A fairly length hiatus from blogging has included Christmas, New Year, a house move (I am now permanently based in the Cardiff area, so expect more of a Cardiff bias in my blog posts from now on!), and a new job, but even more importantly, a short break to Amsterdam, which in turn included some dining.
We stayed at the Renaissance, which is fairly centrally located, and although I had a few ideas of restaurants we could visit, based on guide books and websites, we ended up having a long chat with one of the spectacularly helpful concierges, who gave us a whole list of recommendations, all of which sounded fantastic. We’d have needed to stay for at least a week to even get close to trying them all, but as it was, we picked a couple.
The first of these was Prego, which the Concierge told us was French/Mediterranean style cuisine, rather than Italian as the name might suggest. We took a taxi, as it was quite far off the beaten track, not located near to any other restaurants, and there is no way we would have found it without knowing it was there. It was full, though, with several large groups of what appeared to be locals, which is always a good sign.
The restaurant was relatively small, probably no more than thirty covers, in one of the characteristic narrow-fronted Amsterdam buildings which then goes back quite a long way. Towards the back was a mezzanine floor with a few more tables, and then an open kitchen underneath. I was astonished by how small the kitchen was – probably no bigger than my own at home – but it was spotlessly clean and seemed very well organised, which must have been especially important as diners could not only see into it from the restaurant, but could get an even closer view if they went downstairs to the toilet. The ambience could certainly be described as ‘cosy’, due to the restaurant’s small size, and when one of the large groups stood up to say their goodbyes, it felt a bit cramped and oppressive, but this was made up for by the intimacy of the experience and the unusual layout with the kitchen downstairs.
We noticed that most of the restaurants we looked at while we were away had relatively few menu options, and Prego was no exception, but this is never a problem if the dishes in question are good – which these were. We skipped a starter, but were brought a lovely amuse bouche of Poultry Mousse with toast and an apple compote. It was like a very smooth, light pate and was lovely. Mr W felt that the compote was surplus to requirements, but I am a massive fan of sweet and savoury combinations so I thoroughly enjoyed the whole ensemble.
For my main, I chose cod (an unusual choice for me as I often find it bland, but I liked the sound of the accompaniments). It came with spinach and tagliatelle and a crayfish foam, but although there was a generous portion of pasta, it wasn’t presented as a pasta dish, rather a fish dish with pasta as one of the vegetables. Pasta as a vegetable does remind me of school dinners, although thankfully there was no other similarity – unlike one of our other dining experiences in Amsterdam, which will be the subject of a future blog!
Mr W went for the simple but effective medallions of beef, served with a Bearnaise sauce and the usual accompaniments. This was served medium rare (although I think we could have asked to have it cooked differently), and was excellent.
We shared a dessert of pear and blueberry crumble, initially slightly against my better judgment as I am not a massive fan of pears, but it turned out to be delicious. The pears appeared to have been stewed in some sort of frangipane mixture, and were then topped with fresh, raw blueberries before a very light crumble topping was added. It went down really well!
The service was efficient and friendly – it seemed to be just two men running the whole restaurant, and I would not be surprised if they were also the owners, as they certainly seemed to have a lot of pride in what they were doing and made us feel very welcome (in this case, as the name would suggest!)
It was by no means the best meal we’ve ever had, but it was simple food, tasty, nicely done and very well presented. In a city renowned for its high prices but not renowned for its fine dining opportunities, Prego is a hidden treasure, which I should imagine many visitors would miss out on, but I would definitely recommend it as an antidote to some of the more tourist-orientated options. The prices were not cheap by UK standards, but were at the lower end of some we saw in Amsterdam, particularly given the quality we experienced.
Food: **** Service: **** Ambience: ***
Restaurant Prego, Herenstraat 25, 1015 BZ Amsterdam, Netherlands