Amsterdam: Cafes and Rembrandt’s House

imageA traveller in January cannot afford to be discouraged by bad weather. Well, not someone travelling in The Netherlands where cold and rain are to be expected. For the gourmet traveller, of course, there is a hidden bonus in this state: every excuse for taking shelter in another nice cafe, indulging in yet another coffee and perhaps a slice of apple pie. Goodness! I’d been in Amsterdam for nearly 24 hours and hadn’t eaten apple pie – despite my post the other day. This needed rectifying, so the plan for the day had to include visiting Winkel cafe in Noordermarkt, which serves one of the most famous apple pies to be found here. And for a bit of culture, I wanted to visit Rembrandt’s House. I last went when I was about 20. A long time ago, with my best friend from school days, Nina. We were staying in a youth hostel – that shows how long ago it was; I’m definitely not a hostel or camping person now! – situated rather improbably in Amsterdam’s red light district. Thankfully there was no dodgy side to the hostel. But first off this morning, breakfast had to be found. I didn’t fancy having it in the hotel and had seen a good looking bakery cafe very close by.

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It turned out to be an excellent choice. Vlaamsch Broodhuys had a wonderful display of breads, pastries and cakes.

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I found a seat at the back and ordered orange juice, seasonal muffin and a cappuccino.

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It was a lovely and typically Dutch presentation. The juice had been freshly squeezed to order, the coffee was excellent and the muffin so fresh and delicious. I had a great chat with the woman who’d served me before heading back out into the grey and drizzle. I consulted my map for the best route to Rembrandt’s House, which took me through the flower market where I saw large bunches of early tulips selling for – to this Londoner – very low prices.

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Rembrandt’s House is where the artist moved to in 1639. He bought it at the height of his success and lived there until 1658 when bankruptcy forced him to sell it.

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There’s a modern entrance to the side where you buy your ticket (€10) and then go downstairs and follow a way through to the old house. The house itself is very tall and you follow narrow winding staircases up to the top. Rembrandt’s living room was also his bedroom and his bed a typical ‘box’ bed which cocooned the sleeper from drafts.

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In the large room which was his studio I talked to an artist working there regularly, often working with students, who showed me how they made paints in the same way as Rembrandt would have done using linseed oil and ground stones like lapis lazuli.

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Outside again, the rain was heavier. I made my way back towards the Prinsengracht.  I wanted to go to Winkel for the apple pie but remembered it wasn’t a particularly cosy cafe to shelter from a rainy day so decided to eat in Cafe ‘t Smalle (photo at top of post) and then go to Winkel for coffee and cake.

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Inside ‘t Smalle it was very cosy indeed and I was met by a friendly welcome. I wanted a light lunch as I like to have a main meal in the evening. I ordered the pea & ham soup. It came with rye bread on which were slices of cold meat and I had a small draught Heineken too.

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I may have been looking for a light meal but the soup was thick and rich with lots of chunks of ham in it. It was really delicious; a gorgeous soup. I had a nice relaxing time, taking lunch slowly and reading my book for a time. When I left I took a long route to Winkel in Noordermarkt to build up space for my apple pie.

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I discovered this cafe with my family about 20 years ago. We found it as we wandered looking for a snack and the queue outside was so long we guessed it must be good. I remembered it as the best apple pie I’d ever had. I ordered a slice with cream (well, I’m on holiday!) and a coffee.

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It was good but it’s also a more cake-like pie than often found. It was served slightly warm, a crisp crust giving way to a soft sponge; the cinnamon-laced apple quite well cooked and soft. I liked it but wasn’t sure I liked it as much as the one I had last year and featured in my ‘Dutch apple pie’ post the other day. So I suppose that means this food blogger really has to go back to the other cafe tomorrow and test the other apple pie out again 😉 Just so I can see which is best, of course.

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

7 thoughts on “Amsterdam: Cafes and Rembrandt’s House

  1. The apple cake-like pie looks absolutely delicious, but I can understand that you must go back to have another slice of pie at the first place to be sure you are posting correct information 🙂

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