When I decided I wanted to go to Amsterdam to celebrate my birthday this year, I knew I wanted to go somewhere special to eat the night of my birthday.
Luckily for me, my wonderful friend Cassie told me to look in the current issue of Grazia Magazine (at the time). In it, was a feature on a new supperclub in Amsterdam. No, not the Supperclub, this was a restaurant run by Marit Beemster, who had turned her back on her career as a designer for Tommy Hilfiger and had decided to set up a restaurant in her own livingroom….Marit’s Huiskamerrestaurant.
Marit is vegetarian and was getting increasingly frustrated at the lack of good vegetarian restaurants in Amsterdam. She realised that she could cook better meals for herself at home than she could find in any restaurant so she figured that other people might like her cooking too!
Now, I’m not vegetarian but over the last couple of years I have found myself eating less and less meat. I often find myself ordering the vegetarian option on restaurant menus. Even when I go to Lucky Chip, the best burger joint in London (http://bit.ly/KYKw6I), I order their vegetarian burger (which is amazing by the way, you must try it). This is not to say I have abandoned meat altogether. I still love chorizo and salami and parma ham…actually, I love pork. But I don’t really eat lamb or beef anymore. When I make a curry I tend to make it with potatoes, onions and peppers. In fact, sometimes when I think back, I realise that I’ve not had any meat for days without trying. Anyway, I’m going off track a bit. I didn’t book it because it was a vegetarian restaurant, I booked it because I liked the look of it. However, when I mentioned it to my meat-loving friends, they said they may have to sneak a salami into their bags to help tide them over!
So on Saturday night we headed East, to Oosterparkbuurt, and pulled up in a lovely leafy street. The front of Marit’s home actually looks like a shop front.
As we walked in, we were warmly greeted by the waitress and showed to our table. The restaurant was full. With us, there were 20 people dining there. As we sat down, Marit’s beautiful dog Tilly came to say hello! This really reinforced the fact that we were indeed in someone’s home.
The space is beautiful, warm and homely. The furniture is mis-matched and antiquey, there are bowls of limes and stunning arrangements of flowers dotted around the room.
Looking to the back, you can see her living area with a sofa, arm chairs and a TV. French doors lead off the living area into a garden out the back. Above us is her bedroom, her kitchen is off the living area.
Marits has an impressive wine list. We ordered a bottle of Prosecco to start and then Marit came over to say hello to us and explain the ethos of the restaurant. She explained that we would be having a 3-course vegetarian menu made with ingredients which were sourced locally. We had a choice from a selection of starters, the main meal was fixed, and we had a choice of desserts.
We ordered our starters and a few minutes later we were given a amuse bouche of roasted fig stuffed with goats cheese. A delicious way to start the meal.
The starter I opted for was a salad of mixed leaves, rocket, orange slices, tomato berries, grapes and topped with two slices of sheeps cheese. This was drizzled in a honey and mustard dressing.
This was one of the most delicious salads I’ve tasted in a long time. The smooth creaminess of the cheese tasted incredible with the juicy, citrusy orange. And with the sweet tomato berries literally bursting in my mouth, this was like a dish full of Summer. The flavours were so fresh and zesty, and mixed with the honey and mustard dressing, it was divine. Am I describing this enough? I loved it. I wish you could all try it.
Faiza opted for the pea and ricotta ravioli.
I didn’t go for this as I’d had ravioli the night before. However, tasting Faiza’s dish, this was far, far better ravioli than I’d eaten at Lab 111 (http://bit.ly/MFTeF4). Deliciously light pasta and the filling was so fresh, you could really taste the peas. Lovely.
Our main course was an endive and spinach tart with melted cheese on the top. Also on the plate was roasted aubergine with tomato berries, and a fennel and lemon salad.
Accompanying this were bowls of roasted potatoes with rosemary…
And plates of mixed tomatoes – beef, plum and cherry tomatoes, topped with buffalo ricotta.
How beautiful does this plate of food look?
The tart was delicious. Breaking through the crisp, buttery pastry, you’re met with the soft, tangy endive. The roasted aubergines were perfectly charred and the fennel salad….well, that was a surprise. I actually hate the taste of anise so I steer clear of fennel at all times. But this was lovely. There was enough lemon through it that it just tasted crisp and zesty and citrusy, and not at all like fennel. Result! The sweet tomatoes with the smooth, creamy were a delight.
I adored this meal. It was fresh and light, yet hearty and filling. I think a lot of people believe vegetarian food isn’t filling and they’re going to be left wanting if they don’t have any meat. But Faiza, who is a pretty heavily dedicated meat lover said she was pleasantly surprised by how filling and satisfying the meal was and she hadn’t missed the meat at all. (Faiza actually had a plate of beef carpaccio at lunchtime to ‘up’ her meat factor since she knew she’d be having a vegetarian dinner!)
Next, it was time for pudding. There was only one slice of chocolate cake left and luckily, I managed to nab it! And Marit very kindly added a birthday candle to it.
Rich, dark, luscious chocolate cake topped with raspberries. My favourite combination. Perfect!
The rest of the girls opted for white chocolate mousse, served with rhubarb and strained yoghurt with lavender stirred through it.
This was a triumph. The girls were pretty full by this point and couldn’t finish all of their desserts. Luckily, my stomach has had more practice than theirs, and my spoon quickly found its way into all of their glasses and finished off the remains of their mousses. I really loved this dessert. The white chocolate mousse was perfectly sweet and light as air. The rhubarb added a touch of sharpness to it and then the lavender hit you. Not too hard, just the right amount. Lavender isn’t used very often in cooking so it’s a nice surprise. If used too heavily it can taste soapy but Marit had managed to use just the right amount.
This is really my kind of place. I loved Marit’s home, I loved her furniture, her crockery, her food…everything. I was initially slightly worried that sitting in someone else’s living room might be a bit awkward but it was nothing like that at all. It was homely and comfortable and I loved having her dog wandering around throughout the night. Although she kept trying to win the affections of my friend Faiza who is not really a dog lover! She disguised it well though.
Talking to Marit at the end of the night, she explained how she had started this restaurant just a few months ago and how much happier she is now. It certainly made me question whether I should be doing the job I do as opposed to the job I really want to do. The inspiration to follow your heart was so tangible, it really made it feel possible.
Marit runs her restaurant from her home 3 days a week, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam, please go check it out. The five of us loved it and didn’t miss meat at all. Go on…give it a go.
Andreas Bonnstraat 34H
tel: +31 207763864