For the love of good food….
Mid-February will always remind us of an epic trip to Europe we made in 2015, covering three countries the UK, Amsterdam & Belgium. In Amsterdam at that time of the year, we’d expected that spring might be ready to advance, but that wasn’t the case this time. The days proved to be extremely chilly for our tropical grown bodies could handle.
Covered with woolens, we trooped to the historic Dam Square, known to be almost like a city centre. We were very tempted to stay within the warm comforts of the Starbucks café, all cosy with a warm cuppa and wi-fi, when it dawned on us that we were EXPLORERS and not there for a luxury holiday. Inspired by such thoughts, we decided to drag ourselves to Jordaan area.
This locality is supposed to be the quintessential Amsterdam neighborhood and one of the most picturesque location in the city. Once we arrived we were not just happy to take in the sights, but also happy to discover a gem of an eatery in this locality.
We hopped on a tram and were dropped off at the head of Jordaan. Once we started exploring Jordaan, we realized that all those charming postcard pictures and those romantic movie scenes from the classics seemed to have been set right here, in this very locality. Since many centuries, Jordaan has a canal running through it with small bridges at regular intervals allowing people to cross over. There are small cafes at both sides of the road with a few tables outside to enjoy the beautiful, albeit chilly weather. We crossed Anne Frank’s house and decided not to go in, looking at the huge crowd milling outside. We thought it would be better to use this time exploring. Given our orientation to discovering food, we are happy we didn’t wait in the queue.
Jordaan is known for not just being postcard-pretty, but also for it’s rich history. Established in the 17th century for immigrants, at one time this was an overcrowded and cheap locality to live in. However, this also meant it was conducive to breeding a vast array of art. In fact, some of the most brilliant artists of the 18th, 19th century actually lived and worked in Jordaan and many of their works became known only posthumously. So, this locality was home to famous names like writer Joost van den Vondel (after whom the citys’ largest park is now named – Vondel Park) and artist Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (who is laid to rest in a church in Jordaan). More recently, it also hid World War II’s most well-known victim – Anne Frank. The Frank family were in hiding in the present Anne Frank’s house for almost 25 months, before someone ratted them away! However, there are still some mentions of the Jordaan area in Anne Frank’s famous diary, especially the below quote about the bells of the beautiful church of Westerkerk.
Father, Mother and Margot still can’t get used to the chiming of the Westertoren clock, which tells us the time every quarter of an hour. Not me, I liked it from the start; it sounds so reassuring, especially at night.
Well that was Jordaan and its history. But somewhere the ulterior motive for us Bohemian Foodies to visit Jordaan was to hunt for the legendary Café Winkel, reportedly the best place to experience the “Dutch Apple pie”. While looking for this cafe, we met an old lady in a little art gallery and we asked her for directions. She told us that Café Winkel had shut down! We were sort of heartbroken, as we had left the warm and cosy interiors of a Starbucks café at Dam Square and were here on the streets in chilly weather trying to find a legendary (if not mythical, since it was getting to be so elusive) place that was probably shut. But still determined, we decided to keep the hunt on!
So like wandering travelers, we kept walking till we reached a small courtyard of sorts. Tired and almost void of any more motivation, we were almost ready to abandon the search. With a final look in the distance we were almost ready to turn back, when in the distance we spotted something. As the excitement warmed us up, our pace increased to a small wooden structure. And there it was! The seemingly elusive Café Winkel! For all you know, the good woman who we asked earlier, may not have been able to understand our accent. The age old dictum, “Where there is a will, there is a way” probably proved correct for the nth time.
We hurried into this long sought café and experienced a familiar welcoming warmth of a number of people in a small place in light conversations, central heating and some classic wooden furniture. The whole café had the smell of something special, something unique. However, by the time we reached the café, the lunch menu was no longer being served. So, we cut straight to the chase and ordered the much acclaimed “APPLE PIE” and a cup of Snert (A traditional Dutch thick pea soup with vegetables and pork).
The apple pie came with a huge dollop of whipped cream and it did not disappoint. We still remember the taste of the pie, as if it was just yesterday. The slice had thick yet soft well-baked crusts on the top and bottom. In the middle you could see the cooked, moist stuffing of apples. With every bite, the freshness of the baked crust and the moist apple stuffing with the distinct flavor of cinnamon, coupled with the cool sweetness of the cream was mind-blowing! If you go to Amsterdam, you must try the Apple pie at Café Winkel.
The Snert, however did not suit our Indian sensibilities and palate. For us, a soup is something to warm up on a cold day. However, the snert that was served, while looking good, was a little cold and very bland. So, while it was wholesome by definition with the thick goodness of peas and the chockfull of vegetables and chunks of pork, even with the rash of bacon served on the side, it did not really help our palate, much used to the spices of Indian food.
In conclusion, we recommend you walk around the Jordaan locality when in Amsterdam just to soak in the beauty of the place. Go to Café Winkel to experience a typical Dutch café. Eat the delicious Apple pie for a taste to remember. Have the snert to know if the taste agrees with you. And end it with a hot cup of coffee just to warm yourself on a cold Dutch evening.
Name: Café Winkel 43
Specialty: Apple Pie
Address: Noordermarkt 43, 1015 NA Amsterdam, Netherlands (walking distance from Jordaan)
Veg/Non Veg: Both
Value for money: 3.5/5
Food quality: 4.5/5
Overall rating: 4/5