We were so happy when there would be no Soho House on the Raamgracht in Amsterdam, in the stately canal house where I – first as an intern, later as an orphaned columnist – had often looked down from the balustrade on the editorial floor of Free Netherlands. Now the Soho House is a little further away, in the Bunge House – where I once sweated for hours in the university library. It’s never good.
Like many Amsterdammers, I often hear myself mumbling: ‘this beautiful city center is one big amusement park full of hotels and Nutella waffle shops.’ But without all those rich tourists, all those fine restaurants would never be full every day. They are a breeding ground for the vibrant gastronomic culture in the capital. So maybe we, as lovers of gastronomy, shouldn’t complain so much about those hotels. (NB: those Nutella wafers have to be tied to the tallest tree without exception today.)
I have little emotional connection with the plot of land next to the Mc and the Gamma near the Spaklerweg metro stop on the edge of the city. So I can enter the completely newly built QO hotel without mixed feelings. The QO is super hip – ‘not a hotel, but a way of life’ – so don’t book a room, but a experience. It’s all about luxury here sustainability.
This is also the case in hotel restaurant Persijn. It is built on the principles of Dutch Cuisine: transparent and circular, sustainable, with a major role for seasonal vegetables from local suppliers or harvested directly from the greenhouse on the roof. Alexander Brouwer has there as executive chef has given it its own interpretation – under the auspices of Dutch Cuisine ambassador Luc Kusters, chef of Michelin restaurant Bolenius, which has recently joined the world’s 15 best vegetable restaurants.
On the map
I know Kusters as an incredibly good and passionate cook with a deep-rooted love for vegetables, without concessions when it comes to the quality of his products. One of his most beautiful dishes consists solely of vegetables from his vegetable garden on the Zuidas, which are all individually prepared and perfectly cooked. He is truly a master at that. That is why we sit at the table at Persijn in surprise: the Josper-grilled ‘vegetables’ are a slap in the face of that vegetable garden dish from Bolenius. It may only cost 9 euros, but that’s no excuse for this unified heap of soft asparagus, parsnips and turnips.
Two things are good tonight. The cod (16 euros) is nicely fried, with sweet cockles and celeriac and uplifting salty sea lettuce. The luscious mash and fresh endive make a great stew, with a fine piece of stew (only the spicy gravy on it looks more like cup-a-soup mushroom with too little water). And the caprese looks delicious cheffy off: the mozzarella is hidden in a peeled tomato rolled in fiery red tomato powder in a wading pool of deep green basil oil.
The rest is mostly disappointing. Even with mustard and chili flakes, the DIY carrot tartar (11.50 euros) remains olvarit-digestive due to the predominant root ginger puree (the same one we find under the ‘vegetables’). The cos lettuce (12.50 euros) is literally half a head on my plate, burnt on the edges, drowned in a buttermilk dressing. They didn’t even bother to put those few pieces of bacon between the leaves properly. And the egg ‘poached’ in a muffin tin is more like a soft-boiled hockey puck.
I understand that you have to go crazy in a busy hotel, that you build in a few shortcuts, especially if you want to offer dishes for this price. But this all seems very unloving.
Persijn is open and approachable: on the ground floor, you don’t have to go through a door, the interior is sleek and light, the dishes are accessible and reasonably priced. In that regard it has succeeded. The dishes are Dutch and vegetable-oriented, in that respect the concept is correct. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating ... The execution is sloppy and heartless. Without inspiring guidance, or love, or skill (I don’t know what it is) the whole concept crumbles like a pudding.