Hungry and keen to find a decent restaurant (very tricky in Holland at the best of times) we were also too tired to venture out of Amsterdam Oost, the area we were staying in. But, as luck would have it, and after a quick online search, I managed to find what sounded like a real Amsterdam hidden gem, Wilde Zwijnen (wild boar), serving the best Dutch food in Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Oost (East) is a bit like Peckham or Hackney in that it’s up-and-coming and a bit rough round the edges. Home to Dappermarkt (think Peckham market in London, lots of tat but good for fresh flowers and the odd food stall) it’s starting to get trendy. Young people who can’t afford to live in the pretty canal areas and trendy De Pjip venture further afield. It may not be the most glamorous of locations, and it’s most certainly off the tourist track, but it’s here that you’ll find Wilde Zwijnen, one of the best restaurants serving Dutch food I’ve eaten at in Amsterdam.
I couldn’t believe it was only a 10 minute walk from our accommodation near Oosterpark and that they managed to squeeze us in at 9.30pm on a Saturday night. It was definitely a hidden gem as although I managed to work out it was on Javaplein (a big square) I couldn’t find it so had to ask someone at a nearby cafe where it was. Even when I located it, discreetly tucked away on the corner I still wasn’t exactly sure how to get in, thankfully Sharps managed to work it out.
Finally inside we planned to have a drink at the bar as we were early for our table but there wasn’t any space. The whole restaurant was heaving and alive with chatter of its customers. But again luck was on our side as our table was ready so we were escorted to our seats, as you can see it was easy to find our table as it had my name written (wrongly) on it in chalk.
Staff we incredibly friendly and kindly retrieved a menu in English for us to peruse over. I was intrigued by the chef’s menu shared by the table which sounded great value (3 courses €30.50 or 4 courses for €36.50). Sadly we weren’t able to give it a try as the dishes served up are a surprise, and given the rest of the menu the chances were they would have been pretty meaty. As I don’t eat shellfish either they were happy to accommodate my dietary requirements, letting me have the seabass starter as a main. They did also offer to make me the special of lemon sole minus the octopus element of the dish but as it also contained fennel and celery, neither of which I’m a big fan of, I decided to give it a miss.
Sharps decided on spring stuffed chicken. It arrived, little legs sticking out, stuffed with meaty morrel mushrooms, tarragon and anise and a salty sauce of similar ingredients drizzled over the top of the tender and perfectly cooked chicken. I opted for a light, fresh and slightly acidic salad of chicory, walnuts, apple and fried cabbage palm served with a roulade of pasta filled with smoked cream cheese. It sounds, and to be honest looked, a bit weird. I wasn’t too sure about the texture of it by itself and the strong cheese taste overpowered the bland pasta but fused with the salad it came to life, bringing all of the flavours together.
My main course was even more divine. Three pieces of baked seabass, perfectly cooked with crispy skins and moist flesh, were served with a warm salad of sweet yellow and green carrots (I initially thought they were sautéed peppers) on a smear of pea-like mayonnaise. I did feel a little cheated that there was only one lone creamy potato croquette which I greedily devoured. Given it was being served to me as a main they could have been a bit more generous with portion as I did feel a little cheated there was only one lone creamy potato croquette which I greedily devoured.
Sharps plumped for the pig which he too thoroughly enjoyed, saying it reminded him of gammon. It was served with a selection of sweet beets and green beans in a sauce similar to the one with his starter. We were super impressed by the standard and quality of the food at Wilde Zwijnen, which alone makes it a hidden gem of Amsterdam’s restaurant scene.
The only thing that let it down was the service. On arrival we weren’t given a drinks menu we were just told some wines so I ended up choosing the most expensive. Similarly we were given water glasses but not once offered any water and we were constantly trying to attract the waiting staff’s attention throughout the night to order. But if you’re not in a hurry it’s undoubtedly worth the wait as the food will drive you wild.