- Amsterdam, The Netherlands
- 1 Michelin Star since 2017
2nd visit : 20th Jan 17
Good, pleasantly quirky food with strong Dutch influence and focus on local vegetables (16/20)
Bolenius is a small but perfectly formed restaurant located in the financial district of Amsterdam south, where it is heaving with suits during the week, but practically gave us the place to ourselves when we visited for lunch on Saturday.
My first visit was some years ago and, rather unsurprising, was for a business lunch. I initially recalled the meal fondly (if not terribly precisely given the quantity of wine), but had since then totally forgotten about the place. That was until December of course when it popped-up as one of Amsterdam’s 3 new Michelin-starred kitchens. I know the other two awardees well and must admit that I, much like some other local diners, was a bit surprised by the choices (but that’s a whole different story), so was very quite intrigued to come back.
The dining room itself is full of light and pleasantly unfussy, sitting on painted concrete floors repleat with plywood tables and chairs, vaguely reminiscent of a up-scale Swedish flat pack. Indeed, there is quite a lot of Scandinavian minimalism to the room in general, which also heavily channels seafaring vibes via the large white tarpaulins elegantly draped like sails above the diners’ heads. And this is pretty appropriate for a locally themed kitchen in Amsterdam given that water almost always features strongly in modern Michelin expressions of Dutch food, revolving as it does so often around fish and crustacea from the North Sea. ‘Locality’, as is now de rigeur on all menus, is also paid great attention, with vegetables from their nearby city kitchen garden highlighted throughout.
On offer at lunch was a set 3 course menu for €34, with the option to take a 5 courses ‘Alliance’ menu, or indeed just go a la carte. Turning the page, the 5 course vegetarian menu which was immediately pounced on by my wife. Unsurprisingly I greedily opted for the €75 meaty 5 course counterpart.
Thoughtful amuses, served on another mini sail, appeared quickly after the obligatory glass of champagne, and were followed by a delicious confection of fermented Jerusalem artichoke cream covering a quails egg, spiced with vadouvan and served in a (hens) egg-shell topped with crunchy buckwheat. True to form, Nadya fished out her egg and passed it over. It’s tough being a vegetarian who doesn’t like soft-cooked yolks given how regularly appear on meat-free menus. The almost weekly ritual of a spoon being handed across the plate containing the poor unwanted yolk is becoming a bit a running joke for us. Or should that be runny yolk? Of course I am always happy to oblige, given I myself am ever ready to take one for the team, especially when it involves rescuing the unctuous savouryness of a good egg.
First up on both menus was a signature vegetable plate of offerings from their city kitchen garden. I must admit with the exception of the crispy kale I was generally nonplussed by the whole affair despite the deliciously tart cranberry sauce on the side. Nadya was more enthusiastic. Thankfully it was quickly followed by some delicious scallops served on blinis and complemented nicely by an irony, bitter kale sauce. They were polite enough to leave a little jar on the table (a pleasantry that’s almost disappeared in modern restaurants). Nadya received the same blinis topped with an Amsterdamse Skeaps Ronde, which our excellent waiter explained was something like Brie but washed to leave a stronger note of maturity on the palate.
For the fish course I was very happy to get a piece of cod surrounded with all manner of delicious textures and salty flavours, an ozoney rich hit from a cream of oyster served with an oyster leaf, and brightened very subtly by the often scarily astringent sea buckthorn. This was the dish of the menu by a mile for me, and worth the trip alone. Excellent, precise, delicious and screaming of the sea-side.
Nadya’s vegetarian option was an all together more theatrical affair. A small clay pot was brought table-side and summarily attacked with a small hammer. Once broken, the pot revealed a whole beetroot which was the sliced and served with morels. Nadya declared it tasted of clay (though in a good way!). Our waiter was kind enough to explain the genesis: They found a salt crust beetroot (available at a 2 star joint in Amsterdam) too ..well, salty, and opted instead for a lightly seasoned clay instead to encapsulate the beet. This had had the double effect of both seasoning more gently and keeping all the juices within in the same manner as a classic crust of sea salt.
By this point I was looking forward to some meat. Which was unfortunate given my main course simply wasn’t very good. A slow braised stuckje of veal topped disturbingly with a layer of jellied stock, was dry within and gloopy without. Not very successful at all. The garnish however was a triumph – a play on the classic Dutch dish Hete Bliksem – consisting of black pudding, apple, and potato purée. I would have been happier with that alone given the choice, it was delicious.
Desert for Nadya consisted of a beautiful dish of a piece of blown sugar, to resemble a sugar beet (albeit we mistook it for a sweet parnsip initially both in shape and taste), next to a delicious molasses ice cream. For me, ‘5 times lactic’ which was yogurty, milky and perfectly sweet, topped with a good shaving of winter truffle. I’m becoming quite a fan of truffle on desert, so that was also very welcome.
A good finish to a perfectly good lunch. Some ups and downs on the menu but service was very friendly and the food in the main quite delicious. This is at least as good as the other new 1 stars in Amsterdam and better than one or two more established names to my mind. Definitely worth a visit.