The Duchess In Amsterdam
Fabulous! The food, the atmosphere and the service. We had the pleasure of dining at The Duchess last week, and I must say it throughly exceeded my expectations.
THE DUCHESS, inspired by the splendour and eminence of the Belle Époque, took residence in Amsterdam as of the summer of 2015. True to her imperial roots, THE DUCHESS resides in one of the best-kept historic gems, the former KAS Bank and W Hotel Amsterdam, where she will introduce her guest to the elegance of traditional London hospitality balanced with Viennese grandeur.
Some more details about the breathtaking new (soon to open) W Amsterdam and the design scheme can be found in this article from ITCM. The W Amsterdam will be comprised of two historic buildings, the former Kas Bank building and a building which was the former Government Office for Transactions and Telephony. The former bank building that houses The Duchess was originally designed in 1908 and expanded in 1932. More details about this F.W.M. Poggenbeek designed building can be found here.
Upon arrival, one is immediately captivated by the grandeur of the restaurant. Immense and striking, especially the soaring ceilings, is perhaps an understatement.
The artwork throughout the venue is comprised of LED displays within frames, providing a modern yet very versatile concept for the space.
The rather massive main dining room, still retains a certain degree of intimacy. In my opinion, the entire space has an exciting vibe; and was more crowded than I expected on a Tuesday evening. There is also a chic lounge area that has views of the kitchen in the background. Considering the stellar cocktail menu, and glowing fire places; this has to be one of the most exciting new venues in Amsterdam to enjoy a cocktail (or three).
The extensive cocktail menu has an large selection of custom cocktails. Since I was running late, my dinner companion had already ordered her cocktail and took the liberty of also ordering the same for me. Our fabulous waiter was particularly sensitive to not having my cocktail prepared until shortly after I arrived so that it would not sit with the ice melting. While a “punch” (L’Orient Punch) would not have been my first choice, it was a stellar cocktail, and it was quite enjoyable to step away from my usual “comfort-zone” cocktails.
We really loved the creativity as well as extensive selections on the menu. So many great hors-d’oeuvre options, I wanted to try all of them.
We ordered three hors-d’oeuvres, since our server suggested that three starters and two mains was an appropriate amount of food for two people. Bread was served with a rather spicy and tasty coulis.
First up, was the Paper Thin Yellow Pumpkin Carpaccio. I am personally intrigued by inventive vegetarian starters; especially when it is a carpaccio. Definitely the type of dish that pushes the boundaries of vegan cuisine. It was indeed quite yummy and absolutely paper-thin.
Next, we enjoyed Marinated Beetroot Salad with Salted Whipped Cream. Once again, choosing items that are very much our favorite food groups. We always enjoy beets, and since one of us is pescatarian these were excellent items to share.
I happen to personally love foie gras, and the mention of Foie Gras Donuts with Fig Jam immediately caught my attention. It did not disappoint, and the fig jam was just perfect as an accompaniment. The foie gras filling was silky smooth, very much like the texture of a donut filling (imagine Boston-creme filling). While I will admit this type of dish does seem a bit “over the top” with regard to “wow-factor,” it totally worked.
We thought we were going to stop at three starters, but our waiter encouraged us to try the Salade Niçoise. I love a server that is engaging and has opinions about the food. Needless to say, we immediately agreed to have just one more hors-d’oeuvre. We were glad we did. This was a “perfect” interpretation of Salade Niçoise. Fresh, crisp and the tuna was amazing.
There were a lot of options for your main course (Les Plats) and sides to enjoy alongside your main dish. We settled on a classic Dover Sole Meuniere and Slow Cooked Short Rib with Baby Root Vegetables. The execution of both were quite good, albeit a bit “less exciting” than some of the starters. I definitely would like to return to try a few of the other options, many of which I found quite enticing.
Wines & Champagnes
The wine list was extensive, including the to be expected list of high end vintage Champagnes. We settled on a bottle of Viognier from South Africa (Spice Route Viognier 2014 Swartland, South Africa, €46). It was quite aromatic and crisp and really worked quite well with all of our starters. I also had a glass of red wine that I do not recall with my short rib. For my friends who very much enjoy Vintage Champagne (which I also enjoy, but preferably not on my dime), you will not be disappointed.
Perhaps, our biggest mistake (if you can call it a “mistake”) was ordering two desserts. I have always been a fan of Crème brûlée. But, this was not any ordinary Crème brûlée, but as the menu states A “REAL” Crème Brûlée. Our server elaborated that this Crème brûlée was caramelized not by blow torch but by hot iron. Seems the original way to caramelize the top was by iron not by torch. Technically though, this method (with an iron) is really the “British version,” or so goes the legend : “In Britain, a version of crème brûlée (known locally as “Trinity Cream” or “Cambridge burnt cream”) was introduced at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1879 with the college arms “impressed on top of the cream with a branding iron”, though crème brûlée itself was not invented at Cambridge.” The original reference to Crème brûlée dates back even further to a 1691 cookbook by François Massialot. It was indeed a fabulous Crème brûlée.
In addition, we ordered the Chocolate Explosion. Being true to it’s name, there was definitely an explosion. This dessert would also be a perfect dessert to share among two or three people. Quite yummy, but far too much dessert (is there such a thing?) especially with the Crème brûlée. You need to see the video to get the entire impact of this dessert. While I am not a huge fan of chocolate desserts; it was still a very impressive presentation.
The Duchess, what can I say. It was a great dining experience. The space, the service and the food; definitely top notch. I can not wait to return. Makes me a bit excited to see what else is in store with regard to the grand opening of the W Amsterdam.
The details :
Name : THE DUCHESS
Address : Spuistraat 172
1012 VT Amsterdam
Telephone : +31 (0) 20.811.3322
email : info@The-Duchess.com
Payment : All credit cards (including AMEX), PIN, Cash