Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dinner at Moeders

This charming little bistro will soon celebrate its 25th anniversary. It’s one of the few restaurants you’ll find in Amsterdam with traditional Dutch food that your oma (grandmother) would make. What it lacks in style in makes up for in charm. You enter through the discreet side door into what always reminds me of a cloakroom rather than an entrance.

Pass through a floor length curtain and you’ll find yourself in a cosy dining room with a bar spanning the left side and plenty square tables throughout. The tables are so close together you may make friends with other nearby diners but it adds to that homely feel. The walls are lined (from skirting board to ceiling) with pictures of ordinary women often brought by their sons or daughters who’ve visited previously- ‘moeders’ is the Dutch word for ‘mothers’.

There are framed pictures on the window sills and passport photos tucked into the corners amongst artefacts from another time- a clay and wooden butter churn, a telephone with a twirling dial pad, a heavy typewriter and lots of little lamps that were donated in the spirit of an authentic atmosphere. The tables are all laid with mismatched plates and cutlery that was brought along on opening night by the first patrons.

Order from the excellent beer list (La Chouffe is a favourite of mine (although it's Belgian rather than Dutch) or from the dessert menu and only then will you be given crockery or glassware that was bought for purpose. Everything else has been previously loved.

The restaurant itself is on the corner where Rozengracht meets Groenmarktkade. In the winter you can watch boats lit by fairy light pass along the canal through Moeders’ huge windows and in the summer you can sit on the terrace and people-watch.

The menu has most traditional Dutch meals and sides but the real treat is in ordering the rijsttafel. It literally means ‘rice table’ and comes from 19th century Indonesia (which was once a Dutch colony) but now it’s easier to think of it as a selection of dishes and doesn’t always include rice. You’ll need to bring a friend (as the rijsttafel can only be ordered for parties of two or more) and an empty belly as the portions are generous.

Typically suddervlees, hachee and stampott will be delivered in coloured enamel pots along with sides of deliciously floury boiled potatoes, fried potatoes with the skins on, spiced red cabbage, dark poached pears and apple compote. These won’t be on any menu at a brown café but it’s exactly what you’ll get if a Dutch family invites you over for a traditional meal.

In December a Chinese friend was spending a fortnight travelling through Europe and met Charlie and I for an evening in Amsterdam. He wanted traditional Dutch food so this is where we took him.

He hadn’t heard of the word gezelligheid before that night but he left Moeders with a full understanding.

Prices are reasonable by Amsterdam standards; 40€ per person will get you a few beers, a main and a starter or dessert. Whether you’re a tourist wanting a traditional Dutch meal or a nostalgic local you’ll love this place.

If you can squeeze it in order the ‘Dutch Delights’ for pudding and you’ll receive a trio of samplers. Creamed curds with a little fruit compote, speculaas (spiced biscuit) ice cream and a few perfectly cooked poffertjes (mini pancakes) dusted in icing sugar. If you fancy something sweet but don’t want to commit to dessert just order a hot chocolate- it comes topped with whipped cream and mini kruidenoten as well as a biscuit tin from which you can pick what you like.

Every December I take inspiration from the dark poached pears (that my oma also used to make) and stew my own with red wine, sugar, star anise and cinnamon. I let them bubble away for hours until the pears deepen in colour and a sweet aromatic syrup lies at the base of the pot. I serve them with home-made English custard or make pastry tarts to be filled with almond custard and topped with slices of the pear and toasted almonds- it’s a delicious treat.

Moeders is open until midnight every night. On weekdays it opens at 5pm and weekends it opens at midday.

It can get busy so I recommend booking a table to avoid disappointment, call 020 626 7957 if you're in the Netherlands (or 0031 626 7957 from overseas).

Rozengracht 251, 1016 SX Amsterdam, Netherlands

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