I dutifully followed my wife who was climbing up every floor of the Hudson’s Bay Department store on Rokin in Amsterdam. It felt like it was the Via Dolorosa. Then, in between the suede boots at a 70 per cent discount and the new collection of bright yellow bikinis that Ralph was offering while it was minus three outside, I saw a sign I could finally warm to. Restaurant, it said.
I hunched my shoulders and overtook the spouse, shoving her to the side with all the grace of an American football player who is about to be reunited with the touchdown line.
I thought I was heading towards one of those self-service oases that the weary shopper, or her husband, gets to visit when in a department store. The kind where you weigh the cucumber and potato salad, pay for it and grab your cutlery all in one svelte urban movement. No way. This was Tel Aviv Bauhaus meets New Amsterdam cool. The grand open kitchen running down the middle of the place is flanked by rows of tables for two which are then flanked by tables with chairs on one side and a long running couch on the other. Behind this, on the left of the restaurant, you got a view through the pierced domed roof. All of Amsterdam seemed to be looking up to me. And why not? Being here felt like I’d finally made it. That illusion is supported by the waiting staff. Seriously, the service here is so good that I called my agent to ask if Warner had agreed to a fee advance for my next ten blockbuster movies. They hadn’t.
So, the food. This is Middle Eastern cuisine so a lot was on offer for veggies and lamb lovers. That’s actually people who don’t love lambs that much because they eat them. Moving on smoothly: the six dip starter is served with aplomb. Not for Nacarat the usual scatter of small meze plates. Instead, a spiral etagerie is brought out and the six plates sit in their special place on the gastronomic stairway. Each one is to die for and believe me, I really like living. There was burnt spring onion dip which I had never had before, and warm hummous with pine nuts and olive oil that felt like it came from Gethsemane. The red pepper dip and the aubergine were something else and the Tzatziki was so delicate that it seemed rude not to offer a celebratory Sirtaki. By this time however, the intrepid shopper had joined me and so dancing was out of the question.
I am not a fan of mains (dishes not electricity) and that is usually because the starters I order are enough to feed a small horse for a day. In this case, the warm pitta brought in with the dips and the lovely challah should have really been the last stone on my diet’s grave. But no. There was octopus and potato for me and a beef and lamb skewer for Milady. Both were perfect.
We washed down the last dregs of Pinot Noir which started out like it was too light but gradually began to impose itself beautifully with ( upon?) the rest of the tickles to our palate. I looked in the direction of the charming waitress, who was a size two according to my dinner companion, and asked for both the bill and the dessert menu. Anybody else would have been non-plussed but hey, this is Amsterdam. If they can cope with customers ordering Space Cakes the guy who wants to both pay and stay is a walk in the park. So we stayed. The treasure dessert is ice-cream made in-house that arrives in a bucket engulfed by dry ice. Its like the opening of some scene from a West End production. And then the toppings are brought in: caramelised pistachios to be spread liberally, golden threads of Baklava and a pomegranate reduction. Finally, a tomato and cardamom jam. As we added them in, we laughed like children who had just nicked the doughnuts from the school kitchen and the imaginary band in the pit played ‘Whats the buzz, tell me whats happening’ from Jesus Christ Superstar.
You should really consider visiting Amsterdam when you go to Nacarat…..
Nacarat: Rokin 49, Amsterdam.
Georg Sapiano is a lawyer based in Malta. As he travels the world on work or play he indulges in two of his favourite pastimes: eating and humorous writing.