Restaurant Review on tour
Hemonystraat 38, De Pijp, Amsterdam
Review by Natasha Young | British/Dutch | £££ | Hemonystraat 38, De Pijp, Amsterdam | +31 20 364 2560
It seems as though wherever I go in the world I bump into a scouser, and it was no different during my recent trip to Amsterdam.
However, this time it wasn’t just the usual picking up on the familiar accent in passing. Chef and restauranteur Graham Mee, who heads up Graham’s Kitchen in the city’s De Pijp area, originally hails from the Liverpool City Region and displays his hometown pride across the walls of his culinary venture.
When my friend and I visited for dinner we were given a warm welcome before being ushered past a canvas showcasing Liverpool’s waterfront in all of its photogenic glory. The centerpiece of the eatery’s décor was still to come though.
Our table was positioned in front of an attention-grabbing mural bringing together Amsterdam and Liverpool landmarks, from the EYE Filmmuseum and canals to our very own Royal Liver Building and Radio City Tower, complete with a mysterious pair of legs in the air. It’s certainly a spectacle and, I’m sure, a talking point which brings the conversation round to Liverpool for diners from Amsterdam and beyond.
And when it comes to the food and drink, Graham has crafted a creative menu with plenty of nods to his British roots as well as popular foods from his Dutch home.
A glass of Ridgeview Buckingham Palace (€12.50) – an English sparkling wine said to have been served at the royal wedding – kicked the evening off to a flying start and set the tone for the range of carefully sourced, quality produce that’s clearly key to the Graham’s Kitchen experience.
It accompanied a ‘chip and dip’ appetiser of rice chips covered in tangy powdered tomato with a refreshing white bean puree – the chef’s twist on the British staple, baked beans in tomato sauce.
This hint of a home comfort for me and my friend, who also moved from Liverpool to set up home in Amsterdam, was quickly offset by an original take on some typically Dutch foods.
Plucked from ‘Graham’s Favourites’ on the menu, a starter of savoury waffles with crème fraiche and herring roe (€9.50) was the first of several truly sensational food concoctions of the night.
At first glance it could have been mistaken for a dessert, with the usually sweet waffles, black roe resembling berry-like fruits and a perfectly smooth scoop of crème fraiche.
Instead Graham’s signature savoury waffles were unlike the often indulgent version and were light and wonderfully chewy. They provided the ideal accompaniment for the salty roe topping, which we nervously approached at first before liberally spreading it on once we’d realised how delicious it was!
The dish certainly whet our appetite for the six-course starter menu (€66) including salmon with chives, salted lemon and butter milk; veal sweetbread with couscous, baby carrot and sambai vinegar; halibut with mussels, eel and beurre blanc; duck breast with pearl barley, beetroot and blackberry; and a selection of cheeses from Lancashire, Scotland, Shropshire and Belgium served with an all spice waffle.
My guest and I agreed that both the salmon and the halibut dishes were contenders for the best plate on the menu.
The salmon was perfectly cooked and its accompaniments drew plenty of flavour, while the latter fish dish was a sensory delight with its fresh seafood scent and beautiful textures. The eel was tender and the beurre blanc sauce was lovely and creamy.
The feast was rounded off with a delightfully indulgent, blueberry-filled dessert combining creams and crunches thanks to its mix of mousse, brittle, honeycomb and meringue.
Each dish was delicately presented and delivered to the table by a friendly member of the team. At times it was Graham himself who brought out the plate as he took time to roam the relaxed room and speak to diners, making it clear that ‘Graham’s Kitchen’ is more than merely a name above the door.
The dishes were also expertly paired with wines by a very knowledgeable sommelier, who was happy to talk us through her chosen drinks, why they taste the way they do and why they work with their accompanying foods.
I’m not much of a wine drinker myself and generally steer clear of red wine at all costs so I probably wasn’t the easiest customer, but I actually enjoyed every pairing and could pick out each flavour our expert server had described.
She even persuaded me to try an Italian red and it felt like a genuine breakthrough when I approved of the taste. A real first!
“I’ve learnt so much tonight!” my dining partner, meanwhile, exclaimed. More of a wine enthusiast than I am, she was engrossed by the expert insight being shared.
The refined food and drink offering, attention to detail and depth of knowledge demonstrated at Graham’s Kitchen certainly gives the restaurant the hallmarks of a high end establishment. Coupled with its cool, casual décor as well as its intimate setting, friendly service and the accessible manner in which the team delivers foodie knowledge though, Graham’s Kitchen is fine dining without any pretentious or intimidating features.
During a visit to Amsterdam the choice of food on offer can be overwhelming but the quality of this little slice of Liverpool can’t be overstated.
The signature savoury waffles dish was a surprising food combination which made a big impression.