First off, it needs to be said that both Hollanders and Belgians know exactly what vegan food is. Life-giving foods free of animal flesh and their secretions. While this, (and the fact those whom we interacted with defaulted easily and fluently into English) helped make our dietary preferences heard, it still wasn’t necessarily easy to find wholesome, whole plant-based dishes.
We touched down in Amsterdam, where we stayed at the nicest and funkiest of hotels, Andaz Amsterdam Prinsengracht. Known as a hidden gem is no exaggeration. In close proximity to “de 9 Straatjes” (the 9 Streets) the most trendy shopping area of Amsterdam (Dutch fashion being a little too conservative for my liking), it also offered many little cafés and restaurants from which to choose.
The culinary highlight of our Amsterdam visit was the unassuming, authentic Nepalese and Indian restaurant, Kathmandu Kitchen. A super experience all round! A popular, albeit tightly packed, Indian restaurant worth a visit is Koh-I-Noor. They willingly prepared some of their vegetarian dishes, vegan style for us. I did, though, find their regular lamb and chicken flesh delivery to neighbouring tables somewhat off-putting. The low point was, very disappointedly, the intentionally vegan eatery, Terra Zen. It was too ‘alternative’ in ambiance (read run-down and not too clean). I’m also not crazy about a menu where most options are ‘mock’ animal meat based. Lovely family who run and own it though.
We had several supermarkets in close proximity to the hotel, like Albert Heijn and Marqt, which become our daily shop for our self-made in-room breakfasts. There’s plenty of organic foods in Marqt’s upscale grocery offering and we picked up some great vegan treats by way of waffles, biscuits and much sought after cake sprinkles.
If there’s a Le Pain Quotidien within smelling distance I’m sure to find it – which we did, one of four. Their bread is always a treat, soya always on offer and occasionally vegan muffins up for grabs. In the heart of the beautifully affluent area of Oud Zuid. Just across the road, in the square, there’s a Saturday morning fresh foods market which we ambled through and found the nicest variety of mushrooms, among other delicious fresh foods.
Much to our daughters’ delight we also found IJsboutique, a sorbet and ice-cream parlour which serves delicious sorbet and soya-based milkshakes to go. In Amsterdam’s busier streets, there’s also Maoz vegetarian for vegan falafel on the go.
A dog-friendly country
It’s common place to see dogs in eateries, at bars, on sidewalk cafés and in hotels (even the Andaz, a 5-star hotel, invites dogs!) Heartwarming to see.
The gourmet highlight in The Hague was certainly Veggies On Fire! This gem of a restaurant was everything an intentionally vegan establishment should offer in the competitive world of cuisine. It’s spotlessly clean, full of modernity, a warmly welcoming co-owner, cum maître d’, cum waitress. The food fresh, seasonal, innovatively served and unashamedly named as 100% plant-based cuisine i.e. no mock animal meats.
Oh, and for cake, glorious, glorious almond-flavoured sponge cake, visit Baklust. With friendly service this vegetarian bakery has plenty of vegan options and a wonderful indoor and small outdoor seating area.
Both these eateries, and a large Marqt are within walking, or cycling, distance from where we stayed, Hilton The Hague. Having let them know we’re vegan, prior to our arrival, the hotel chef made us a lovely dinner on the first evening there.
Keukenhof Gardens & Delft
The food facilities within Keukenhof Gardens seemed dismal in terms offering animal-free foods. We went to the Beatrix Pavilion only to find even their falafel are animal-flesh based. So unless you’re willing to eat more french fries, for which you’re charged per finger-sized packet of tomato sauce, pack your own snack or lunch!
We hit on a lovely cafe style eatery while in Delft. Lunchcafé VIRJ also has a great outdoor area, ideal to idly watch the comings and goings over a coffee (yes they have soya milk) or a full lunch. They happily juggled some menu options to make a delicious caper and rosemary infused veggie-strong meal for us.
Vegan patrons, forewarned is forearmed
Just as with Belgium, we found that plenty of the breads, pasta and some falafel are made with cow’s milk and eggs. It also seems butter is used where oil would be common place in other countries. Yet when all is said and done, we found the Dutch happy to accommodate our compassionate cuisine choices on request.
More doggie captured moments to enjoy! Look out for Part 2 on my Belgium finds!