Amsterdam’s numerous eclectic neighbourhoods are more often than not overlooked in favour of the city’s more familiar tourist haunts. One such neighbourhood is Oost or east Amsterdam, once quite a shabby part of town but now hip and thriving. Oost’s parks are lovely green spaces and it is in the middle of one of these, in Frankendael Park, where we find the quite wonderful De Kas Restaurant.
Set inside a huge greenhouse surrounded by its own organic nursery, De Kas is an absolute gem of a restaurant. It is a genius concept created by Gert Jan Hageman, a one Michelin star chef, who 16 years ago managed to save Amsterdam’s Municipal Nursery from demolition by taking it over and converting it into a restaurant.
The idea of creating a kitchen surrounded by thriving organic vegetables and herbs and with glass walls where daylight pours through may sound an obvious concept, but as Hageman says ” I spent twenty years surrounded by white tiles under fluorescent lighting before I came up with the idea.”
And what an idea.
Today, Hageman focuses on growing and harvesting the produce, leaving his talented brigade free to express their daily culinary creativity in whichever way they can, depending on the season and what’s available.
I arrive to sample the 5 course €52.50 dinner menu accompanied by paired wines for an additional €40.
Beneath all the quirky surface informality, there’s without a doubt some serious cooking happening in the open plan kitchen. After a cool glass of prosecco out in the garden with a crunchy treat in the form of some fresh radishes in breadcrumbs, we go to our table in the greenhouse and munch on mustard crackers and a very tasty celery dip while gazing at the menu.
The first course is a beetroot gazpacho with feta, black garlic, granola and nut-oil paired with a crisp French Melon Blanc La Bohème. In the bowl, the ingredients are colourful but essentially a salad, until the gazpacho arrives and it transforms into a heavenly dish.
A marinated mackerel dish appears next with a violet vinaigrette, potato, onion creme and cucumber. Almost instantly, sommelier Aagje appears with another gem, a Spanish white this time; Parés Baltà Parellada. I have to confess to not being a lover of mackerel, but the combination of flavours with the wine is a triumph.
The greenhouse is full and the kitchen is a blur of activity, yet out here, all is calm. Probably helped by our third pairing; another white but a Dutch white surprisingly, Apostelhoeve Cuvée XII. When in Rome as the saying goes, but It works perfectly well with our Faro salad and asparagus with egg, hazelnuts, watercress and a celeriac bouillon.
By now we are getting very comfortable with the format. The service is discreet but very switched on, Aagje seems to have a second sense as to when to pour the next flight and the dishes are what I would call fine dining, done generously.
The main dish is triumphantly presented by the serving team; glazed pork shoulder with kohlrabi, ham-béchamel and lettuce and fennel tops. Aagje of course is on point armed with a Sicilian red; Etna Rosso Ciauria, Nerello Marscalese. A great dish. The pork is melt in your mouth and the ham béchamel, a perfect companion.
I’m making a silent prayer of thanks at this point for not going for the full 6 courses. We are struggling now. But in a very good way.
Finally, the marinated strawberries with verbena ice cream and cardamom materialises and we wash them down with a sweet Italian Moscati d’Asti from La Morandina, poured by Aagje with a knowing smile.
This has been a feast for kings. A culinary journey made even more wonderful by the theatre of the greenhouse. Great food, great wines, a stunning location and really great value.
All images (c) Andy Mossack
Tell me more about De Kas Restaurant Amsterdam
De Kas Restaurant and Nursery is situated in Frankendael Park, at the corner of Middenweg and Kamerlingh Onneslaan.
Kamerlingh Onneslaan 3
1097 DE Amsterdam
Menu 3 dishes €32,50
Menu 4 dishes €42,50
Menu 5 dishes € 52,50 Menu 6 dishes €60
The wine list boasts a selection of about 40 wines, with prices ranging from €25,50 to €125 per bottle.
They also serve wines by the glass, ranging from €4,25
Where to stay: NH Collection Barbizon Palace.
Parking at London Luton Airport
There are frequent flights to Amsterdam from London Luton. One week’s Meet and Greet airport parking at Luton Airport with Airport Parking and Hotels (APH) costs from only £68.90. To book visit www.aph.com or call 01342 859536.