Check out these lunch spots in Amsterdam for something that goes beyond the ubiquitous broodje (sandwich) – unless, of course, you want to be held hostage by the Dutch sandwich mafia.
There’s an old phrase that suggests you should “lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper”. Why eat heavily late at night, runs the logic, when your food will take longer to break down than the old Russian submarine stranded in Amsterdam’s NDSM port? Instead, lunch well and savour those glorious moments of mid-afternoon inaction so that you’re fortified for the rest of the day’s sightseeing and shopping.
However, in sandwich-obsessed Amsterdam, lunching well isn’t always possible – unless you know where to go. Here, then, are the best places in the city for your midday meal, whether you’re looking for something quick, leisurely, healthy or indulgent.
Restaurant, Northern European, $$$
Whether you’re team sun or team shade, you can now book the terrace table of your choice at Amsterdam’s best-known park restaurant. Situated in a stately 19th-century monument in the heart of Vondelpark overlooking a large duck pond, Vondelpark3 is a perfect al fresco feast only a phone call away. And, thanks to a new menu, ordering here is a walk in the park even for the pickiest eaters. In addition to the usual suspects and some feel-good fare, there are plenty of vegan options and a large selection of dishes “inspired by the Keto lifestyle” (think tuna tartare, “Cauliflower Power” curry or boneless pork ribs in a soy-mirin marinade).
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The Amsterdam outpost of this popular Eastern Mediterranean concept lies inside a sprawling former Citroën garage near the Olympic Stadium. The name of the restaurant, NENI, comprises the initials of chef-owner and cookbook author Haya Molcho’s four sons (Nuriel, Elior, Nadiv and Ilan). It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that the inspiration for NENI’s so-called Balagan-style cuisine (“sympathetic chaos”) comes from the family’s Israeli, Romanian and Spanish roots. This place serves shared mezze lunches and quick deli bites such as freshly baked focaccia, salads, sabich sandwiches and sweet treats from the in-house bakery. The popcorn falafel comes highly recommended.
While this floating three-story pagoda-style restaurant looks like a tourist trap, it’s actually one of the best spots in town to grab classic Cantonese specialities such as crispy pork belly and dumplings. Also, you could argue that the recent addition of Seedlip-based alcohol-free cocktails to the dim sum lunch menu shows that it knows how to keep up with the trends, too. A landmark in Amsterdam’s Eastern Docklands, practically next to Centraal Station, the interior is crammed with over-the-top Asian ornaments, complete with dangling paper lanterns, dragon murals and live goldfish. However, you can also rest your eyes on beautiful water views overlooking the Old Centre if all that exuberance gets too overwhelming.
This Slow Food specialist is cosily nestled in the coach house of the handsome Huize Frankendael, an 18th-century national monument and Amsterdam’s last-remaining buiten (manorial estate). The focus of the seasonal menu is on quality local ingredients like Oosterschelde lobster and wild garlic as well as authentic Dutch heritage products such as Leiden cheese and Frisian sugar bread. Tip: The patio, which overlooks romantic manicured gardens, is one of the prettiest in town. And, yes, that famous greenhouse restaurant De Kas, which is touted in every Amsterdam tourist guide, is situated in the same park.
Dignita Hoftuin specialises in seasonal cuisine made from local sources | Courtesy of Dignita Amsterdam
Everything here fits the credo to “eat well, do good”. Not only does Dignita create “fresh, ethical and local food”, but it also provides work opportunities to the socially disadvantaged through an affiliation with the Not For Sale organisation. Good intentions aside, there are plenty of reasons to add a meal here to your must-do list. For one, the glass-walled café boasts a stunning setting in a garden courtyard between the Hermitage Amsterdam museum and the still-active Protestant Diaconate of Amsterdam. And then there’s the all-day menu, which offers excellent veg-led options such as rhubarb and rose pancake stacks, courgette and chickpea fritters, and umami avo toast with a crispy furikake-crumbed egg.
BUFFET van Odette is a small canal-side mainstay in Amsterdam’s art and antiques district. While it has made a name for itself with the mouth-watering salads displayed on its marble bar, it also has a terrific truffle omelette. Whatever you choose, you can rest assured it’s made with care using the best ingredients and products from Amsterdam’s finest artisans. It’s been decades since owner Odette Rigterink started her business by delivering her “healthy, home-made meals” to restaurants by bike, but judging by the convivial vibe at her always buzzing eatery, Rigterink’s take on “real food” is still trending. Tip: Go early to grab a seat on the small terrace overlooking Prinsengracht or book a table inside.