. We also checked out the Rum and Crab Shack, which although didn’t have outdoor seating, had huge open windows offering the same sea view.

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Towards the end of the week, we visited the Harbour View Restaurant off the main high street, and had a gorgeous Cornish tapas feast, plus prosecco.  There was loads of fresh fish options (I went for sole goujons), but there were also plenty of veggie treats, including mint pea risotto, a gorgeous spinachy walnut salad, pimento de padron, and of course, some good chunky chips.

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For cream teas, by far the best one we had was actually on the way to St Ives. On a recommendation, we stopped off at Buckfast Abbey and had amazing mammoth scones with oodles of thick cream and home-made jams. There are also plenty of beautiful cafes and tearooms all around St Ives, but we didn’t find one that could quite match it – recommendations for next time are welcome!

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Also, another highlight of the trip was a visit to the stunning outdoor theatre – the Minack. Jutting over the sea, the views are utterly stunning, and makes for a hugely atmospheric performance. We saw A Woman of Little Sense, which was a funny rom-com, but I can’t imagine how amazing it would be to see something like Hamlet, or Rebecca performed over the clifftops.

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Stereo

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I’m not usually someone who salivates at the idea of vegan food, BUT, eating at Glasgow hangout Stereo has been a bit of a game changer for me! I often steer closer to the vegetarian line of cooking, but I rarely step over the line into veganism, mainly due to my love of cheese. However, those guys at Stereo really know how to do this. No tired risottos, or dry stuffed mushrooms in sight, instead Stereo favours fresh, innovative combos sticking by their aim to be creative, consistent and memorable.

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Their gorgeous tapas menu was where it was at for me, and I ordered patatas bravas, falafel on a bed of leaves with tahini, and an incredible smokey chickpea and pepper salad. Carl chose one of the main meals – a shamuchan, which is a sort of wrap with spicy haggis and pickled cabbage. This was loads to share between us both, which was lucky, ’cause we were both stealing constantly from each others plates! The food is so fresh, and delicious, plus you get that boost of feeling super healthy and well-fed. I noticed that Stereo have vegan cheese on their menu (yay!), and incredible-looking nachos and quesadillas, which we’ll definitely be back to try!