I’m such a city person. I like to say I love being by the sea – a beautiful place like Crete last September, perhaps. Or home in UK, down in Dorset where I’ve been known to happily walk miles along the beautiful Jurassic coast. You have to work quite hard to get me to admit to many pleasures to be found in the countryside, but even then I can see beauty – I just don’t want to spend much time in it! But when it comes to a vibrant, exciting city like Amsterdam I’m in my own little city heaven. If pretty by day, look how it comes to life when night falls and lights come on leading a twinkling way down canals and through narrow passageways. I set off early towards my destination for supper and felt such delight at the sight of canals catching the light from lamps and houses, houses lit up and the nearby Westerkerk church whose bells peal on the hour with a sound quintessentially Dutch. You really couldn’t be anywhere else. I planned to go back to Cafe de Reiger where Nicola and I ate on our final evening last year.
We had such a brilliant meal and this kind of relaxed yet sophisticated ‘gastro pub’ type restaurant is just my kind of place. It was quite busy but the friendly waitress offered me a choice of tables. I chose the same one Nicola and I had as it was near the bar and I liked the view out to the street.
I decided to not have a starter, although they sounded wonderful, and chose venison with spiced pear and red cabbage for my main course. I began however with a glass of cava and crostini with homemade tapenade.
The venison was superb. The whole dish looked so pretty but more than that it was perfectly cooked: the venison medium-rare, just as I’d ordered, but nicely well done on the outside. The meat was so tender it was just divine. I had to have a dessert. I remembered how great they were. I chose quince crumble with honey and walnut ice cream mainly on account of it sounding different and interesting.
It was so good and just the kind of dessert I like best. I finished with an espresso and set off back towards the hotel. But of course I had to stop at Cafe Chris – where Nicola and I ended up every night last March – for a genever.
I’m not sure I would have felt comfortable going into this bar on my own if I hadn’t got to know it so well last year. It was quite busy. It’s the oldest bar in the Jordaan district, dating from 1624. But I love genever – old gin – and it’s a must for a nightcap whenever I’m in Amsterdam. There was only one empty stool at the bar. The woman put a glass down in front of it and filled it to the brim. As they do. You can’t pick the glass up. You have to bend forward and sip. I sat down. I bent towards the glass and sipped. The bar woman watched this English woman. Did she know what to do? Was it a test? But thankfully I knew the rules. Oh bliss. They serve it ice cold straight from the fridge but then there’s the wonderful warmth as it goes down. What a perfect ending to a lovely day.