Like German food and my love-making, Dutch food can be really rather good if unheralded. If I concentrate and try to recall lyrics from Michael Bublé songs I can keep going for virtually minutes. Bitterballen are the quintessential Dutch food: Deep fried, cheesy and moreish. Only partly like my love-making. They also do unconvincing hot dogs and a spectacular line in aged Gouda. It’s definitely worth going out of your way to hunker down on some paper thin slices of aged Gouda accompanied by an excellent pinot noir. If you find yourself in Amsterdam make your way to Kaashuis Tromp on Utrechtsestraat for a bewildering array of Goudas.
De Hems Dutch Cafe Bar (http://www.nicholsonspubs.co.uk/dehemsdutchcafebarsoholondon/), shortened to De Hems Dutch Cafe Bar Pub for convenience, is smack bang in the middle of London, incongruously in China town. It’s my understanding that the Dutch are not ethnically Chinese, but to be honest foreigners all look the same to me. And women. And most animals. I’m pretty good with shapes and colours. It’s basically your standard English style pub with a Dutch inflected menu and a few Dutch beers and loads of Belgian beers. Green Triangle! I ordered a tall, cool Amstel and waited for the Bittergarnituur platter of Frikadellen (a hotdog sausage so witherered and humiliated it makes a tepid, sweaty frankfurter appear to be the epitome of haute cuisine), Samballetjes, Vlammetjes, Kaassoufflees (you have to admire the Dutch propensity for double-letters. Scrabble must be a nightmare to play over there) and the afore-mentioned Bitterballen. If I had to guess, all deepfried in the same oil and then carefully separated when it came to plating up. The same with Monty’s Scampi and chips. I know these are snacks, but they were very reminiscent of an Iceland party-platter. All that was missing was Kerry Katona elbowing me in the ribs as she noshed face-down in the plate.
I hear positive reports from My Old Dutch pancake place, but I’ve never been. The smartest thing to do if you’re hankering for Dutch cuisine, would be to go to Amsterdam. It’s a short hop to one of Europe’s most beautiful cities and you should eat at Stacey’s Pennywell (http://staceys.nl/) for romance, Café De Kroon (http://www.dekroon.nl/) for atmos, Lucius (http://lucius.nl/) for fish and Toro Dorado (http://www.beststeakanytime.com/) for steak. For authentic Dutch sensations in London hang around a bus stop in south London and you’re sure to catch a whiff sooner or later from a passing tween on a BMX.
£27 with booze.
De Hems Dutch Cafe Bar
11 Macclesfield Street
Tel: 020 7437 2494