Being the font of all knowledge when it comes to restaurants, I was tasked with locating a suitable dining venue for a friend’s stag night in Amsterdam. For those Americans unfamiliar with the term, a stag night is not an after-dark hunting expedition, but a bachelor party, and they don’t generally involve rifles or dead animals. Though you do hear stories…
I could have resorted to the type of uninspiring high street pizzeria that you find in just about every city in Europe; but no, clearly that’s not my style. It had to be somewhere special. A place in which we could gorge ourselves on the finest beers available to humanity, gluttonise over calorific red meat and recite politically incorrect jokes that the BBC would most certainly not approve of. So that rules out fine dining restaurants, and a humble pancake parlour just wouldn’t do. Then it struck me.
There are steakhouses and there are steakhouses. And then, there are STEAKHOUSES. Piet de Leeuw is the latter. Decked out in its original 1940s wood-panelling and stripped floorboards, the walls adorned with old beer-engines, wrought iron lamps and sepia photos of times past, this Amsterdam ‘brown pub’ where the local Dutchmen once partook in raucous songs fuelled by homebrewed beer, is now a very popular neighbourhood restaurant. This is where the Dutch come for their steaks; and the Dutch, I think it’s safe to say, are pretty serious about meat.
Situated on what looks like a residential road, the unassuming black-painted exterior gives little away about what’s on offer inside; and inside – oh the glory. On a busy evening the buzz of the place slaps you on the back like an old friend. The manager, who is the most abrupt Dutchman I’ve ever met, immediately recognised us as the British party and scurried off to find the English menus, muttering something droll about our lack of foreign language skills.
The menu is reassuringly simple. Steak and chips, fillet of pork, pan fried sole. They even have sweetbreads on offer; something you would never see in a British steakhouse. Unfortunately I hadn’t catered for the vegetarian among us, and there wasn’t a suitably green dish on the menu. No surprise there; this is a Dutch steakhouse after all. They don’t even have a word for vegetarian in the Netherlands. In fact the manager was so appalled that he asked, “Why don’t you eat meat? Is there something wrong with you?!” Despite this unorthodox guest, the kitchen managed to rustle up one of the biggest salads I’ve ever seen for our vegetarian embarrassment; you could hardly see him through all the foliage. One could imagine what was going through the chef’s mind, “You want salad…We’ll give you salad!”
So, to the steaks; I opted for pepper sauce with mine, but the beef was so tasty, well-seasoned and deftly-cooked that I used the sauce for my chips instead. To call the beef tender doesn’t do it justice. It was melt-in-the-mouth soft, the type of steak you suck rather than chew. The chips were beautifully crisp and fluffy frites of the finest order. They could’ve locked me in a dark room with a bucketful of those frites and a bottle of ketchup and I would’ve been a happy man. And to show that they are not opposed to greenery, the dish also came with a side salad coated in a pleasant French dressing.
On their website, they write (and you must read this with a Dutch accent), “In this place you will still find the real Amsterdam humour without any fuss.” Let’s give you an example of this banter. After the meal, John, who was rather in awe of the whole experience, remarked to the manager, “Can I just say, that was the best steak I’ve ever had.” If he was expecting humble, coy gratitude, he obviously hadn’t been paying attention. On hearing this praise, the manager shrugged his shoulders and said with a completely straight face, “Of course it’s the best steak you’ve had. You are British, and your steaks are sh*t.”
Pricewise, the menu is very reasonable. You may find one or two abused tourists in here, but by and large this place caters for the locals, which you should read as a good sign. Be sure to book ahead, especially for larger parties, as the restaurant gets busy in the evenings and I can imagine that it’s a popular lunchtime destination too. For simple, quality steaks, acerbic Dutch humour and fantastic beer, there is nowhere better. Oh and in case you were wondering, the only dead animals we encountered on this stag night were the delicious cows at Piet de Leeuw.
Steakhouse Piet de Leeuw, Noorderstraat 11, 1017 TR Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Tel. +31 (0) 20 623 7181 [Website]