Last week I had a few guests staying over at my parent’s pied-à-terre in Amsterdam. As I and my company leisurely sauntered through the old centre of Amsterdam, we started feeling peckish at around 3 o’clock in the afternoon. Someone suggested that we might have some typical Dutch pancakes to sate our hunger and at the same time satisfy the desire of my guests to sample some Dutch cuisine. I promptly whipped out my phone and consulted The Oracle! So after looking up some pancake restaurants in Google, I plotted a route to the highest rated pancake restaurant nearest to our location. However, unbeknownst to myself or any of my party, this pancake house turned out to be one of the smallest restaurants in Europe. So we would’ve had to wait half an hour for a table, but as we were very hungry we decided to look elsewhere. Today I regret that decision.
Because we decided to go for the next best thing in the neighborhood and according to the high rating on Google that happened to be ‘The Pancake Bakery‘. Here now follows a review of our experiences there.
It was a cold cloudy day and we arrived well after lunch hour. The entrance is small and you go down a small staircase, since most of the restaurant is in the basement. There are also nice tables on the first floor with a view of the canal, but those tables are only for groups with a reservation. So any hope of a nice view went right out the non-existing window. There is a sign that tells you to wait to be seated, but it was for some time obscured by four other people waiting in front of us. At no time did anyone come to explain to us how the seating system works, or to inquire about reservations or about how large our group was, or to simply tell us it was too busy right now. Reservations are only possible for parties of 6 or more people, by the way. Everyone else just has to wait. After waiting for about 20 minutes or so, a waitress finally came to the entrance to ask with how many we all were. Then she informed us tables would soon become available, as some diners had asked for the bill. In the end we waited for over 30 minutes to be seated. Wow, that must be some pancake!
We are shown to our table, somewhere in the back of the restaurant. The tables appear to be arranged to maximize the number of customers. In fact, there are too many tables and they are so close to each other that I can barely squeeze in my chair without bumping into the person sitting behind me. I guess this is what Dutch people mean by ‘gezellig‘. I am very tired from all this waiting so the first thing I do is order a cappuccino. It is the worst cappuccino I have had in at least six months, in at least three different countries. It’s too small to begin with, the espresso base wasn’t nearly strong enough and the milk foam looked like a spittle bug had vomited in my cup.
Time to order a pancake! Besides the more ‘traditional’ pancakes, they have an interesting variety of pancakes which they call ‘international pancakes’. I order a hearty pancake with bacon, cheese and mushrooms. The others succumb to the international offerings: a Mexican, Thai and Indonesian pancake. Service was quite fast and the bacon, cheese and mushroom pancake was nice enough. But not awesome either. The international pancakes got mixed reviews. I liked the Thai version because it was uncharacteristically spicy for Dutch standards and it seemed to work well with the texture of the pancake, but the Mexican and Indonesian varieties just didn’t do it for me. I also thought the pancakes where a bit pricy: almost 12 euros for my pancake and about 14 euros for the international pancakes. Not crazy expensive but you can certainly get them cheaper, even in an expensive city like Amsterdam.
And then there’s the service. Depending on who’s serving you, it’s just awful. For example, we asked for a glass of water since we’d just had coffee and were eating hearty pancakes. The waitress sighed. Then, with a clearly annoyed voice, she told us that the first glass is free and after that we have to ‘buy something’ (to drink). I was in shock. First of all, what the hell is wrong with just a glass of ordinary tap water? We’re already drinking the shitty coffee and eating the overpriced pancakes aren’t we? Second, what would be wrong with just politely explaining that it’s the policy of the owner of the restaurant not to serve tap water? I didn’t understand then, and I still don’t understand now. I also don’t understand why we couldn’t sit on the first floor, for that matter. The toilets are located there (they are a mess by the way) and we went to the toilet both before we were seated and after asking for the bill. On both those times the first floor appeared to be empty, so essentially we could just as easily have been seated there instead of downstairs.
This together with the poor reception at the entrance, the questionable price/quality of the food and drink, cramped seating arrangement, the bad mannered waitress and the ‘basement’ atmosphere made my dining experience thoroughly unsatisfactory. I still give it a 5.5 out of 10 for the decent pancakes, but for everything else I would sooner try another pancake restaurant than eat there again.
The featured image of this blog entry is from Wikipedia, so that is not the pancake I ate ;).