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The Dutch are innovative people, and this quality comes out in their cooking. There is a growing number of chefs who are demonstrating an artistic approach to their profession; in recent years the number of ethnic restaurants has been growing, particularly in larger towns. Whereas previously you would find only one Chinese, one Italian and one Indonesian restaurant in these towns, now you can also enjoy dishes from countries as varied as Spain, Turkey, Greece, Morocco, Israel, Lebanon, Ethiopia, India, Thailand, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. Among the cafés and bars you will find eetcafés, cafés where you can order meals. Not only will you be able to enjoy your meal in a livelier atmosphere but you will find that a lot of the food served here comes close in quality to that of established restaurants. Bars where you can have traditional snacks such as a broodje kroket (a deep-fried croquette in a bun) are now rarer, giving way to healthier options. The restaurants listed on pages 410–23 have been selected on the basis not only of the quality of food served but also of the atmosphere and service.


 The Netherlands boasts a wide variety of restaurants, and as the Dutch are eating out with increasing frequency, this means that the range of restaurants they can choose from is increasing as well. Because of the historical ties with Indonesia, Indonesian (“Indisch”) restaurants are numerous in the Netherlands. Amsterdam is one of the best places in Europe to try the diverse flavours of that country. For purists, much of the cooking may lean too heavily towards the Chinese style, but it is still possible to sample genuine Indonesian recipes. Chinese restaurants and pizzerias have also spread far and wide across the country

Traditional Dutch cooking is best described as frugal. As a maritime nation, the Netherlands does have large numbers of fish restaurants,

particularly along the coast. There is an overwhelming number of restaurants serving French cuisine. Their numbers are increasing steadily, and quality is also improving constantly. The chefs frequently add some local ingredients to the French recipes, such as fennel or asparagus. This means that in the Netherlands you can eat wild duck on endive stamppot (mashed potato and cabbage), a combination which is as yet unheard of in France. Nobody looks askance at tuna tartare, deep-fried celeriac or green asparagus and guacamole. It is in areas such as these that Dutch chefs are showing increasing inventiveness

There has also been an increase in the number of ethnic restaurants in the country. The quality varies, and the range of foods on offer is vast, from Vietnamese to Lebanese, Thai to Greek, Indian to Turkish, Moroccan to Japanese. Indeed, it is difficult to find a country whose cuisine is not represented by some restaurant in the Netherlands. There is also an infinite variety in the range of food, contents, presentation and price. The majority of ethnic restaurants are situated in larger towns and cities, but even in the countryside their numbers are steadily increasing


 Eetcafés (eating cafés) are a popular phenomenon in Dutch eating. Initially, some cafés and bars sold snacks to go with their drinks, such as an appetizer, a sandwich or a meatball. These snacks have since been refined to a growing extent. Bars and cafés have gradually evolved into eetcafés where you can enjoy sandwiches at lunch time and cheap, often very decent, meals in the evenings. They vary from very simple dishes such as soups, sandwiches, salads, omelettes and French fries to exceptionally good three-course menus. Many such cafés are now concentrating increasingly on the food aspect. The prices charged at these cafés are in many cases much lower than those in traditional restaurants.


 Most restaurants have a number of vegetarian dishes on their menus. This applies both to Dutch/French restaurants and to ethnic restaurants. There are also an increasing number of restaurants which cater exclusively to vegetarian diners.


 The Netherlands has not had a tradition of lunching, but this is also gradually changing, with increasing numbers of restaurants now opening at lunch time. In the evenings the majority of restaurants open at 6pm; the kitchens usually stop serving food at 10pm or 10:30pm. Also – and in particular in the large towns and cities – there is a growing number of night restaurants, with the kitchens staying open until after midnight. This allows you to round off a visit to the theatre, movies or café with a late dinner. Traditionally, many restaurants do not open on Mondays, though this is also changing.


 Anybody wishing to eat in one of the country’s more renowned restaurants would do well to book, and sometimes booking a few days in advance is advisable. It can get crowded in cafés and other informal restaurants in the evenings, but reservations are usually accepted only for large groups if at all.


A service charge of 15 per cent is included on the bill at most Dutch bars, cafés and restaurants. However, it is customary to round up the amount. The tip should be left as change rather than included on a credit-card payslip. The atmosphere at most Dutch restaurants is fairly informal, and you can generally wear what you like; smart casual or semi-formal dress is suitable almost everywhere. There are some exceptions, however: in some very upmarket restaurants dressing smartly is considered very important. It is illegal to smoke in all restaurants


Most Dutch restaurants display a menu giving the prices of various dishes or set meals on the wall or the front door so that you can get an idea of whether the prices suit you or not before going in. The prices are given inclusive of VAT (BTW) and service. Prices can vary markedly, and a restaurant can be found in each price class: you can find many establishments where you can eat for less than €22.50; in top restaurants, however, you should not be surprised if your bill comes to €70, excluding wine. The cost of drinks is invariably extra and the mark-up levied by a restaurant, especially on cheap wine, can be high.


 Most restaurants at ground floor level are accessible for wheelchairs. Toilet facilities, however, tend to pose a problem, with many of them reached via steep stairs and therefore not easily accessible


 In recent times a growing number of restaurants has been paying more attention to the wine list: in many of them, you can choose from a range of outstanding, often French, wines to accompany your meal. The list of often exotic aperitifs available is also growing in many establishments. However, beer is the drink of preference in most Dutch cafés and bars, and all have a wide selection of local and imported brews.


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