Editor's note: at the end of 2017 chefs Richard van Oostenbrugge (executive chef) and Thomas Groot (his head chef) left to set up their own restaurant in Amsterdam called 212, which opened in 2018. The review below is therefore of historical interest only.
The Hotel de l’Europe is a boutique hotel dating back to the 19th century, on the banks of the Amstel river in Amsterdam, and owned by the Heineken family. It notionally appeared as a location in the 1940 Hitchcock film “Foreign Correspondent”, though the film was actually shot entirely in the studio and in nearby locations in California. Its flagship restaurant is Bord’eau, a restaurant promoted to two Michelin stars in the 2014 guide, having opened in 2011 and gained a first star in 2013. Its executive chef is Richard van Oostenbrugge, who previously cooked at a local restaurant called Envy.
Bord'eau is located on the ground floor of the hotel, with four tables in the dining room looking out directly over the river Amstel that runs alongside the building. The room has plenty of natural light, the well-spaced tables covered with crisp white linen. In addition to the a la carte menu, there was a six course tasting menu at €108, and a cheap three course lunch at €38.
There was an extensive wine list spread over 68 pages, drawing not just on the classic regions of France but listing wines from as far afield as Greece, Brazil and Moldavia. There were over 700 separate wine labels, with 8,000 bottles stored here. Examples were Prinz Riesling Trocken 2011 at €43 for a wine that you can find in a shop for €16, Chateau Musar 2005 at €98 for a wine that retails at about €38 and Antinori Tignanello 2010 at €250 compared to a shop price of around €90.
I ordered the tasting menu, which began with a cup of "tea" served from a teapot. This was really duck consommé with five spice oil, which had good duck flavour (16/20). Next was sweet and sour crisp of celeriac filled with lobster salad, which was excellent, the coating delicate and the lobster flavour coming through well (easily 17/20). This was followed by "couscous" of rice (slightly crispy rice) with seasonal vegetables, pistachio, triple cream cheese, asparagus and peas. This was impressive, the peas and baby asparagus having excellent flavour, the cheese flavour not too strong (18/20). Bread was bought in from the local Van Menno bakery, and was pleasant (15/20), but I think the restaurant could do better if it made its own bread from scratch.
This was followed by "bone marrow", which was really potato poached in marrow filled with veal tartare, sour cream and served with a sourdough crisp, vinaigrette of marrow and veal cheek, with caviar from China. The meat flavour was excellent, the contrast with the caviar interesting, the crisp providing a textural contrast (18/20).
The first formal course of the meal was a dish of beetroot baked in salt crust and served with wasabi ice cream, the latter prepared from real wasabi root, decorated with edible flowers. This attractive dish featured excellent beetroot, and the wasabi ice cream had plenty of spicy kick (18/20).
Crab with smoked avocado and crab beignet featured a superb beignet, ripe avocado and high quality, sweet crab. Lurking inside was a jelly of crab made from a reduced crab bisque, which was quite intense, and took the place of a sauce. This last element gave the dish more flavour and was a clever touch (19/20).
Langoustine tail was coated with melted lardo di colonatta, served with langoustine sauce oil, mint and peas. This was another excellent dish, with lovely sweet baby peas, tender langoustine, the lardo (pork fat) adding a little saltiness, the potentially dominant mint flavour present but well under control (18/20).
This was followed by a signature dish of the restaurant, fried red mullet coated with a sourdough crust, served with a jus made from the fish, and with a mousse of mullet liver on a little crisp, alongside artichoke barigoule (the vegetables braised in a white wine broth). This was another fine dish, the fish having excellent texture and taste, the crispy outside an interesting touch, the jus having deep flavour (19/20).
Duck a la royale is a nod to the classic French hare royale dish. Challons duck was stuffed with its own liver and served with spring turnips, duck sauce including the blood of the bird, served with salted lemon mousse, duck croutons and turnips in three forms: raw, sautéed and steamed. This was a very enjoyable dish but for me even more acidity would be beneficial, given just how rich it is (17/20).
The cheese board included several Dutch cheeses as well as various French classics. Bergerse Blond is a little like Camembert, and was served alongside more conventional choices such as Puligny St Pierre, Langre and one year aged Comte. These were all in very good condition.
As a pre-dessert was a little scoop of fruity Madagascar Manjari chocolate and Roquefort cheese ice cream. I understood the idea of pairing the salty Roquefort with the chocolate, a combination that works well in the case of salted caramel, but in this case I mainly tasted the Roquefort (15/20).
The main dessert was of apple, and it was a stunner. A transparent apple shape is made from blown sugar, inside which is what appears to be an apple core, actually made from a sorbet of green apple, with the “pips” of the apple being chocolate. Underneath this are marinated apple, cream of walnut and caramel with puff pastry around it. Visually striking, what was more important was the terrific flavour of the apple components, the delicate pastry and the perfect balance of the dish. It is hard to see how this could be improved upon (20/20).
Coffee was supplied by a Dutch roaster and was rich and enjoyable, offered with a tray containing another clever visual trick, a garden of petit fours. Here the flower petals were made from almond and passion fruit, the little butterflies resting on them made from lavender and sugar, eggs of white chocolate with bergamot and leaves of mint flavoured sugar.
Service was superb, the waiters friendly, efficient and knowledgeable. The bill came to €122 (£100) with just mineral water to drink. With a moderate bottle of wine to share, three courses with coffee at dinner might come to around £115 a head, so the tasting menu represents good value. This was a genuinely impressive meal, hovering on the brink of 19/20 level. Dishes were beautifully presented, featured excellent ingredients and were made with considerable technical skill.