Simon J Woolf's wine guide to Amsterdam
Star Wine List’s Amsterdam ambassador Simon J Woolf, the founder and editor of the site The Morning Claret and author of the book Amber Revolution, has lived in Amsterdam since 2014. Here's the guide to his favourite wine spots in town!
Phone: +31 20 737 2553
Address: Van Diemenstraat 408, Amsterdam
One of Amsterdam’s first “bistronomy” restaurants, BAK started life as a pop-up in a squatted space in 2013 and breathed new life into the Netherlands’ then stuffy dining scene. They now co-own the warehouse space, with its wonderful wooden-beamed ceiling and views over the water at Houthavens. You’re in for a highly creative seven-course tasting menu – except at lunch or weekday nights when there’s also a cut-down option. The cooking goes all out for seasonality and provenance and concentrates on foraged ingredients, vegetables, game and wild-caught fish. Flavour combinations are adventurous...
Phone: +31 20 626 4939
Address: Vijzelgracht 5h, Amsterdam
The smart team at BAK are behind this entirely different offspring. Housed in a double-fronted canal-house, the space is broken up by stairs, mezzanines and walls, which works rather well to create a feeling of intimacy. Where BAK is all about the tasting menu, Bambino is about having fun. Sharing plates come in various sizes, but all are extraordinarily delicious, with a modern European, seasonal focus. Arroz with rabbit, or clams in white wine have been recent hits. You can sit here all night, happily grazing with friends.
Address: Bilderdijkstraat 36, Amsterdam
Binnenvisser took over the site of an old ”stamkroeg” (pub) in 2018 and transformed it into one of Amsterdam’s most buzzing locations. The space still has wonderful period touches such as the stained glass quarter-lights and a proper room-length bar. The concept here is very much “bar” and not “wine bar”. The owners are serious natural wine fans, but there are also excellent craft beers and cocktails on offer. Food also takes centre stage for the earlier part of the evening. The five-course set menu is amazing value for money, and focuses a lot on creative treatments of vegetables – but the...
Phone: +31 20 623 8244
Address: Prinsenstraat 22, Amsterdam
Best Short List of the Year Netherlands 2021
Right in the middle of the picture-perfect Jordaan district, Cafe de Klepel defines the Dutch concept of “gezelligheid” (cosiness, to translate approximately) with its welcoming, intimate interior. You have to reserve well ahead to score one of the precious tables, but there’s also a prominent bar with seating for couples or latecomers in search of a glass or two of the good stuff. Klepel is really all about the wine – the food is classic French bistro fare, well-executed but designed not to take centre-stage. The cheese selection is one of Amsterdam’s best. The staff here can recite lists of...
Phone: +31 20 210 3090
Address: De Ruijterkade 128, Amsterdam
Choux had its gestation in two hugely successful pop-up restaurants before the team settled on its current location in a spacious, airy converted warehouse looking out onto the Ij waterfront. It’s been one of the pioneers in bistronomy-style cooking – serious cuisine that nonetheless breaks the formal, fine-dining mould, and in natural wine. The menu invites you to choose a number of courses, all cryptically identified only by their main ingredient. When the dishes arrive at the table, they’re often beautiful in their conception and appearance. There’s a definite Nordic slant in the use of f...
Phone: +31 20 233 8642
Address: Tweede van der Helststraat 3, Amsterdam
This “bar à vins naturelles”, modelled on Parisian establishments such as Aux Des Amis or Café de la Nouvelle Mairie, kickstarted a natural wine revolution in Amsterdam when it opened in April 2015 – before then, there was absolutely nothing like it. The cosy shabby-chic interior has been packed almost constantly since opening, and the generous back-street terrace also gets mobbed in the summer months. There are, of course, no airs and graces here – basic glassware, a crumpled paper wine list and service that can sometimes struggle to keep up with the hoards that pour in. That said, it’s wond...
Phone: +31 20 636 5170
Address: Aambeeldstraat 10, Amsterdam
It’s not a hotel, and there’s no golden pheasant. But it is one of Amsterdam’s truly unique dining experiences. Housed in a vast warehouse (partly filled with vintage cars), in a gritty industrial part of Amsterdam North, Goudfazant regularly serves 300 customers on a Saturday night. If that sounds crazy, it is – but what’s even crazier is the excellent quality of the food and the efficiency of the service, given this massive scale. The cuisine is based around French bistro classics, with a daily changing menu that can be configured as a set or a la carte. The team who run Goudfazant are unc...
Phone: +31 20 626 1912
Address: Beulingstraat 7, Amsterdam
This smart and intimate two-story dining room is hidden on a back-street just minutes away from the central station. It offers Italian fine dining which manages to achieve a rare combo – authenticity and innovation. The team have a strong commitment to slow food ethics and organics, and their use of as much local produce as possible leads to fascinating mash-ups of seasonal Dutch ingredients reinvented into Italian dishes. It’s possible to choose a surprise tasting menu – but if you don’t like surprises (I don’t!), then the staff will reveal all.
Phone: +31 20 623 2813
Address: Lindengracht 75, Amsterdam
When a restaurant opens in 1985 and is still at the top of its game more than 30 years later, it must be doing something right. Toscanini aims for authentic Italian food by focusing on super-high quality ingredients. The restaurant works extensively with slow food suppliers and uses an organic butcher for all its meats. The cooking doesn’t mess with classic concepts but just executes them sympathetically. The pasta here is particularly divine. The space is a converted workshop, exuding rustic charm and showing off some wonderful period features. It’s right in the middle of the Jordann’s bust...
Phone: +31 20 765 1212
Address: Utrechtsestraat 141H, Amsterdam
Special Jury Prize Netherlands, presented by Vinos Baettig 2021
Zoldering is a new wine hotspot in Amsterdam, open since 2019 and a real treat for wine lovers. It occupies a beautifully converted Amsterdam building, which makes the most of its high ceilings, space and light. Although it is foremost a restaurant, you can always drop by early or late evening for just a glass of wine by the bar. The menu is concise and often exceptional. There’s a lightness of touch to the modern European cooking, and a refreshing lack of pretension or unnecessary complexity. There are no huge tasting menus or filigree presentations – just top-class ingredients treated wit...
Phone: +31 20 223 4901
Address: Van Ostadestraat 354, Amsterdam
The modern Peruvian cooking at this newish restaurant is nothing short of spectacular. It combines thrilling freshness with an elegant approach that never strays into fussiness. Sommelier Antonello Nicastri has put together one of the most eclectic wine lists I’ve seen in the Netherlands, period. Ever tried a Dutch Frühburgunder with your ceviche? Or how about a glass of Assyrtico with a divine dish of grilled mullet? The by-the-glass list is lengthy and varied, with good mid-priced options as well as some more prestigious choices. There are plenty of classics, including exciting grower Cham...