Review: Ron Blaauw, Amsterdam


There are newer chefs on the block, but there’s still little to touch two Michelin starred Ron Blaauw for culinary surprise, skill, wit and a rocking night out in Amsterdam

Picture: Civilian London

Picture: Civilian London

I made a special trip to Amsterdam just to eat at Ron Blaauw. I’d interviewed Marcel Wanders and, after going into some detail about his love of Bill Viola and the lip gloss packaging he’d designed for MAC (“of course, I take one with me wherever I go…”), I asked him about his favourite restaurants in the world. He made Blaauw sound so exciting, so alluring, and perhaps even dangerous, that I felt compelled to visit at the earliest opportunity.

Given Wanders’ tastes – and Blaauw’s reputation – I’d expected something more visual, or perhaps anarchic. From the street, the eponymous restaurant could be a banal pizzeria on any continental urban stretch. Inside, above a vast serving counter, some so-so graffiti art heralds “Ron’s Royal Kitchen”, but that’s the sole hint of irreverence or subversion. The rest of this long, thin, dining room is statement-free, and even a little worn at the edges. It’s a surprisingly grown-up, comfortable restaurant. There are tablecloths, upholstered seating, and rows of North African-style star shaped lanterns hanging from the ceiling. It’s light years away from the modernist roughness of the likes of Wilde Zwijnen that seems so very hip in Amsterdam – and just about everywhere – right now. And yet, if the blondes in Rick Owens leather jackets dining near me are anything to go by, Blaauw still inhabits the upper echelons of cool out here on the fringes of Vondelpark.

If Blaauw lacks a little in design surprises, it’s not lacking in atmosphere. The bar in the front is buzzy and the patrons are beautiful. (Or wealthy, perhaps famous, or all three.) The corps of wait staff strut at speed, with an air of confidence that only comes from working on the floor of A Very Cool Restaurant. This is a place where you can laugh out loud without turning disapproving heads. It has spirit – and, with two Michelin stars and a bulging reservations book, it hasn’t got much to prove.

The corps of wait staff strut at speed, with an air of confidence that only comes from working on the floor of A Very Cool Restaurant

The real surprises at Ron Blaauw come from the cooking. The focus is on Dutch produce, but refracted through a lens of modern Asian technique and flavour. Blaauw can turn the emphasis between dishes on a sixpence, swerving back to classic French or modern European when he wants to. The visual arrangements are artful, delicate and witty – often with arresting amounts of dead space on the plate. “Music is the space between the notes”, etc.

My amuses-bouches included a savoury madeleine with eel; chorizo and potato salad with egg; and a crisp cornet filled with what tasted like Coronation Chicken. Each was exciting, pleasing and big on flavour. A disc of mackerel tartare came with toasted quinoa and beetroot: colourful, super-fresh tasting, with a touch of terroir and a lovely mix of textures. A fried langoustine came slightly raw in the centre, with some wafer-thin crisped sourdough. I adore fresh uncooked prawn, and this was a lovely play on a Venetian delicacy.

A brill fillet was served with gruyere ravioli and mustard vinegar, the visual arrangement based, pleasingly, purely on circles: white cabbage discs, circular dumplings and green leaves cut into round shapes. The gruyere in this dish made it a knockout: fish and cheese can be odd bedfellows, but its soft, almost pale flavour worked a charm here.

Veal and sweetbreads arrived with cauliflower and a small dome of white cream, flavoured with ginger, lime and shallot – a mixture of spices that my waiter explained was Indonesian in style. A rich, dark, profoundly European wagyu beef dish with bone marrow and stroganoff sauce was given a strong Asian nudge by the addition of Blaauw’s take on kimchi. Blaauw’s wagyu comes from about 50km out of Amsterdam, from a farm that’s been entirely turned over to raising Kobe-style cattle. This is a kitchen with a lot of stamps in its passport and a playful eastern-looking gaze, but a keen eye on food miles. Nothing is sacrificed for quality: this was a beautiful, perfectly marbled cut of beef.

When it came to desserts, things took a turn for the quirky. My first plate was a silvered miniature version of the distinctive Amsterdam sidewalk bollard, complete with “xxx” running up its length. It turned out to be, essentially, posh Milky Bar. The second dish was a baba with a boozy cream. Nice, but it needed something with crunch somewhere in the arrangement. The finalé was a set of smart visual puns: sweet versions of salami, cheese and bitterballen, all iconic brown café snacks, complete with little Dutch flags for the white chocolate triangles of “Edam”.

It’s easy to see why Wanders is such a fan of Blaauw and his cooking – it’s irreverent, fun and fancies itself as a little rock and roll. It’s also uniformly excellent. There are newer, trendier dining rooms in Amsterdam, but still few things to touch Blauuw for personality, ambience and quality. He’s a chef at the top of his game and his restaurant is one of those rare things: genuinely fine dining that’s also genuinely fun. C


Ron Blaauw, Sophialaan 55, 1075 BP Amsterdam
+31 20 496 1943;