Amsterdam’s culinary offerings can be enjoyed all day long, but just a few years ago you would have been hard pressed to find anywhere open for breakfast. Nowadays the breakfast and brunch scene is booming – and we have our international community to thank for this.
For a Dutchie, providing a description of our traditional breakfast is an embarrassing prospect. It amounts to bread peppered with chocolate sprinkles. Yes, this is what nourished us for years – and no one thought anything of it. Breakfast in restaurants simply wasn’t on offer. Denise Kortlever, breakfast expert, culinary journalist and food blogger, played no small part in putting it on the menu.
She visited New York City four and a half years ago, when the fashion for breakfast/brunch was at its peak there.
“I saw all these people meeting their friends for brunch, and thought, ‘this could really be something for Amsterdam too,’” she explained.
She wrote an article about her experiences, which launched her career as a breakfast guru. She is now working on a book dedicated to the trend (All-Day Breakfast) that will launch in October.
Within the space of four years, Amsterdam has gone from having no breakfast culture to locals and tourists alike having to queue up for a table for Sunday brunch. There’s the likes of Filter, which has the biggest and tastiest yoghurt bowl stuffed with fruity goodness I’ve ever had, as well as Vinnies Deli, with sensational egg dishes and heavenly cappuccino. For a proper brunch with friends, I always go to De Bakkerswinkel. Their scones with jams and clotted cream are the stuff dreams are made of. They also serve a mean high tea, if you’re not ready to go home after brunch.
So what transformed our sprinkles-munching nation into one that now flocks to cafes for late-morning pancakes?
“We have the expats to thank for that. A few years ago, I spoke to expats who said they’d meet other expats for brunch on the weekends. No locals did that back then,” Denise said.
Brunch places started popping up, targeting expats in particular. Denise also believes the Dutch yen for travel means they’re frequently influenced by food cultures in other parts of the world.
“I don’t remember a single instance we’d go for breakfast outside our house, back when I was a child. Only on holidays, we would,” she said.
Denise notes that foreign influences are evident in Dutch breakfast fare, “We regularly see American or Australian foods like pancakes or banana bread, but also Middle-Eastern influences like shakshuka.”
She recommends the coconut pancakes at CT Coffee & Coconuts, a quirky venue with an eclectic seating arrangement and plenty of character. And she swears Gartine serves the best ‘Wentelteefjes’ (eggy bread, or French toast). But there are also more unusual options on offer around the city too, like the buckwheat porridge at Scandinavian Embassy.
Apart from that, the Dutch also just became more aware of what was acceptable for breakfast and what wasn’t. In terms of a healthy morning meal, chocolate sprinkles on bread doesn’t really cut it. Instead, we now top our bread with less sugary treats, and we tend to go for artisan bread, culinary bread, if you will, instead of regular who-knows-what’s-in-it-supermarket bread.
The all-day breakfast is now very much part of the restaurant scene in Amsterdam, and I just wonder why it took so long to catch on. As Denise points out, it’s also linked to the fact Amsterdam is a very creative and modern city, “With working patterns changing and the growing number of freelancers, it makes sense to be more flexible with your eating pattern too.”